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Mind Over Matter

The Running Stories Anna-Marie Watson

This may be difficult, but get ready and step away from the self-help fluff!! Performance coaching focuses on motivation, goal-setting, mental toughness and balance with a healthy dollop of science.

Trainers – check

Race entry - check

Training plan – check

Nutritional plan – check

Mindset plan - ????

The collective running community spends

The collective running community spends hundreds of hours pounding the pavement, hundreds of pounds on the latest kit or technical gadgets and hundreds of hours pouring over recent nutritional research yet peak performance often remains beyond reach simply due to our mindset. This intangible mental outlook can make or break our goals, either sending us soaring above the skies or plunging us into to the depths of despair.

Mindset is a powerful weapon in any runner’s armory and helps us gain the winning edge, achieve peak performance and importantly, enjoy the experience. This enormous cerebral influence is clearly illustrated through the maxim that running performance is “90% mental and the rest physical” as proposed by Tim Noakes (2002). The ability to develop with our conscious and unconscious minds to enhance our running performance can be compared to learning any new skill. The four stages for learning any new skill developed by Burch in the 1970s moves through unconscious incompetence, through conscious incompetence, conscious competence to unconscious competence (Mind Tools, 2015) takes skilled practice, patience and perseverance. Every runner will have a personal preference for different techniques and skills so it’s recommended to test, adjust and test again (and again!).

Our “Mind Over Matter” series will draw lessons from performance psychology to provide motivation to move beyond our running problems, identify ‘signature strengths', stay solution-focused, and ultimately “get the best out of ourselves” (Terry, 2008). These blog posts will delve deep into our elusive mental constructs to challenge limiting beliefs, examine our values, explore different perspectives and create new strategies to enhance our mindset towards running. We’ll draw inspiration from running heroes across the years and rummage through recent scientific research interspersed with a few personal anecdotes along the way.

Join us to train your brain through our mindset top tips that can be integrated into your regular running routines, race simulations and competitions. Remember to enjoy the ride as you acquire new skills, expertise and knowledge. We’d love to hear about your progress and success.

Note: This blog post is an exert from The Running Stories website and podcast feature where Anna-Marie is a monthly contributor for the "Mind Over Matter" series. This feature presents the perfect opportunity to link performance coaching and endurance sports with each other.

Photo 1: Crossing the finish line on the Marathon des Sables 2015 "Long Day" after 92km and over 12 hours running in the Sahara Desert.

Photo 2: Overcoming challenging training conditions in the desert outside Riyadh with training partner Ben Psaila.

Photo 3: Building back into running training for the 2016 season supported by WAA the French ultra equipment company.


Mind Tools Editorial Team. (2015). The Conscious Competence Ladder – Keep Going When the Learning Gets Tough. Available online at: Accessed on 25 Feb 16.

Noakes, T. (2002). Lore of Running. Available for purchase:

Terry, P. (2008). Performance psychology: Being the best, the best you can be, or just a little better? Available online at: Accessed on 23 Feb 16.

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