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Introducing the Chicago Psyching Team: How they saw the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to help

We are here to psych runners up!As part of the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Virtual Experience, the event introduced the Chicago Psyching Team through the Virtual Abbott Health & Fitness Expo. Athletes were interviewed by Dr. Michele Kerulis, EhD, LCPC, a marathoner herself, on how they master mental skills during challenging runs or difficult times. Following the session, Dr. Kerulis shared her team’s workbook to help runners understand what they can do with their individualized motivations and roadblocks.

In a year where athletes might have hit more roadblocks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Psyching Team wanted to help. Not only is Dr. Kerulis’ degree in psychology, but she has years of self-care experience through teaching fitness and mindfulness classes and working in crisis management. She realized that sports psychology is an often-neglected topic, and she committed to providing mental training skills and tips for mental toughness.

“Psyching teams developed with the idea of helping people understand the mind and body connection is specifically related to running and using that as a public education platform,” Dr. Kerulis said.

“There are access issues to mental health and wellness and participating in sports. While we’ve all been devastated with the pandemic and race cancellations, a significant silver lining is the ability to introduce the Psyching Team to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Virtual Experience.”

Outside of the workbook they created for marathoners, the Chicago Psyching Team works with individual runners and does presentations for running and triathlon clubs to educate them on mental toughness.

“I really believe in providing resources to the general public. The Chicago running community has the die-hard runners who go out in the winter, and we have others who have no interest in that,” she adds. “As a psyching team, we are able to speak to a wide variety of runners.”

When working with an athlete, the Psyching Team likes to identify their goals and how they can achieve them. For first-time runners, it’s important to explore the sport; experienced runners tend to discuss new challenges such as a new PR or distance and tackling pre-race jitters or self-doubt.

Looking forward, the Chicago Psyching Team is excited to motivate runners to get psyched for the new running season, especially ahead of the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle.

“We want to encourage runners to get out there and spread that joy of spring and running season being here. While it might not look like how it looked previously, it will one day again,” Dr. Kerulis said. “This is an important time to build mental training skills, and these are the situations where they come in handy.”

For runners feeling discouraged or struggling to get excited to get back into the sport, Dr. Kerulis wants to remind the Chicago community that they are not alone.

“We are behind you 100 percent and are planning diligently to ensure you can enjoy events and running in uncertain times,” she adds. “Share your experiences and successes with us!”

Find a link to the workbook that was created for the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Virtual Experience here, and Dr. Kerulis’ interview with Jake Riley, Crystal Rosales and Randy Burt here.