Everyone has heard the adage that “running is 90% mental and the rest is physical”. This book, from professional ultrarunner and coach Addie Bracy, aims at giving you the tools to unlock your potential from these 90%. Like a lot of learnings for successful running, I find that a lot these are also applicable to daily life, from work to social relationships or other personal achievements.
The book is very well structured with Mental Training Exercises that encourage the reader to pause and reflect on their own feelings, experiences, or goals. While you may have already heard or read about a lot of the concepts or tools that are presented in the book, the exercises add a lot of value to let the reader think through how these concepts from performance psychology apply to THEM and THEIR personal experience and goals. It also helps put these ideas into practice and increases the chances that they will have a long term effect on your performance. A lot of the exercises are not easy and will require some introspection and likely several rounds of reflections to identify what gets us (and keeps us!) going but also what can hold us back. I like that she provides example of answers to some of the questions. It may have the negative effect to anchor our thoughts but it also provides seeds for thinking through the questions.
On the multiple aspect of mental training that she explores in the book, I found the following to be particularly interesting. Though to be honest everyone’s past experience likely influences how the book resonates with them and what they find the most valuable:
- Goal setting. She suggests to separate outcome (e.g. placing first), performance (e.g. finish in 3h) and process (e.g. finish strong, nail nutrition), ranked from the goal that you have the least to the most control over. Another aspect, which is likely more commonly discussed is having tiered goals to keep the motivation as things unfold.
- Focusing on the things that you can control. For example, complaining about the weather will not help it improve but being prepared with the proper gear or the adjustment of goals is more likely to set you up for success
- Embracing being vulnerable. There is the idea that we can only know our limits if we take big enough risks, leading to sometimes failing before achieving our dreams. This also relies on the fact that by opening ourselves, we are also welcoming more help and support from others who can help us achieve these Grand Goals. She definitely puts this in practice by opening up on some of her own challenges and past mistakes
I also really enjoyed the examples from athletes that illustrate the key idea of each chapter. It helps show how others are navigating these challenges or drive strength from troubleshooting the mental aspects of running. It is also useful to realize that everyone struggles with the mental aspect of running and benefits from more mental training on top of the more classic physical one. So if you’re thinking about your next big challenge, you may want to consider the mental training as part of your strength development.