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The 7 out of 10 rule – The mindset trick to keep you going this winter

Put aside the GPS watch or heart rate monitor for a second, and lets go back to the old-fashioned way of using our own instincts to gather feedback. Imagine you were to rate every run or training session that you did on a scale of 1 to 10. With 10 being that you felt incredible and smashed it, and 1 being that it was a total disaster and you couldn’t of felt any worse.

John Beattie

Lets deal with the extremes first…

There will be the days where you feel incredible. The days when you could take the world on and absolutely nothing could stop you. You run faster but it feels amazing. These days come along every now and then, but we don’t seek them. Simply enjoy them when they do happen. Ideally if your preparation is correct then these 10/10 days will happen on the days of your big target races.

At the other extreme there will be the days where you feel terrible. Where the mind or body doesn’t want to know and regardless of how hard you try, nothing is happening. As frustrating as these days are, just like the 10/10 days everyone has them from time to time. When a 1/10 day happens, it’s a case of trying to learn why it did happen if you can, and then moving on quickly remembering that tomorrow is a new day.

For the purposes of this discussion, we are not focussing on these. The 1/10 and 10/10 days are the extremes and are generally NOT where things are won and lost.

Most of the time you will not feel incredible (9-10) nor will you feel terrible (1-2). You will likely feel somewhere in the middle (3-7). This is where the 7/10 rule comes in.

A rating of 7 is where you have managed to get the job done. You know there was an extra rep in the tank or another couple of miles if you were asked to do them, but on the whole you got what you were looking for from the days work and will be able to get the benefit later on.

Some days the 7/10s will come to you easily without a lot of thought, some you’ll have to work harder for, where the initial rating may be a 3-6 out of 10. It is these that we need to focus on, doing what we can to boost the rating up to a 7.

These are the days that really count and should give you the most satisfaction. I’m talking about the days where you get home from work, aren’t feeling particularly energetic and it is a bit of struggle to get out of the door. Or it’s cold, wet, dark, 6am and the snooze button is tempting you in. Despite not being at your absolute best, you overcome the temptation to give in and grind it out to produce a solid session. You just about hit your targets but need to put in a workmanlike performance to get there. The tougher you become mentally, the better you will get at this. Ever seen the way top football teams grind out 1-0 away wins at difficult grounds (the Stoke example) when they aren’t at their best? This is exactly what I’m talking about.

If you can switch to this 7/10 way of thinking, rather than demanding perfection form yourself every time you step out the door, you will start to notice that there are some great benefits to be had…

  • 7/10 thinking makes it easier to get out of the door in the first place – Especially on days where you aren’t quite feeling it or have had a lot going on elsewhere in life
  • Reduces the pressure you place on yourself of having to be on your A-game all the time
  • It massively reduces the risk of injuries, illness or overtraining that come with trying to hit numbers that aren’t right for that day
  • 7/10 should lead to much greater consistency of days turning into weeks which turn into months which can eventually turn into years

Through many years in the sport as both an athlete and as a coach, I’ve found that this 7/10 principle will work regardless of distance and irrespective of ability or experience level. Think what a difference being able to do this on a regular basis will make to your overall form and confidence?

As well as the benefits listed above, have a think about what you could be doing to give yourself the best chance of hitting those 7/10s. There will be many that are unique to you, but have a think about the following questions?

  • When are your energy levels higher during the day? Morning? Evening? Play to your strengths and train then. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here
  • When bad days have happened, are there any patterns? What can you do to avoid repeating them in future
  • When the going does get tough, remembering why you are training in the first place. What’s the purpose? What are your motivations and targets?

There you have it – 7/10, A subtle mindset shift. Very simple but over time can be very effective.

This article was written by elite runner, coach and founder of Move Better Run Better, John Beattie.

For more running advice and inspiration from John, please like and follow the Move Better Run Better Facebook page.