Your left knee in pain, your shoes are too tight, your throat is dry, still three more miles to go?
Let’s face it. Running is hard business.
Whether boredom is your pet peeve, or you’re suffering from some physical discomfort while running, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve to mentally distract yourself during a run.
Here are some of my favorite mental tricks that can help you shut your monkey mind and feel the joy of the present moment.
Let’s get started.
Note: If you seriously hurt, no amount of mental games and distraction will help. Instead, stop running on the spot and seek help. Distraction will do more than harm than good—and you don’t want that.
But if you’re mildly tired or simply bored out of your mind, then tactics like these can help you stay the course—and that’s a good thing if you ask me.
Beginnings are Hard
The first mile is always the hardest. That’s when both your mind and body aren’t warmed up yet to the idea of running.
So what gives?
Remember that’s not always easy, especially during the first few minutes. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone, after all.
Also, remind yourself that it’s not easy to log in serious miles every day. If it were, everyone would be a runner. It takes s a special type of steel to be a runner. Be proud.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other and remind yourself that’s it’s just the warm-up. Once you’re ready, things will get easier. Ignore the little niggles and keep pushing through—it does get better. I promise.
Break it Down
Thinking about how many miles you still have to go before you reach that finish line is a quite of challenge in itself.
Instead, break down your run into smaller chunks, focusing on small distances instead of one big gallop. This should help make the distance feel much more manageable.
For example, if you’re running 12 miles, think, ‘Okay, this is three 3-mile runs’. Don’t focus on the fact that you have 12 miles to before you cross that ‘finish line.’
At the onset of each new segment, imagine yourself just starting on a new run with high motivation and focus on getting to the end of that segment.
Work on Your Form
A practical measure to help you take out of your mind and into your body is to adjust your technique during a run.
By focusing on your technique, you can focus on the mechanics instead of the discomfort. This is especially the case during a long run or hard race.
As we push yourself past the point of exhaustion, our technique tends to fall apart, which means we become more inefficient, making it even harder to run faster, or even keep pace.
Are you keeping good posture? Is your back flat? Are you breathing deeply enough? How is your foot strike? are you using your arms?
Here’s a mental checklist of form corrections:
- Run tall
- Keep your back flat
- Breathe deep
- Make little noise as you run
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and loose
- Imagine your head is being held up by a string
- Release tension in your face and the rest of your body
- Land with your feet under your body’s center of gravity
You can also count your foot strikes to figure out your running cadence and work on improving your count on future runs. Hint—it’s 170 to 180 steps per minute.
Run Somewhere Else
Another thing you can do to lose your mind and come to your senses is to change up your running locations regularly.
Running the same path day in and day out will turn you into a running rodent. And you don’t want that. So, try trail running or cross country running, or run somewhere else. The simple change of scenery should provide immediate motivation and lift.
I’d recommend that you Run at a place that’s new or has a pristine view, such as river, ocean, or trees. You can also people-watch while running in an area where there’s a lot of crowds.
Run To Music
If music isn’t one of your training tools, you’re missing out — big time. Great music and great runs go hand in hand.
Upbeat music will inspire you to keep moving strong, and hopefully help shut down some of the inner noise. It’ll also help you prevent taking breaks when you feel like tossing in the towel.
Don’t take my word for it. Science agrees. The research revealed that runners who exercise while listening to music were able to run farther and faster. They also reported lowered perceived exertion level.
Just make sure to choose the right jams. Create a playlist of your runs? Choose some motivating tunes that will help you push through the hardest miles and get you to that finish line.
Want to break away from the mold of negative thoughts and inner dialogue? Try mantras.
This might sound cheesy and new age, but having a few mantras on hand will keep you centered… and keep you going in the hardest stretches of your run.
Mantras can serve as your inner cheerleader when you need it the most. It also keeps your mind occupied from the negative thinking that will slow you down and hamper your performance: “I want to quit”, “I feel sore”, “I’m done”.
Check out the following mantras for some inspiration.
- I’m strong
- I’m capable
- I’m fast
- Just do it
- I’m a good runner
- Keep going
- Run strong
- I got this
- I love this
These are just a few examples. For the full list, go to LINK.
Start mentally repeating these mantras to yourself until you have a set that works for you. You are under no pressure to disclose them, or even that you’re using them. Keep strong.