Quick Tip: Learning to Flex Your Mental Muscle

How often to you work on the mental aspect of your running?

Running is obviously a physical challenge, but what roll does your mental outlook play in your running/racing performance?

And if it is important, are there steps that you can take to fortify the mental aspect of our sport?

The Mental Game

Strengthen Your Mental Game

Strengthen Your Mental Game

Point blank, how much of an impact does your brain really have on your performance during a race?

A lot, especially in long and/or high intensity races.

When you’re pushing the limits, it’s hard. And it’s probably going to hurt.

If your mental game isn’t on point, the odds of pushing through the pain and discomfort are definitely diminished.

I don’t know how many times I’ve eased off the gas or cut a run short because I was uncomfortable, but I can guarantee that it’s happened more times than I care to count.

And I’ve definitely reached a point in each marathon that I’ve run where I’ve worn down mentally and stopped pushing. Sure, I was hurting in those instances, but looking back on those races I wasn’t at a point where I physically needed the break.

But mentally…

The Longer the Distance, the More the Value

Pretty much every ultra marathoner that I’ve had on the podcast has expressed that in the final stages of a race, the challenge is as much mental as it is physical.

They were hurting, they were tired, they were cold and/or wet, and they were ready to be finished.

Yet because their heads were still in the race, they kept going.

And that is something that I’m working on improving in my training; a mental makeup that will allow me to continue to push through the rough patches and finish my races strong.

Today’s Quick Tip is Sponsored by The Coterie

Sponsored By: The Coterie

How to Improve Your Mental Muscle

Stronger Mind, Mental Strength

Use It or Lose It

I’m still looking for a magic bullet to improve my mental game overnight, so if you know of anything that will work PLEASE let me know!

But until then, here are the practices that I’m employing to help improve my mental strength AND endurance as I prep for my next 26.2.

  • Have a Mantra: I fought the idea of a mantra for a long time, but I’m finally starting to come around to the idea. What actually opened me up to the idea was a suggestion in a business book I read recently (The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth) that talks about having a daily mantra to help you get down to work when you’re not really feeling it. Long story short, I’ve started to see the value of having that mantra in my business, and I’m starting to use the technique in my running as well.
  • Visualizations: Visualizations are often associated with the idea of picturing what you want to happen, which allows your mind to find ways to make your visualizations a reality. When I was talking to Becki Spellman on the podcast, she talked about how she uses visualizations a little differently. She spends time before her races visualizing everything that could go wrong, and then coming up with solutions beforehand so she’s ready on race day. Whether you’re racing or training, visualizing some issues you could face before you run, and then having a plan in place, is a great way to keep your mind from derailing your race/run.
  • Reframe Your Thoughts: When your mind starts to get tired, it starts trying to convince you that you need to stop. When that happens, and it will happen, if you can reframe those thoughts you can make it easier to keep going. Jesica D’Avanza was talking about this with me recently, and by changing the mental monolog from “I’m feeling tired, I need to stop” to “I’m tired, but by pushing through this I’m making myself stronger” you are acknowledging the fatigue without surrendering to it.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: If you want to strengthen your mental resolve, there’s no substitute for more practice. I find that my mental muscles wears out between miles 17 and 20 in most marathons. So guess what? Consistently running 10-12 mile long runs isn’t going to improve my ability to stay mentally strong in a marathon like running 17-20 miles will! Wherever your dark spot is, the more you can bump up against it in your training the stronger you mind will become because you’ve done it before.

Let’s be clear for a minute, none of these suggestions will work over night. They all take time and consistent practice to be effective.

But if you start using them to build on your mental strength now, you might be surprised how much slower you are to fatigue mentally at your next race.

And if your mind stays sharp, the results will likely be astounding.

4 tips to improve your mental strength & endurance. #runchat #halfmarathontraining #marathontraining Click To Tweet

How Much of a Roll Do You Think Mental Strength/Endurance Plays in Your Running? How Do You Train Your Brain as a Runner?

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4 replies
  1. Pahla B
    Pahla B says:

    Working on my mental strength has been absolutely KEY to some recent success I’ve had at the marathon and half distances. Your points here are spot-on. (I also felt silly chanting a mantra at first, but it works!)
    Two other things that were game-changers for me: finding the right training plan and finally figuring out a fueling strategy. Some of my mental strength issues came from a general lack of confidence that I could execute on race day, so using a plan that had me running full race distance was a big confidence-builder for me. And after years of crapping out 17 miles in, I finally realized that I needed a LOT more calories than I had been taking in. Keeping my blood sugar up really helped keep my mental strength up!

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      Great points Pahla, especially with the confidence of finding a training plan/strategy that works for you. Whether that’s from working with a coach of something you figure out on your own, having confidence in your training will pay off in spades on race day.

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      Stay patient Jill! I know you’re chomping at the bit, but patience will help build your mental muscle as well. Can’t wait of you to get back though!


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