Running in the Zone: Mental Toughness, Imagery, and Flow in First Time Marathon Runners

Leeja Carter, Adler School of Professional Psychology, USA

Theme: Mental training/interventions

Program ID: SYM-21

Presentation: October 5, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am

Room: Oak Alley


Research concerning the relationship between imagery, mental toughness, and flow achievement in endurance athletes is still developing; however, research regarding the effects of psychological skills training on athletes’ levels of confidence, flow achievement (see Pain, Harwood, & Anderson, 2009), and enhanced performance (see Tod, Hardy, & Oliver, 2011) have been firmly noted in the literature. This presentation will report research findings from a 4-week individualized imagery training program assessing mental toughness and flow in first-time marathon runners. 20 first-time marathon runners registered for the 2013 Chicago Marathon completed a demographics survey, Movement Imagery Questionnaire (MIQ), Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ), Short Flow States Scale-2 (Short FSS-2), Sport Mental Toughness Questionnaire (SMTQ), and interview prior to running the marathon. Participants in the experimental group received a 4-week imagery training intervention involving a 10-15 semi-structured imagery script and a 15 minute video of the Chicago marathon course. The imagery script led the participant through imaging self-identified race challenges and confronting those challenges physically and psychologically by imaging a sequence of movements and thoughts from internal, external, and future perspectives. The video served as a visual aid to assist participants in imaging the current Chicago Marathon course. Runners were instructed to listen to the imagery and watch the video three times a week for the four weeks preceding the marathon. Participants in the control group received only the video. Next, participants ran the marathon and after met with the researcher to complete the post-test scales and interview. Findings suggest that flow was significantly related to sport-specific imagery use (r = 0.77 for control and r = 0.72 for experimental) and increased imagery use was correlated with mental toughness in the experimental group (r = 0.57). Implications for future research will be discussed, to include a model for implementing individualized imagery programming with endurance athletes.

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