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.
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
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?
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