RaceCenter Northwest Magazine August/September 2012 : Page 20

traINING Mental Training Lauren Fleshman As athletes, we spend the vast majority of our time training our bodies — long runs, hills, tempos. But what about that amorphous blob inside your skull? What role does the brain play in performance? The mechanism of the mind is something we take for granted. Like the Earth spinning on its axis or the seasons changing, the mind just operates the way it operates — in the background of our lives. Most of the time you don’t have to think about how you think. You just think. Sport has a way of exposing the cracks in your psyche: the lack of resolve to get out the door for a workout, the way you look at your body in the mirror and only see the negative, the feeling of impending dread for an approaching race that sounded fun just a few months ago, and the six trips to the bathroom before 7 a.m. on race morning. A Very Public Wake Up Call VICTAH / PHOTORUN.NET In 2007, I was preparing for my fourth USA Championships in the 5K as a professional Nike runner. As the defending champion, there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. In the months leading up to the event, every workout became a test that I could fail. Every race felt like an opportunity to lose, and I was often was in tears before going to the line. By the time Nationals came around, I felt like a cow being led to slaughter. I remember thinking, “How did something I’ve loved for 11 years turn into something so terrible?” The 5K final was a high speed train of ponytails, spikes and spandex. With only a half mile to go on the track, I looked smooth to the spectators but my mind was a battlefield. I was in a pack of four and the top three would qualify for Worlds. But instead of being excited, all I could think about was dropping out. I was entirely consumed by fear. Eventually, it got to be too much and I stopped and walked…in front of thousands of people. The pack of three ran away from me and I stood dumbfounded in lane three. Reality hit me. “What are you doing?” I asked myself, walking as runners passed by. “Can you physically finish the race?” Of course I could. I wasn’t injured. I was in the shape of my life. I sprinted the last lap and finished fourth, confusing the heck out of the spectators, and creating great media gossip material. After that race, I got a call from legendary Coach Alberto Salazar offering to set up a meeting with a sports psychologist. With gratitude and trepidation, I agreed to try it. Darren Treasure completely changed the way I looked at the mind in sports. Within a couple of meetings, I went on to PR in every distance that summer. But even more importantly, I enjoyed running again! The Difference Your Mind Can Make In 2007, I was ready to quit. In the five years since then, I’ve broken through as an athlete. I finished seventh in the World in the 5K, won another USA Title and completed my first Author Lauren Fleshman made her marathon debut in November last year at the ING New York City Marathon. She was the second place American female finisher. r ac ec ent er . c om 20 august/september 2012

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