It's 6 am, the sun has barely risen and everyone is still asleep. Well, almost everyone.
Jón Gregersen hears his alarm buzz and starts the daily debate with himself over if he should get up and go run, or stay in the comfort of his bed. "I don't want to get up, but I have a goal to reach" he manages to tell himself, and gets up to get ready. He is training for a run he plans to compete in back in his native Faroe Islands. He gets up at 6 almost every day to get his body and mind used to the stress of long distance running. He has ran half marathons before, but his real joy his constantly improving upon his personal bests. We caught up with Jón after a very successful finish in the Leipzig Nachtlauf in Germany, a 10 km run through the heart of the city, in order to ask him some questions on what motivates him to do his best.
In case you're wondering where the Faroe Islands are...
Home country: Faroe Islands
Sports/Interests: Football, Running
Occupation: Sport psychology student at the European Masters in
Sport Psychology programme (EMSEP). University of Thessaly (Greece)
& Leipzig University (Germany)
Personal best in 5 km run: 18:00 minutes
Leipzig Nachtlauf finish: 24/1136.
1) Thank you for sitting down with Flow Performance Jon! You have recently ran the Leipzig Nachtlauf run and finished in a very respectable position. How does it feel? Did you accomplish your goal?
Hello, and thank you for inviting me. Yeah, I ran the 9,6 km run in the city centre of Leipzig that took part at the 1000 year celebration of Leipzig. I am currently training for a 5 km run that will take place on the 27th of Julyin the Faroe Islands. However, I found that the Nachtlauf (Night run) could be a valuable opportunity for me to test my current fitness level. My goal was to run with an average speed of around 4.00 minutes per kilometer, which would have resulted in the finishing time of around 38 min and 24 sec. However, I felt that I had a good competition, and I finished better than I expected, finishing with 36 min and 22 sec.
2) That's great! How did you prepare for this event? What were some challenges and setbacks? Can you take us through your mental preparation for the event? What were some strategies that you utilized prior to, and during the run?
During my preparation for the 5 km event in the Faroe Islands, I have been running 4 times per week. Since the 9,6 km run was not my primary goal, I did not wish to go "all in" in order to get a good time, because I want to peek at the end of July.
The night before the race I tried to get enough sleep, and on the day I focused on drinking enough water and to eat correctly. Since it was a practice-event for me, I decided to experiment a bit on my warm-up routine. Just before the race, I had an intensive warm-up session, so that I felt ready when the race would start. This is the first time that I have had such an intensive warm-up session, and I feel that it worked quite well for me. Therefore, I also learned a bit on how to be physically well prepared.
One of my main challenges is to keep calm and stick to my plan, and not get carried away by my inner competitive-athlete and the great atmosphere that often is present at these events (which you do not experience in your daily training). However, I found myself running at a speed of 3 min and 40 sec for the first 2 km, which tells me that I did not follow the plan that I had made. This was a challenge as I had to "discuss" with myself at that moment: "Do I change my plan, and try to run at this pace? Or should I slow down and stick to my plan?" I felt great and my legs felt fresh, so I decided to try to keep the same pace. However, after 5 km I decided to run a bit slower, because I could see that my heart-rate was slowly increasing.
4) How important are mental skills to your performance?
The most important mental strategy that I use in my strive for athletic improvement is setting goals. I have some short-term goals and a long-term goal, which at the moment is at the end of July. By having a goal, and a plan on how I will reach my goal, I find it a lot easier to get out of the bed in the morning, in order to follow my running-schedule, and before going to the university. If I did not have a goal, I would surely find it easier to stay in bed until 7 am. However, I find it important to state that the goal has to be challenging but realistic. The challenging part makes me follow my running-schedule (otherwise, I can forget about reaching the goal). The realistic part makes me confident that IF I train, I will reach my long-term goal. This confidence is vital for my motivation to have a running-schedule.
Another mental strategy that I use during training and competition is self-talk. By using self-talk that has been planned and practiced, I remind myself to keep an eye on important aspects of my training (e.g. How do I feel? Am I running at the planned pace? What is my heart-rate?). Also I use motivational self-talk, when it is getting tough (e.g. You can do it! There is only 1 km left! Believe in yourself, you have done this before!). This kind of self-talk helps me to persist in tough situations.
By using mental strategies, I feel that I have control over many situations that otherwise would have had a random outcome. Mental skills are important in controlling the controllable and therefore being able to have a higher and more consistent performance.
5) What advice would you give to people wanting to accomplish their running goals, either just getting started or beating their personal bests?
Setting a realistic but challenging goal is the key to beat your personal best. However, it is important that the goal is something that (at least to some extent) is under your own control. There is a big difference in having a goal that says: "I want to finnish in top-10 of a specific event" or "I want to finnish a 5 km run under for example 25 minutes". The first goal is highly dependent on your opponent, while the second goal s dependent on yourself.
Also, it is important to have some rest days during the week, otherwise you are at risk of experiencing a level of overtraining, which might result in injury.
In order to get started, I would recommend to find a running-partner that you can train with. The social aspect of running might make the experience more pleasant, because there might be times that you would like to discuss different aspects of running with your running-partner. And of course, running should be an activity that you (at least after some time) feel is valuable for you (e.g. enjoyment, health benefits, new nature experiences, weight loss, social activity, lower heart-rate etc…)
Great stuff Jon! Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and good luck with your next goal!
Thank you! My pleasure.