How to Build Mental Toughness for Running
You can become a better runner when you build mental toughness
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest gear and gadgets during training. Runners can get caught up in the newest shoes, the latest GPS watch, or the latest update to your training app. But are these gadgets the answer to potential struggles? Maybe not. Most agree that a big part of success in any sport is due to mental factors. Building mental toughness is about setting up strategies for when we encounter an obstacle or feel uncomfortable. Don’t ignore the need to build mental toughness during your training.
Assume that thoughts, feelings, and performance are intertwined. With that, runners can begin the process of overcoming their runs rather than the feeling overcome by their runs. Mental training is an important part of an athlete’s overall development. Many runners do not identify this part of training and often find themselves struggling during their training or a race. One of the basic principles of success is to simplify the process of thinking. Pro tip: adjust your expectations according to the weather when you learn how temperature affects performance.
As many runners will confirm, you run as well as you think. With so many thoughts running through the brain, it can be difficult to reduce distractions and negatives. One of the reasons why runners ignore the mental aspect of running is that they are not familiar with the basics of sports psychology and mental training. In keeping with the “less is better” philosophy, mental training is better understood using the construction of the following three words: Think –> Feel–> Perform
Before your next run, take a moment to identify your thoughts. Are you optimistic about your planned distance? Are you thinking about how good you will feel during and after the race? Maintaining positive thoughts before and during the run is the first step to controlling your performance. Uncomfortable and negative thoughts might start to creep in. Bring yourself back to your “why” and tell yourself positive “I am” statements. The statements below and these 11 other tips can help make running easier.
- I am strong.
- I am willing to push through and complete my goal.
- I can do this effort longer.
- I am doing this to better myself.
Determine your emotional state as you warm up with these 4 stretches. Identify your thoughts. Are you excited about the run? Do you feel a personal challenge with the distance? Do you feel confident in your abilities? Are you anxious, nervous, or stressed about the mileage? Maintaining positive emotions before and during the run is the second step in gaining control over your performance.
Visualize other times in your life or training where you have achieved a goal you set for yourself. Harness this feeling and project it towards your current goal. Check your playlist if you are listening to music. Make sure your running playlist consists of music that’ll pump you up and energize you. If more relaxed music or a podcast helps, listen to that to calm your nerves.
Practice daily. This does not mean you have to run every day, but you can put yourself in situations where you have to practice mental toughness. Increase the weights during your workout or add more reps. If you ride your bike, add more miles to your ride.
Introduce yourself to situations that may happen on race day during your training. Get out of bed and start that workout in the cold weather. Next time it is raining, instead of skipping, go out and run in the rain. These 7 tips will make running in the rain more fun. Didn’t sleep well? Attempt your planned run. You can see how the lack of sleep affects your ability to keep positive thoughts and emotions. Pro tip: get a good night’s sleep and save some money during Austin Marathon weekend when you book these hotels!
Overcome the common struggle
Having positive thoughts and feelings right from the start will give you a chance to succeed. This may not result in PR, but you are in a much better position to have a pleasant experience with the right mindset. Your thoughts can affect your emotions, and your emotions can affect how you perform. Once you get into the race, a strong mile will lead to more positive thoughts, more confident emotions. Conversely, negative thoughts usually lead to negative feelings.
If you find yourself struggling with a few runs, understand your thought process during the runs. Chances are it’s a negative, self-defeating thought that makes you question your abilities. Turn your thoughts into something positive, optimistic, and confidence-building. When you go out on the streets, it will help you feel good about yourself and crush your runs.