Saturday, April 6, 2013

It's All in Your Head: Mental Tricks for Running



Sometimes running is really easy. Usually my thoughts take me off to la-la land (hubby might argue this also happens when I am not running) and my runs are carefree and enjoyable. But how do you get through those runs when your mind just won't quit, when you can't stop thinking about every single step?

I often think that this running game is more of a mental one than a physical one. It seems sometimes my head tries to talk my legs out of doing what they need to do. Whether you need mental strength for long runs, or for races, or just to get out there, either on the treadmill or the street, these are my best tips for conquering your mind on your runs.

Lie to Yourself


When I am running and I get to a point where my mind starts telling me that I should quit, I always tell myself that I only have to run one more mile and then I can quit...then I repeat that as many times as necessary. When I am on the treadmill, I use a similar technique. I tell myself that I can stop at the end of this song, or in five more minutes. Then repeat it. It forces you to focus only on the time or distance at hand. Of course this mind trick doesn't work during a marathon, but it is a great strategy for long run training or treadmill runs.

Banish Negative Thoughts


Do not allow those negative thoughts to creep in. Anytime you start to have a negative thought try to replace it with a positive mantra. Usually I just repeat something easy like, "You can do it, you rock." OK, don't laugh. It works. But if you want more creative (and less dorky) running mantras ideas, check out this post from Runner's World on mantras for some more good suggestions.

Mentally Break up the Miles 


When I am running a long run I try to break up the miles in my head into more manageable segments.
I'll run three mile loops and count loops instead of miles.15 miles is only five loops. Five loops seems much less like death more manageable than 15 miles. Sometimes I'll run out and back equal distance and for the first half of the run, I'll only focus on the miles to get to the halfway point. Once you get halfway, then you just have to run home (or call hubby from your cell phone and tell him to pick you up). Breaking down the miles makes it seem much easier.



Focus on the Mile You are in


I try not to count the miles I have left to go. Focus on the mile you are in. Try to live in the moment, take in your surroundings. Have you ever started a marathon and at mile one start counting to the end? I have, it's mental torture. If you are running mile one and already calculating the remaining miles, it is going to be a loooong race. Instead focus on mile one while you are in it, and try not to think about mile 13 (or 26) until you get there.
 

Be Childlike (Play Counting or Alphabet Games)


Count blue cars or maybe in a race, blue shorts, or whatever else you feel like counting...maybe exposed tattoos at the gym. Another childlike suggestion is to play the alphabet game in your head like you did on those long car rides as a kid. Find something that starts with A (Asics at a race, maybe), then B (a bike rider), then C (maybe a car or calf sleeves), and so on until you reach Z, then work your way backwards. It works to distract your mind from the pain at hand.

Find a Running Partner


Ollie is my regular running partner, but he is not a great conservationist. When I run with a friend (the kind that can talk back), the miles fly by and I almost forget I am running. I've had fabulous long runs with my former running partner/friend. When those runs were over we almost couldn't even believe we ran so long, the miles just vanished in the gossip socializing.


Be Thankful for Every Mile


The best strategy I ever used to get through a half marathon is that I thought of 13 people that I loved, and I dedicated each mile to a single person; thinking about them, praying for them, being thankful that they are (or were) in my life. By focusing on another person from a place of gratitude, the miles flew by. There were times when I reached the end of the mile and I wish I had more time for that person. Can you believe I just said that, I actually wished I had more time at each mile? It wasn't my fastest half marathon time, but I may have cried tears of joy several times. It was an emotional and wonderful race.

Focus on Reward


Are you getting a massage after the race? Is there a cold finish-line beer waiting for you? Will you enjoy an indulgence meal? Or a yummy healthy meal after your long run? Meet up with some friends after a run? Sit in the sauna after the treadmill? How will you celebrate your accomplishment? I find that by focusing on the joy of reaping the benefits of my accomplishment, helps me push through the tougher miles.


Do you have any mental tricks that you use to get through a run when the running gets tough?



Keep Running,


Lea

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38 comments :

  1. Good tips! I break my miles up too! More when I'm in a race versus training runs. Half marathons for me are 4-5-4. HELPS tremendously!

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    1. I like 4-5-4. I may try that next time.

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  2. LOVE the idea of dedicating each mile to a different person!! I will remember this for the next event I do with Team in Training!

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  3. I need to dedicate my miles and also play those child games! Perfect for my 13 miler tomorrow!

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    1. let me know if it works for you!

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    2. Well, I didn't focus very well, but I was able to tune into my music really well :D

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  4. Great ideas! I usually try and focus on the mile I'm in instead of thinking about the miles left to run. It normally helps a lot.

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    1. yes! that helps for me too! good tip!

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  5. "I tell myself that I can stop at the end of this song, or in five more minutes. Then repeat it. It forces you to focus only on the time or distance at hand. Of course this mind trick doesn't work during a marathon, but it is a great strategy for long run training or treadmill runs." ???????????????


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  6. I use every single one of these! Great post. Another one I like to do is rewrite the song lyrics that I am running tow ...mostly to unhealthy food! For example, Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Getting Back Together"...chocolate cake:)

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    1. ha. also a good technique! I do that too in a different way! There is a song by Awlonation that I run to called 'Burn it down' and I change the lyrics to 'Run it home' it works for me!!

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  7. Thank you for this post, I can't wait to go for my next run and use these tips.

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  8. Great tips. I agree with you - some runs are just mentally harder, and for me it isn't necessarily the longer ones, either.

    I sing to myself or plan vacations, or relive past vacations.... slog away!

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    1. I like the idea of planning or reliving a vacation. good tips!

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  9. I do so many of these when I run, they are all so true.

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  10. Great tips! Your mind is very powerful and we have to keep on pushing forward when I our mind tells us we can't...because, most often times...we can :)

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  11. Great tips, Lea! I really like the idea of breaking up the miles and counting the miles I've ran instead of how far I have to go.

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  12. These are great! I do the "focus on this mile" one all the time. I love the idea of dedicating each mile to a loved one. I might adopt that for my next 10 miler.

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  13. I use all of those! My favorite though it giving myself a pep talk. Sometimes the pep talk focuses on, You can do this! Other time's I'm more drill sergeant and just repeatedly chant Don't Stop in my head. I'm also a firm believer in breaking long runs up into parts.

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  14. Great Tips, i haven't ran in 2 weeks. Maybe tomorrow i should start back!

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  15. I tell myself there's beer at the end. Truth.

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  16. Good reminders for sure. I miss running with you!!!

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  17. Mentally breaking up the miles helps me so much. In fact, I had to do 7 miles on the treadmill recently and did 4, stopped it, restarted it, and then did 3. The only way I could survive the thought of 7 on that thing.

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  18. Excellent tips, I use several of them. I often use positive visualization of myself. The "ugly place" - when it starts to become a suckfest - is usually when I have to call into my mind good moments, positive training moments, imagining myself running a happy pace, a happy race, good experiences.

    Great post, thanks!

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  19. Lea, I really loved this post--and I am especially going to do the thankful thing. I've done variations of this before, but never dedicated a mile per person. Great idea! Next run, I'm doing it!! (And you can do this, cause you DO rock! :-))

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  20. Great tips! I'm giving running another shot (I think this makes attempt #3?) and a big part of why I haven't been consistent is the mental stuff. I can never get out of my head and I'm usually telling myself I cant do it and so I stop and say never mind. Your tips are awesome and easy to remember so I'll definitely give it a shot the next time I run...which will be this week. I think, lol. :-)

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    1. great! let me know how it goes!!! :)

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  21. This awesome! I want to try running again because its always so hard to do! Thank You!!!

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  22. LOVE IT!!!! I am going to think of someone special for each mile of my upcoming half marathon. Thanks for the tips!

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  23. Theses are great tricks! I've been needing some. :) I definitely break up my miles, thinking "I'm halfway to my halfway mark" and stuff like that.

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  24. I know this is an older post for you, but I just came across it... It was just what I needed. I'll try out a few of your ideas. Thanks!

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  25. You're so cool! I do not suppose I have read through a single
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  26. Great tips! Nice to know other runners also need these mental tricks. :)

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  27. These are AWESOME! I am not an avid runner, BUT my head and legs often wants to give up long before my actual run is over...my go to trick is what you mentioned "lie to yourself" about the time or amount of miles. Also, I tell myself to "suck it up" "keep going" "harder" "you can do it" I kind of am my own personal Shaun T, BUT, I LOVE YOUR GRATITUDE IDEA! Seriously, what an awesome idea, and an excellent way to hardwire some happiness!

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  28. Wow!! Thank you so much for all the great tips! Being a young beginner runner there's a lot of room for discouragement, but these really encouraged me, thank you so much!:)

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