Mental Tips for Long Runs


Long distance running can be as much a mental challenge as it is a physical test of strength and fitness.  Read more...

How to Use Mental Strategies for Running

By Christine Luff

Long-distance running can be as much a mental challenge as it is a physical test of strength and fitness. Some runners find that their body is willing to run longer, but it's too hard mentally to keep going.  Follow these tips to help win the mental battle while running: 

Try Some Self-Talk

If you're running alone and struggling, give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself that you're not physically tired -- you're just mentally fatigued and you can push through it. Say to yourself things like, "I'll have some water in five minutes -- that will make me feel better." If you're doing your longest run ever, remind yourself how proud you'll feel when you're finished.

Break Up Your Run

Dividing up your run into smaller segments will make the distance feel much more manageable. For example, if you're running 20 kms, think, "OK, it's four 5km runs." At the start of each new segment, visualize yourself just starting out on a new run with fresh legs and just focus on getting to the end of that segment.

Remember: It's Not Always Easy

As you're doing a long run, remind yourself that it's not easy to train for a long-distance event. If it were, everyone would do it, right? Remind yourself that you're taking on a challenge and the difficulties you face will make your accomplishment all the more worthwhile in the end.

Find a Mantra

Picking a short phrase, such as "One step at a time," that you play over and over in your head while running can help you stay focused and centered. It can be your inner motivation when you need it most. You may already have a favourite phrase to use as a mantra, but if you don't have one, check out these quotes about running motivation and running marathons for some inspiration.

Use Imagery

When you hit a rough patch, try to imagine yourself as an Olympic athlete who's headed towards the finish line. Envision your running form as smooth, graceful, and relaxed. Think of a runner who you really admire and imagine yourself running just like him.

Play Counting Games

If you run where there are a lot of other runners, try this game: Pick out a specific article of clothing, such as a white running hat, to look for during your run. Then count how many runners you see wearing it. If you do a lot of running on the roads, you can also do this with cars of a certain model or color.

Make Post-Run Plans

I love deciding what I want to do after I finish my run, especially if I'm running in morning. I'll ponder something basic, such as what to make for dinner. It helps me organize my day and gives me something to look forward to after the run.

Visualize Your Race

If you're training for a race, such as a marathon, picture yourself running the course -- every mile -- and crossing the finish line. Picture how you want to pose for your photo as you run through the finish. Try to see the clock with your goal time (if you have one) displayed. Imagine what you'll be thinking as a volunteer puts your race medal around your neck. Think about how it will feel to see your loved ones at the finish line cheering for you.

Dawn Mansfield