If I did my job right, you read the whole section about Dopamine without putting it down for a single second, and you probably feel extremely pumped up and excited about how you can boost your dopamine to run so much farther and faster! If we want to maximize your performance on the road, there are a few things right out of the box that we can do to run faster, beat exhaustion for longer, and absolutely annihilate our Personal Records and reach new running heights. Although small by themselves, if used correctly, you can increase your performance in research-proven ways.

The first thing you can do is to take a cold shower or ice bath the morning of your run. This practice is valuable and effective because it does something significant: it boosts your baseline of dopamine for the rest of the day. In practice, this means that you are less likely to give up as quickly and can reasonably expect your effort to increase during the actual run. Rather than running half a kilometer before giving up, you may end up running three-quarters of a kilometer before needing to walk. This means that you get to train at a higher intensity and therefore also perform at a higher intensity without actually training for longer.

On top of cold exposure, you can also use visualization techniques where you picture how you think you will perform. Although visualization is talked about often, the way you approach it really matters. To do it effectively, you need to repeat the feeling you expect to feel when you finally finish for at least 30 or so repetitions. By doing this, you create an almost metaphorical tether towards your end goal. Although you may experience some unpleasantness if you do not accomplish your goals, as you continue to run and come closer to your target, you are likelier to feel more motivated to accomplish the distance.

Equally, in the same manner that you have the opportunity to create large, emotionally charged goals, you can also create the space for small, micro goals along your running journey that are not end-goal specific. What do I mean by that? I mean that rather than looking at it as though you need to finish a run in a specific manner, speed, or intentionality in order to make it count, you can bring your attention to the little things while you run. Can I get past that tree? Great. Can I keep moving even though I feel very tired? Awesome. Can I take one more step? Beautiful. Can I emphasize good running mechanics for 10 seconds? Well done. Little milestones like passing by a sign, a tree, a post, a person, or a street can also be dopamine goals that you can tether to. Approaching your life and intention in this way is likely to feel weird and almost annoying, but trust me, by doing this, you can make a marathon feel like a series of successes.

So how else can we ramp up our ability to accomplish a goal? Another thing you can do is to use music to increase your focus and drive. It’s been found that listening to music that you enjoy will increase your performance, though not forever. While it is specific to the individual, eventually the music will “top up” your dopamine, after which you are likely to experience another crash. If we come back to the idea of effort and dopamine, you can look at it as waves hitting the shore. The dopamine rises at first and makes you feel really good and motivated, and then this wave pulls back, causing you to feel anxiety and pain. This means that guiding the use of music is the peak and the pullback. If you strategically start to listen to music when things get really tough, you are likelier to push through just that little bit more.

Another thing you can do is to take caffeine during and immediately prior to increase your pain tolerance just that little bit more. And finally, we can’t finish a conversation about intensity and focus without relaxation. While there are many ways to relax, with everyone’s definition being slightly different, ultimately the goal of relaxation when it comes to running would be to ultimately relax ourselves just enough to feel the difference when we choose to feel motivated again – namely, to reset what it means for us to ebb and flow so that we could pick up our intensity without completely feeling the waves wash away.

There are a handful of ways to do this, but when it comes to the most immediately actionable, the biggest one has to do with your eyes. You may find this intuitive and almost unreasonably effective, but your eyes are a piece of brain – this means that they are a direct connection to your thoughts, feelings, actions, and ultimately intensity. Turns out that by alternating your vision from super narrowly focused to wide open and relaxed, you can physically tether and untether from the feeling of intensity. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself right now. What I want you to do is to squint and focus your eyes on this bolded word. Stare at it for 15 seconds and minimize blinking. Keep staring until the words around begin to disappear and blur. Cool, if you gave it a shot, you’ll understand what I mean when I say focus. Now, rather than squinting, I want you to relax your eyes while widening your gaze. This might feel something like your forehead relaxing, dropping down, the eyelids opening wider, and the world almost opening up for you. The fundamental difference between both being that while the focused and intense squint will leave no peripheral view, the relaxed gaze opens up your peripheral view.

That was so much information about so many wide subjects, here’s a quick review:

· Boosting dopamine can help you run farther and faster. Cold showers or ice baths can increase your baseline dopamine for the day, potentially improving your running performance.

· Visualization techniques can help improve performance. By visualizing your end goal, you create a mental tether that can motivate you to reach your target.

· Setting small, micro goals during your run can also boost dopamine and motivation. These can be simple achievements like reaching a certain tree or maintaining good running mechanics for a certain time.

· Music can increase focus and drive, enhancing performance. However, the effect is temporary and can lead to a dopamine crash.

· Caffeine can increase pain tolerance, potentially allowing you to push harder during your run.

· Relaxation techniques, particularly those involving your vision, can help manage intensity. By alternating between a focused, narrow gaze and a relaxed, wide gaze, you can control your feelings of intensity.