Whether you are training for your first-ever marathon, or you’re a veteran runner trying to improve your race time, physical preparation is only half the battle when it comes to long-distance running.
The other, equally important half — mental preparation and mental toughness — is often overlooked, but should not be ignored.
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Sports psychology is becoming increasingly more recognized as an essential component of regular training for athletes of all levels, highlighting the influence of motivation, focus and confidence in one’s progress.
So what is a “sports mindset,” exactly? A combination of attitude and motivation, it’s about having the mental strength to stay focused and power through when the going gets tough, but also the awareness to listen to your body and take proper care of oneself. A positive running mindset can help you find joy and satisfaction from challenging experiences and keep you going. This training mindset matters for all stages of your running experience – from signing up for the race or event and training, to doing your best on the actual race day and successfully recovering for new challenges.
Mindset For Motivation
Everything starts with inspiration to challenge yourself, whether that’s the decision to enter a race, begin a new running regimen or to reach a new personal record. Having a “go-getter” attitude enables you to commit to your decisions and stick to your goals as if embarking on a new adventure. If you’re a runner, chances are you already have this in spades.
Mindset For Training
Any runner knows that the race itself is just the tip of the iceberg; what really matters is all the effort you’ve spent training beforehand. Regular training and the progress that comes with it is what benefits most from a positive mindset.
Progress begets a positive attitude, and a positive attitude begets progress — not a bad cycle to get into.
There are many different ways to approach marathon or race training. Some people are driven by intensity or race-times to feel motivated, while others are content with simply being outdoors and moving every day. It’s important to find the best approach for you, and to embrace the value that running and training has for you personally. Avoid forcing yourself where it doesn’t feel natural, and find new ways to connect with your training regime, whether that means running your favourite trails or training with a friend. This, too, can help maintain positive mindset, which in turn helps you achieve better results, both in terms of your running performance and enjoyment.
Mindset For Performance
On race day, your mindset is the biggest factor in your success. Are you ready to give it everything you’ve got? Confidence, optimism and belief in oneself are exceptional weapons in long-distance running. Clear your mind, tell yourself that you’re well prepared, and give it your all.
Mindset For Recovery
If you already have a lot of experience running long distances, chances are you’re well aware of the “runner’s high.” The addictive nature of the runner’s high can actually make rest and recovery difficult for log-distance runners; yet they are as essential for your race performance as the training itself. If you are unwell, injured or have been feeling fatigued for a while, consider giving your body a well-deserved break before getting back into training.
Mindset For Pain
Long-distance running is not an easy endeavour – it takes time for your body and mind to feel up the physical and mental challenge. It’s no secret that long-distance running hurts, and there will be times when your mental toughness is challenged.
Of course, the pain and difficulty is, ironically, the beauty of long-distance running. Ask any runner and they’ll tell you the true magic of running comes when you are able to do something you once thought was impossible. Moreso than improving your race time, the real challenge of the sport is the mental capacity to overcome.
For The Love Of Running
A little bit of running pains are to be expected; however, it is not uncommon for even the most avid of runners to “burn-out”, over-train and exhaust themselves. A disconnect between your goals and what your body actually needs can take its toll, resulting in a decline performance and most importantly, a loss of joy you once received from running. Being a good runner is not only about pushing yourself to the extremes; a good runner understands what limits ought to be pushed and when it is time to reassess and step back.
If you find yourself exhausted, dreading the next workout, you might be doing something wrong. Stepping out of your comfort zone is important, but placing discipline above all the other physical indicators might have an opposite effect. If you feel running and training has become a chore, have a small holiday; remember why you started running in the first place. Leave your HR monitor behind and forget the mileage. Just go for a run and focus on the experience – how you’re feeling during and after the run. You also want to make sure you are not only running, so you incorporate some cross-training into your routine, including strength-training workouts, or to do some gentler exercises, like yoga, swimming or hiking.
Finally, there’s tons of running motivation out there, including writing, photography and various running blogs uplift you to running highs. Follow athletes and people that inspire you, keep in touch with inspiring races and events, join a local running community or find some regular training buddies. Try new running routes and rediscover the wonders of running that aren’t necessarily in a competitive capacity.
In order to be a successful runner — whatever “success” means to you — it’s important to focus not just on the physical aspect of running, but on the mental aspect as well. Whether you’re training for a race or simply re-discovering your love of running, your mindset will be the ultimate key to your success. Focus on your mental toughness, stay positive and determined and listen to your body. There’s no finish line you can’t cross and no obstacle you can’t overcome.