Let’s face it, some runs are harder than others.  Every day is different.  Every run has the potential for new and different challenges.  Training our minds as runners helps us make those hard runs, successful runs!  Here are the mind training techniques I use to get through the hard runs:

Mind Training Techniques

1. Displacement

I have my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and I used to be a group therapist.  One of the groups I led was a relaxation group.  One of my favorite things to facilitate during this group was Progressive Muscle Relaxation.   Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves tensing a muscle group, holding the tension for 10 seconds and then relaxing the muscle group.

For example, make a tight fist.  Focus on the tension in that fist.  Hold it for 10 seconds.  Let it go.  I like to add, that when you relax the muscle group and feel the tension leave you, imagine all of your anxiety, stress, fear leaving you as well.  You are letting go of all of that negativity.  This exercise is a great one on the day before a big race.  But on race day?  During the race?  You need something quicker.

Using the same idea of focusing on one muscle group I try to focus on one happy place on my body during a hard run.  The areas that hurt most for me when I run – my right foot, my left knee, my right Achilles, my left quad.  It’s hard to ignore those pains with each step!  But I try – how is my left foot?  Good?  Let’s put my mind in that good spot.  Sometimes all I have is my left pinkie that feels good.  But if it feels good I put my whole mind in that little pinkie.

2. Challenging Negative Thoughts

This can be hard for me at times.  If something is awful, it’s awful.  There is no sugar coating it.  But some thoughts are worth challenging.

I change “I can’t” to “I’ve done it before, I can do it again.”

I change “I am going so slow” to “It might get better.  The pain will go away soon.”

I change “This is so hard” to “Training is supposed to be hard.  It makes me a better racer.”

If you know your negative thought, find your challenging statement before you get to the run or race.  Sometimes I don’t have the mental capacity or energy to think, let alone energy to change a negative thought.  Come prepared with your positive words.  Put them in your brain’s pocket to pull out and use when you need them!

3. “You decide for yourself when it will hurt”

I use this quote a lot.  It’s from the novel, “Out Stealing Horses” by Per Peterson.  It is used much differently in the novel – I will put the spoiler down below.  But for me, I use it to give myself power over pain.  The pain can only hurt me if and when I let it.  I have the mental power over pain.  Go brain!

These are the tricks I use to help me through a hard run.  Turning a hard run into a successful run takes not only a lot of physical work, but a LOT of mental training.  How about you?  What do you do to train your mind through a hard run?

*Spoiler* It’s pretty high level, but just in case you want to read the story I will keep the quote pretty basic as to not give too much away.

The father in the story “Out Stealing Horses” abandons his wife and family.  The father tells his then 15 year old son, “You decide for yourself when it will hurt” in regards to this abandonment.

Something else to think about!