by Gina Shell
“I am very fired up mentally when the gun goes off. I may be calm and cool outside, but inside it’s like a cannon goes off when the gun sounds. I am ready to bring everything I have mentally and physically to the table.” (Pete Kain)
Your intensity has an enormous influence on your training and race efforts. The feeling of adrenaline and energy before a race is your intensity. Intensity can hurt or can help your performance. Another way of stating this principle is, intensity is uncomfortable and negative or powerful and positive. Sometimes unpleasant intensity is needed to achieve goals. However, intensity that feels good doesn’t necessarily mean a great performance.
Intensity is made up of two components. The first component of intensity is what you are feeling physically. What you are actually feeling in your body before and during the race. In between the extremes of very relaxed and highly anxious, lies the level of intensity at which you will perform your best. There isn’t a single ideal intensity for every runner. It is up to you to find your own level of intensity, and this varies based on the race distance. The second component of intensity is your individual perception of intensity. Do you see intensity as positive or negative? Everyone can interpret physical feelings in a different way even if they have the exact same feelings physiologically.
Several mental factors can affect the physical experience and the perception of intensity. Your intensity can be viewed as negative if you are not confident, feel frustrated or angry, or focused on winning rather than the performance. Positive intensity occurs if you’re confident, positive, happy, and excited, and feeling little discomfort (if any at all).
Intensity has a wide range of physical and mental symptoms that allow a runner to recognize if intensity is too high or too low. By being aware of your symptoms, you’ll know when you are performing to optimal performance or, if not, what steps to take to achieve optimal performance.