“It all starts in your mind” – We all heard this phrase before. But have you ever thought about how much your mind really affects your running performance? Marathoners know the mental strength in running. There is no such thing than a great mindset. Heading to a race with all positive thoughts means you’re half way through the race. It’s that simple.
I’m a strong believer of the fact that when you want to accomplish something and you truly believe in yourself, you’ll make it eventually. But how do you train your mind as a runner?
Over the years I have taught myself some great skills to trick my mind here and there and build mental strength in running: also ways to work on the right mindset while training for a race.
Ever ran 13.1 miles on the treadmill?
Believe it or not, but I run half marathons on treadmills every now and then. It sounds horrible and boring (and yes that’s exactly what it is), but it’s such a great help to strengthen your mind while you’re training for a long distance race.
Running for hours can get extremely boring if you don’t know what to do with yourself. Running long on a treadmill teaches you to stay mentally occupied. It builds confidence for future long runs outside. Like “Hey I ran the same distance on a treadmill, no way I’m getting bored here right now. Let’s focus on my surroundings and enjoy this run”.
Work on your own insecurities.
Talking about confidence: Another great way to train a strong mind is to actually build confidence. I know this is easier said than done especially when you’re not the most confident person in the first place. But think about your own success stories. Races you crushed, personal bests you ran. Isn’t that something you can be proud of? It totally is. Whatever your story is, your transformation and journey, you have a million reasons to be amazed by yourself.
Now picture yourself struggling in a race or during a training run. Focus on your own accomplishments. Use this energy and emotions that come with it to get back on track in that moment. You want to know how I do it? I remember running the NYC Marathon.
When I got anxious in March about the NYC Half Marathon and it’s new course I told myself: “Girl you ran 26.2 miles last November. You killed it. What is a half marathon compared to that?” I repeated that phrase throughout the race any time I felt awful and unfortunately I had to do it many times (read my NYC Half 2018 experience here). It’s simple and it works. Be your own hero.
Mental strength in running with simple tricks
What I struggle the most as of right now is the constant reminder of how many miles I have left on my watch while I’m running.
It’s a bad habit of knowing and remembering every single part of my running route. Switching things up is the easiest way to stop this, but it won’t serve the purpose of building a stronger mind. If you actually want to work on your mindset and be stronger than your well working memory just start to distract yourself when your mind starts playing with you again.
Look around you. Watch the people. Enjoy the city, the sunrise, an amazing sunset or the beautiful nature. There is so much to explore while running, but most of the times we torture ourselves by constantly checking the time, pace or distance that we completely forget how blessed we are to be able to experience the moment of the run.
Mental strength in running: Fix your attitude
Also learn to look at your watch with a positive attitude. Let’s say you have 6 miles on your schedule for the day and you’re looking at your watch at mile 2. Tell yourself it’s only 4 more miles to go not “Oh my good I only been running for two miles – this is awful”. A positive attitude fixes the fact that your mind wants to mess with you again.
Especially during your long run which sure can become boring after a while this positive attitude make you enjoy the run so much more. While running a race this trick will push you through much easier as well. “I’m half way there. Only 3 miles to the finish.” … And so on. Try it. You’ll be surprised.
Of course training your mind takes time and it won’t happen overnight. I encourage you to focus on mental training as much as your regular running training. Without a strong mind you won’t be able to give your best.
Sabrina Wieser is a running expert based in New York City and the founder of Runningbrina - She is a certified running coach and experienced marathon runner. Her expertise in enhancing running performance through training and nutrition has been recognized by many within the running community and different media outlets such as Huffington Post, the Dr Oz Show and adidas running.