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Turning Your Mind Into Your Favorite Running Companion

Do you feel like your mind is holding you back in distance running?  What if you could eradicate inefficient patterns of thought that keep you from achieving greater excellence in running? Here are a few ways to cure your unhelpful habits: ______________

Habit: Boredom and lack of focus

Cure: Set mental focus goals

One of the biggest challenges distance runners face is boredom. Some people listen to music or podcasts while running.  Others talk with a running buddy to break up what can be an otherwise monotonous or distracted experience. If you are someone who struggles with maintaining focus and drive during a run, try setting a short term mental goal for your run before beginning.This practice allows you to set the stage for the rest of the session and provides a specific mental focal point to hold onto when your mind starts to wander. For example, promise yourself not to think about the end until you arrive there, or aim to focus on each independent A few examples are: "I will not think about the end till I arrive there", "I aim work hard", and "I aim to focus on each breath and each footfall independently".


Habit: Disliking discomfort

Cure: Know what you want before you want to give up.

Maybe the following is familiar: You realize that you won't make the time you aimed for or the distance you are expecting to reach during your run. With this knowledge, everything may suddenly feel more difficult, downright impossible or even pointless. A desperate voice, seemingly not you own, may materialize from within and speak directly to your physical sensations and discomfort, encouraging you to stop. You may be thinking, "There has to be easier an way to get this done", "How will I ever be able to run the (insert race of your choosing) if this lesser distance feels THIS hard?", "Other people don't feel this lame when they do this; strength/speed/endurance come easy to them.", or "When is this going to be over?"


Any person pushing themselves in training and aiming to improve constantly will likely be out of their comfort zone often.  Even elite runners experience moments that feel insurmountable. This can be particularly compromising if a person doesn't have a plan for such an instance.  Along with setting an intention, know in the beginning what will motivate you to continue when you feel like you want to back out.

A few that you might try are:

-This is not a surprise; What I am experiencing is normal.  Because of this, I am becoming a better runner.

-Imagine blowing defeatist thoughts away with your exhales, leaving them behind as you move forward.

-Remember that "this too shall pass"; What you are doing is hard but not impossible.



 Block: Setting unrealistic goals

Cure: Create a new relationship with your goals and achievements

Setting goals that are reachable while you aim for the impossible is a fine balance; If you set realistic goals, you are more likely to stay engaged throughout the process of reaching your end result. One way to set reachable goals is to focus on various aspects of your training. If you always aim to reach a certain distance in a certain time, maybe set the goal of trying a new route or running without music if you are accustomed headphones.  Also, consider setting goals that incorporate rest, stretching or hydration, which all support running.

Another way to create a new relationship with your goals is to give yourself some props!  Many people feel awkward celebrating their achievements.  When I was asked to reward myself for a recent achievement, I thought, "but isn't achieving the goal enough of a reward?".  I eventually realized I was missing a major aspect of successful goal-setting!  Rewarding oneself incentivizes a person to stay accountable to goals they've set as well as boosting confidence for future goal-setting.

Distance running requires discipline and particular choice-making, for some even altering their life choices.  Oftentimes, no one will notice what you've sacrificed or decisions you've made in order to support your running.  However, build in a reward for yourself that really feels like a true acknowledgement. If others notice and commend your hard work, great! It will be icing on the cake.


By Whitney Tucker


Keep an eye out for Jack McGowans guide for running a half marathon!