So, what I am writing about today are mental running strategies. This is something that I’m absolutely fascinated with. I have done NLP to Master Practitioner, hypnosis, and I don’t share this with you; to boast, I share it with you to highlight how interested I am in the impact that the mind has on the body and vice versa.
I think it really is at the core of endurance running. I really put this to the test in 2012 when I did the Brathay, 10 in 10, which is 10 marathons in 10 days over one of the most challenging courses in the United Kingdom.
Now, that really did test my mental strength and tested the running strategies that are used. So, in this article, I’m going to share with you what I do to get the best out of myself mentally and how you can too.
all I would say is, whatever you read, remember it’s a way, not the way. The thing with mental strategies for running you’ve got to have something that works for you; somebody else can give you 20 things that work for them.
But you’ve got to test stuff and see what works for you in the best way. And that’s how you can build up a toolbox, if you like, of mental running strategies that will help you run further and for longer, and also it will help you get out of a running slump or times that you feel that you’ve lost your mojo,to run.
So What Percentage Of Running Is Mental?
So first of all what percentage of running is actually mental well you’ll get lots of responses to this many people say it’s 90% of it, but I’d like to share with you some thoughts on this.
I don’t think there’s any definitive reply to this, but what I will say is that most people spend 90% of their time training, physically, and probably very little time thinking about how to reinforce or build up their mental strength. I like to look at it from the 80/20 rule now.
Use The 80/20 Rule To Become A Mentally
What the 80/20 rule is is basically the principle that things don’t come in equal amounts, so for example, if you look at wealth, you know, the wealth in the world isn’t distributed evenly. So, if you’re using the 80/20 rule, you would say at least 20% of the people in the world have 80% of the wealth now. That percentage does not always have to be exactly at 20 %. It’s just there to show you that there’s a disparity.
So, pretty much, suppose you spend 20% of your time just honing your mental strength running strategies that could probably give you 80% of your results?
Of course, physical activity and training are also vital because they build up your confidence and strength. So you couldn’t just will your way to run. You have to obviously back it up with some physical ability and training.
So, what I say is when you pick up one end of the stick you pick up the other.
So, for example, if you’ve done nothing to build up your mental strength, then you’re gonna get to a certain point in a race or training run where you want to stop, and your brain is going to tell you that you need to stop because it wants to protect you, that’s its job, and you’re going to more than likely stop.
Now that’s not to mean that you’ve reached your physical limits. In most cases, in most people, that is not the case. So, most people or less you are, Dave Goggins, most people will stop before they’re physically spent, so you can understand why physical training is an absolute must for a runner; adding in strategies for mental strength is also key, particularly endurance running.
6 Tips How Do You Build Mental Toughness For Running.
1.Have Mental Clarity What You Want To Achieve And Handle Negative Thoughts
So what do I mean by this well? Begin with the end in mind. What is it that you actually want to achieve? And in whatever way works for you, either get a clear visualization or even a sound, that you can even listen to.
When I was doing the 10 in 10, I had an image in my head of two things when I was running, encouraging me and discouraging me from giving up. One was of my son, telling me how proud he was of me. When I finished 10 in10. However, I also use the negative image of my wife, who thought the event was a rather stupid thing to do and to be fair, she’s probably correct in her saying to me. I told you it was a stupid idea.
Now for some reason, both motivated me. Because the one I was moving towards a goal, my son congratulating me on finishing, and two, I was moving away from the pain of imagining my wife telling me off for actually doing the event at all.
Both can work for certain individuals more than others, so try those mental tricks when you’re training, seeing what works for you.
2.The Inner Negotiation For Running Inner Strengh
So, sometimes you will set yourself a goal. So, for example, when I’m in training, sometimes I have a long run on Sunday, and sometimes they might be 18 or 20 miles, and I lay in bed, and I don’t want to get up, I can hear the wind and rain outside.
Now, I know not getting up at all means I run zero miles. So I start a negotiation with myself,
Would you get up and run 20 miles? No. Well, would you get up and run 20 miles, and then I add-in, you can have a fantastic breakfast at the end of the run? Or whatever works for you.
If it’s still no, it might be…… Could you get up and run 15 miles today? And if I say yes, then I swing my legs out of that bed and get going.
15 miles is better than none.
But the inner negotiation can be done while you’re running as well.
So you think you’ve got another 10 miles to run, and you’re getting very, very disheartened, then you can say, well what if we just run another mile, and see how we feel, or I will run to that tree in the distance, and we’ll see how we feel.
This brings me to another strategy that I learned during my first marathon, and it was given to me, actually, by my brother in law, and his friend, the night before the marathon when I had my pre-race meal.
And this friend said to me, think of it as. Baby steps. Baby steps 123 So literally just put one foot in front of the other. Because what gets weirdly in the way of mental toughness when we’re running is actually our mentality, more often than not, it’s actually our brain is causing the problem we’re trying to train our brain, in effect.
So sometimes just concentrating on the movement—one step. Baby steps. Baby steps 123 And just concentrating on that next step, and that’s all you’re thinking about.
You’re not thinking about the next 10 miles or anything like that; just each step can actually be really, really beneficial
3.Get Used To Doing Micro Hard Actions,Daily.
This will give you more mental toughness. So, try getting up half an hour before you need to. Get up and doing it even if you don’t want to do it, and doing it every day.
How about having cold showers? You won’t want to do it, but how about 30 seconds of a cold shower after a hot shower? You will feel fantastic again.
But the real benefit of doing it is the fact that your brain will be screaming at you not to do it. The fact that you do it starts to train your brain that, yep. When I decide to do a thing, I’m going to do it.
Because you’ve got to understand what is happening mentally, your brain is trying to protect you. So, when you start to do something like endurance running, it’s basically thinking this is a silly idea I’m going to give this person, all the reasons in the world, stop. Once you give your brain the information that you aren’t going to stop, your brain and body have to decide, either to go with you or not.
Now, with the core directive of your body and your brain to protect each other. Once it realises that you are committed, your body and your brain will do everything in their power to make sure that you are safe.
This is when you start to perform at your optimal rate where your physical ability is in line with your mental abilities.
4.Be Honest With Yourself To Build Inner Belief.
Honesty is key. I believe in being positive. However, this is not the same as kidding yourself. If you’re tired when you’re running, the first step to feel less tired is to accept that you are feeling tired, but then start looking at what you want, instead, and this is when I think mantras can be useful, but only once you’ve accepted, where you are.
So many people sort of use mantras and say they don’t work. For example, I could be running along, and I will accept that I’m getting more tired at this stage of a run. But then I asked myself mentally, what do I want instead? And what I want is more energy. So I say to myself, what I want now is more energy.
And then the mantra I use is, there’s always more.
That’s my mantra; there is always more because I honestly believe deep down within me, there is always more. It’s just sometimes I have to dig it from deep within myself.
5.Breathing Your Way Through Tough Times.
Be aware of your breathing. You know, when you’re running, you are going to be breathing differently from how you breathe, when you’re walking around.
But when you get tired or anxious, your breathing will change. So sometimes, just being able to take a few deep breaths, perhaps slow your running pace down for a little while, even if you need to take a quick walk to get your breathing back in check, we’ll start to align you and make you feel a lot better.
6.Try Run Walk To Build Confidence In Your Running
And that actually brings me to something else I do, which is, I do run a walk sometimes. This might seem counterintuitive as many runners view walking as a sign of defeat or a lack of mental strength in their running.
However it can be a great strategy.
I often use walking in my long runs not because I need to walk but also builds mental strength to get going again. So, for example, if you’re going to run a marathon and get to the last 20 miles, you have to run a walk.
You need to build in the mental strength to, once you start walking, know that you can get running again because you can be very effective with a run, walk strategy, as long as you don’t just walk all the time.
So training yourself to have a run walk strategy can be actually a great confidence builder.
I have created a blog post on effective run walk strategies you might enjoy.
What To Think About When Running?
My son always asked me when I go out on a 15 16,17, or 20-mile run. What music did I listen to? And I often say to him I wasn’t listening to any music, and he always asks me is, what do you think about while running?
I think there’s so much to think about while you’re running about actual running. How are you moving? If you’ve not got headphones on, how do you sound? What are your foot strikes sound like? Are you hitting the ground hard? Could you hit the ground softer? How’s your body feeling? Do you need to relax your jaw? So that you’re not so tense, perhaps, loosen your arms, so that you’ve relaxed in your body.
There’s so much you can be thinking about.
But one of the things I said to my son was that after a certain amount of time. The internal chatter runs out. And there are moments in a long Sunday run where it is akin to meditation in the respect that your brain is just given up, and you’re just moving. It’s one of the most beautiful things I personally find about running, but you have to go through that period of your brain, being the chattering monkey the whole time.
And that period, I use to assess how my runnings going and my inner dialogue is good .
So is my inner chatter encouraging? Saying, I am doing well—one foot in front of the other. Baby steps. Baby steps 123
And then that quiet comes over me, and that might only last 20 minutes, and then perhaps getting closer to home and my brain starts to think about finishing and that can be another hard period because, as you move away from running in the moment and begin projecting to finishing my run.
So, this is what builds up the mental strength in effect.
Mood And Food.
I just want to talk really quickly here, about mood and food.
Suppose you’re doing long runs, over 90 minutes. Make sure that you’re well-hydrated and fueled. It goes beyond the remit of this particular article to go into hydration and fueling. But all I’m saying is if you’re running for long periods and don’t get the right amount of carbohydrates into you, your mood will be impacted greatly.
And where your mood goes, so does your mental strength. So this is an important area to consider when attempting to maintain a strong mental attitude when running.
So having little rewards on a long run of some food that you enjoy, maybe a gel that tastes great, can really, raise your mood in the long run so that you can utilise this as a mental strategy in itself.
But if you’re finding that you’re on your longer runs that you are getting low, or, or feeling negative, then check out your hydration and your food on those runs. Are you getting fuel? Because that can have a huge impact.
If you want to know more about fuelling long runs and
Recommendations From This Article
I have mentioned in this article cold showers and breathing. In these areas, I have learnt a lot from Wim Hof. His app is excellent. It’s free, to a point and the premium features are about £30 per year. Check Wim Hof out.
His methods have really helped me to build up more mental strength in my running.