Running is just about one foot in front of the other most days. Until the day you ask said foot attached to a fatigued leg to hit the road for just a bit longer or perhaps your lungs to breathe just a bit harder for a new speed.
Then it’s time to engage your brain.
Each blogger below has written about the tough side of running (click their link for more) and provided a top tip to get you going!
6 Runners Chime In
Kicking things off, I have some top tips from my favorite runners! The following group contains women who have completed Ironmans, who’ve run tons of marathons, who’ve spent time doing CrossFit and running…in other words, they’ve put more than enough miles to have their share of rough runs.
These are the ways they pull themselves out of a funk and make it happen.
Don’t forget that this is fun!
Katie Ringley of Katie’s Fit Script
We get into our training cycles and sometimes need that reminder that we choose this for our hobbies and that it is fun!!!! <3
Focus on this mile
Monica Olivas of Run Eat Repeat
We sometimes get caught in how many miles / repeats / burpees / etc and that makes it overwhelming. Focus on the mile or move you are doing right this second. Do your best for this one part. Then, catch your breath and do it again.Imagine yourself on race day
Tina Haupert of Carrots n Cake
This trick is a little cheesy, but it always helps me through those final miles of my long run: I envision myself on race day– either the upcoming rate or a past race when I felt really great! (Personally I envision myself on Comm Ave during the Boston Marathon!)
During the end of a race, I would never let myself stop and walk, especially with all of those spectators watching me. So I pretend that I’m running in a race, feeling strong, powerful, and determined, which helps me toughen up and push myself through the hardest parts of my run.Imagine yourself at the end of your goal race and other mind games for tough runs #werunsocial Click To Tweet
Be kind to yourself
Tina Muir of Tina Muir
We are so nice and supportive to other people, but we are just nasty to ourselves. Rather than beating yourself up for slowing down or getting angry at yourself for not being able to stay focused, instead talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend or sister.
Reassure yourself that you are fine, that you are out there doing your best, so just keep moving forward and trying as hard as you can, that is all you can ask for. Encouragement and support to yourself is going to build your confidence, whereas being nasty and mean is going to tear your confidence down (meaning that more of those negative thoughts come in).Listen to something motivating
Charlie Watson of The Runner Beans
Whether it’s the audiobook story that you’re loving to listen to or an inspiring autobiography, a podcast that you look forward to every week, or a playlist you created for an event (or better yet, made for you by a loved one).
Having something rather than just ‘running music’ or the labored sound of your breath should keep you going, even it’s just a mile further…
Every run holds a lesson
Ashley Diamond of Healthy, Happier Bear
After ten years of running, I’ve learned that not every run will feel wonderful and leave me smiling ear to ear. But, every run can teach us something. As I am stretching, post run, I try to deconstruct the run and think about what I want to take away from that particular run.
Did I fuel properly? Did I go out too quickly? Did I get enough sleep? Is my body tired? Taking these things into account helps make every run, even the worst ones, productive.
Let’s talk about actual mental gymnastics you can do while running to help you get just a little bit more out of your workout. And of course let’s remember that sometimes a run just sucks and there’s nothing wrong with that, learn to embrace the no good very bad runs.
Quick Refocusing Tips
One of the fastest ways to forget how tired your legs are is to refocus your brain:
- Gratitude mile: One of my favorite tricks is to spend the first mile of my run mentally going through all the things I’m grateful for from my right knee feeling good to my parents being healthy.
- Just to the next…tree, light post, corner. Pick something and decide you only have to run that far, when you get there pick something else, surprisingly with each finish you get a little kick of adrenaline which will push you to keep going.
Something truly strange happens when you lean in to your discomfort. Instead of being something that you’re struggling against and fighting to avoid, it just is. You release all that wasted energy and the body actually relaxes knowing that you understand it’s hard and are ok with it.
This is also what Matt Fitzgerald refers to in his running books as practicing suffering so that on race day you know just how much farther you can go. It’s a matter of habituation or becoming used to a stimulus. So the first time you hear a loud bang it makes you jump, but when it happens consistently you being to tune it out…embrace the suck.
When you’re on the treadmill one of the easiest things to do is play a game of distraction. Some of us can do long runs, speed workouts or anything else needed on the treadmill, but it’s not for everyone.
Get the most out of your time by turning it in to an interval workout. You can do something like changing either the incline or speed every 2 minutes or follow a more structured workout like the one below. This is one of my favorites for kick starting a run, as I find after a few rounds I’m ready to just run straight through.
It sounds like a ridiculous recommendation to relax when you’re ready to throw in the towel and cry like a baby because your run is so sucktastic. But maybe what you need is to release the pressure!
Stop focusing on pace.
Stop focusing on distance.
Stop focusing a specific workout.
Relax and think about simply allowing all of your energy to be focused in a forward motion. Sometimes after getting out of our own heads and the stress of hitting a certain goal everything will start to fall back in to place. Maybe you aren’t recovered from a previous run or maybe you’ll turn it on and hit your paces once you release the stress. Told ya it’s mental!
When all else fails there’s nothing like a good mantra. I’ve shared a ton of great mantras from elite runners, so I won’t rehash them here!
The goal of your mantra or mind game is largely to redirect your focus. Suddenly your knee doesn’t really hurt anymore or your side stitch has vanished because you moved your thoughts elsewhere and the body realized it didn’t actually need to tell you to stop.
That’s right, your brain can be your biggest hurdle. When you’re trying to run farther or hit a new speed, it chimes in with “this is too hard, I need to slow you down so you don’t burst in to flames“. Maybe not that exact phrase, I can’t read your mind…but close, trust me.
How do you mentally push through a tough run?
When do you call it quits and when do you keep pushing?
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Susie @ Suzlyfe
Great tips for sure. If I’m outside running, I have no choice but to soldier on. If I am inside, I try to get myself to the next milestone (like the next half mile). Or change something up, like music or scenery, or even what I am thinking about!
I love every single one of these tips. I often have a verse or a phrase I use when I’m in the mentally tough part of the run. I also love Monica’s tip of staying in the mile, not thinking about every single mile. Being kind to yourself and not being anxious about pace or about how far you’ve gone if you need to stop is also so essential so you don’t kill yourself from stress.
I love that you touch the mental sides of running, because some days it seems like 60% of my running is mental.
Laura @ This Runner's Recipes
Great advice, as always! Embrace the suck has been my mantra for hard runs and those burning final miles of races. I love Tina’s tip about being kind to yourself!
I have a shirt with this quote and wear it during my most brutal runs, love it!!
I frequently write a small quote on my hand (“run the mile you’re in”, “every mile is a gift”, etc) and look at it often during my long run.
Love your quick refocusing tips! Honestly, they could be used for many endeavors in our days. I heard a story it reminds me of that harvesters would do. They would throw a stick and focus on just getting to that stick instead of being overwhelmed by the entire field yet to to be picked.
Great advice! I’m a big fan of the ‘Just to the next…tree, light post, corner’ tip. Worked a treat for me when I was just starting out :)