The purpose of the following study is to explore the psychological practice and racing experience of competitive distance runners. It is proposed that a new mindset called DARE state be used to describe the mental experience of athletes when they are engaged in training that encompasses a “love of challenge,” deliberate practice and flow state in the same workout or race. The presence of both deliberate practice and flow in the same session is a new proposition as previously these two concepts have been viewed to be opposed. Seventy-four competitive college runners completed measures that assessed deliberate practice, flow state and athletes’ love of challenge after intense practices and races. We found that runners do experience aspects of deliberate practice and flow during the same session when both practicing and racing. In fact, deliberate practice and flow scales were found to be positively correlated. The second hypothesis of this study, which stated that DARE state scores would be positively correlated with running performance improvement was supported. DARE state scores were positively related to athletes’ subjective ratings of performance, coaches’ ratings of athlete improvement and the degree to which athletes were meeting their coach’s expectations. DARE state was also positively correlated with objective measures of running improvement, but this failed to reach significance. In sum, we found evidence that both deliberate practice and flow can be experienced by athlete’s in the same training session, and that athletes who experience both of these phenomena in the same session frequently may improve more quickly than athletes who do not.
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