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mindset training for runners

Mindset Training for Runners

There are tons of people who love running, but there are probably just as many who hate it. Non-runners typically have two main reasons for disliking running: 1) they don’t think they’re physically fit to run, and 2) they think it’s boring when they aren’t dependent on it. Does this sound familiar?

Even though there are physiological aspects to running, mindset training for runners – teaching the mind to work as hard as the body – is still a relatively new field. Some of us may feel that there is no way we could ever achieve achievements like running enormous personal bests, racing at incomprehensible speeds, or covering seemingly insurmountable distances. Is this sounding familiar?

You’re probably going to hear someone say that “running is all mental.” Many professional athletes use sports psychologists to improve their performance and training, but for most of us, there is a growing market of sports psychology resources available that can help us improve.

In addition to being empowering and uplifting, running can also be humbling, demoralizing, and sometimes cause you to reevaluate your life decisions. Do not overlook the mental component of training as you prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, 10K, or 5K race. Here are some resources that may help you improve your mindset while running:

Read What’s Out There

Learn more about sports psych, tenacity, and grit/grittiness by reading some great books. Our recommendations: Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory (Deena Kastor) and Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance (Alex Hutchinson). In each of the books, athletes or coaches share their stories of cultivating their minds over the years and achieving world-class success.

The Power of Words

Since runners have anarchistic personalities, it’s probably no surprise that they attach a lot of meaning to mantras or power phrases. As you go through workouts or races, you repeat to yourself one or two words or phrases that you decide will help you through rough moments. 

Creating a culture of support and appreciation for yourself can be empowering. It also requires you to become your best cheerleader instead of your worst critic: it can be challenging. You can describe what you hope to achieve with phrases such as, I can do it. 

Your power word or phrase will likely be different from others’, since they are personal to you. Runners may find it helpful to wear their power words or phrases on their bodies, for instance, as a necklace or bracelet, in order to be reminded when they need reinforcement.

Be Mindful Of Your Why

Even the best runners can have a bad day, and that’s totally normal and okay. Your life won’t be changed by every run. Keep in mind what initially drew you to this sport. 

Perhaps you wanted to run a specific distance as a bucket list item, and got hooked; maybe you tried running to lose weight and in the process discovered a healthy lifestyle; or maybe you started running to raise money for a particular cause. 

It doesn’t matter what your reason for running is, we all have one. There’s a reason each of us began, and a reason each of us continues. Remember why you keep running when you feel like your attitude toward it is toxic. There’s a good possibility that a little perspective and reflection will go a long way, and you’ll find you are more capable than you think.

As with physical training, mental training requires a lot of effort. As we get closer to the race day at the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, it is important to examine your mental preparation each week. 

You should listen to your inner dialogue during hard runs and determine where your mental training is right now. It can be beneficial for you to learn what world-class athletes and experts do to be mentally sharp, so consider incorporating it into your training to make sure you are focused and ready on race day.  

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