Push Past Pain: Unleash Your Running Potential with Mental Tricks

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Cross Training For Runners
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Written by :

David Dack

Running can be tough, and we’ve all had those moments where our left knee aches, our shoes feel too tight, and our throat is parched, but we still have miles to go. It’s a mental battle as much as a physical one.

Whether you’re dealing with boredom or physical discomfort, having some mental tricks up your sleeve can make all the difference during a run.

So, are you ready to conquer that monkey mind and push through the pain? I’ve got some mental tricks that can help you stay focused and motivated during your run.

Just a quick note: If you’re in serious pain or discomfort, it’s essential to prioritize your well-being. Stop running and seek help. These tricks are for those moments when you’re mildly tired or simply need a mental boost to stay on course.

Let’s dive in and make your runs more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Beginnings Are Hard

Let’s face it – the first mile is always a struggle. Your body and mind are still warming up to the idea of running. But here’s the truth: beginnings are hard. Stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t easy, and logging serious miles takes a special kind of determination.

But guess what? You’re a runner, and that’s something to be proud of! So, when that first mile feels like an uphill battle, remind yourself it’s just the warm-up. Push through those initial niggles, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and watch how things get easier as you go.

Trust me, it’s all part of the journey.

Break it Down

When faced with a long run, fixating on the total mileage ahead can be overwhelming. Instead, break your run into smaller, more manageable chunks. Focus on conquering one segment at a time rather than the entire distance.

For instance, if you’re tackling a daunting 12-mile run, don’t dwell on that big number. Instead, think of it as three 3-mile runs. As you begin each new segment, visualize it as the start of a fresh run filled with motivation and energy. This mental strategy can make your run feel less daunting and more achievable, one step at a time.

Work on Your Form

When you find yourself struggling during a run, redirect your attention from discomfort to running technique. By honing in on your mechanics, you can improve your efficiency and maintain better form, especially during long or challenging runs.

Here’s a mental checklist to guide you:

  • Run Tall: Maintain an upright posture.
  • Keep Your Back Flat: Avoid hunching or slouching.
  • Breathe Deeply: Pay attention to your breathing pattern and ensure it’s deep and rhythmic.
  • Quiet Steps: Strive to make minimal noise as you run.
  • Relaxed Shoulders: Keep your shoulders loose and relaxed, not tensed.
  • Imagine a String: Picture a string lifting your head up, encouraging proper head positioning.
  • Release Tension: Ensure your face and the rest of your body are tension-free.
  • Foot Placement: Aim to land with your feet under your body’s center of gravity.

Additionally, you can count your foot strikes to gauge your running cadence. A good target is 170 to 180 steps per minute. Monitoring and improving your running form can help you become a more efficient and comfortable runner.

Run Somewhere Else

If you’re feeling stuck in a running rut, it might be time for a change of scenery. Running the same route every day can become monotonous and drain your motivation. Here are some ways to break the cycle and refresh your mind:

  • Explore New Routes: Seek out different running paths, trails, or cross-country routes. Exploring new terrain can make your runs more exciting.
  • Nature Retreat: Find a location with natural beauty, such as running by a river, along the ocean, or through a scenic forest. Connecting with nature can be rejuvenating.
  • Urban Adventure: If you prefer city environments, try running in areas with bustling crowds. People-watching can be a great distraction and add some excitement to your run.
  • Travel Running: When you travel, use it as an opportunity to run in a new city or area. It’s an excellent way to explore and stay active while experiencing a change of scenery.

Run To Music

If you’re not already running with music, it’s time to tune in. Music can be a powerful tool to enhance your running experience in several ways:

  • Boost Motivation: Upbeat music can be a source of inspiration, helping you stay motivated and maintain a strong pace throughout your run.
  • Reduce Perceived Effort: Research has shown that runners who listen to music while exercising often report a lower perceived level of exertion. This means you may feel like you’re putting in less effort, even when you’re pushing your limits.
  • Extend Your Runs: Music can distract your mind from fatigue and discomfort, allowing you to run longer distances without feeling as tired.

To make the most of your music, create a playlist of your favorite tunes that energize you and keep you in the zone. Whether you’re into rock, pop, hip-hop, or any other genre, the right music can make your runs more enjoyable and productive.

Create Mantras

Looking for a mental edge during your runs? Consider incorporating mantras into your routine. These simple, positive affirmations can be a game-changer for your mindset and performance. Here’s how they work:

  • Stay Centered: Mantras act like your inner cheerleader, keeping you focused and motivated, especially during challenging parts of your run.
  • Distract from Negativity: They divert your thoughts away from negative self-talk, such as “I want to quit” or “I’m done,” which can slow you down and hinder your performance.

Here are some mantra ideas to get you started:

  • 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.

Choose a mantra that resonates with you, or create your own. Mentally repeat it during your run to help you stay focused, positive, and determined. You don’t need to share your mantras with anyone; they’re your secret weapon to keep you strong and motivated.

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