Mental Tricks to Extend Your Runs
Want to run farther or longer? Then try changing your mind. Hitting plateaus are normal, and finding motivation can be challenging. Running is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge, especially when you want to increase your running time or distance. The following are some tips that can help you to overcome the mental mind game, break through plateaus, and reach your goals.
Listen to Your Self Talk
Without mental discipline, the mind can chatter incessantly, filling one with doubts that create mental blockages. Thoughts like, “Who do I think I am? I can never compete,” or “I haven’t trained enough,” are common among both professional and recreational athletes.
Luckily, optimism is a mindset that anyone can develop, and it begins with identifying and controlling negative thoughts. Think mental toughness!
Typical forms of negative thoughts to include:
- Personalizing, or blaming yourself for forces beyond your control
- Polarizing to see things in “black or white,” with no middle ground; believing you are either perfect or a failure
- Filtering to see only the negative in any situation
- Anticipating the worst based upon experience
Once you identify self-defeating talk, do your best to replace it with a positive thought consciously. While this sounds like something from a new age book, the reality is that by changing your thoughts, you can change your mind for the better.
Science proves that when we practice a more positive mindset, our brains wire differently through a process called neuroplasticity. The new wiring causes the brain to identify more options that can lead to success, leading to a more positive frame of mind with improved outcomes.
Take advantage of neuroplasticity by paying attention to the thoughts you have about training. When negative thoughts invade, look for a different perspective. If you had a bad workout, remember that you also have great workouts. Things are not always bad or good, and when things get tough, you can strive to overcome them.
At the same time, humans do make mistakes, so learn from them and use them to improve. When you don’t feel like analyzing, simply replace the negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
Find Your Positive Affirmation
Negative self-talk, as described above, can be a habit that is difficult to break. Quite often, a negative mindset becomes comfortable, and trying to think positively despite it can prove challenging. But you can change your frame of mind by replacing self-defeating mental chatter with self-promoting affirmations.
Affirmations should be positive, easy to repeat and resonate with your needs. Some examples include, “I can run far, I am a great runner,” “I am improving every day,” or simply, “I can do this.” Every time you identify a negative thought, replace it by mentally repeating your mantra. Practicing replacement affirmations can help you identify and overcome a self-defeating mindset.
Music that Makes You Move
Music can create a happier or lighter mood and make you feel like moving. And it can keep your mind off the negative aspects of exercise.
Use a music app to create a playlist with your running pace, and make the timing of your playlist coincide with your running goals. For example, if your goal is to run for 45 minutes, make a playlist that lasts that long, filled with songs that you can run to. If you cannot yet run for 45 minutes, add a minute or two each week until you can run the duration of your list.
Try creating workout playlists for different workouts like distance running with steady, flowing music or interval training with fast and slow tempo songs. Use your playlist for those days when you just don’t feel motivated. Doing so can make your time running more enjoyable and help you extend your run.
Use Your Imagination
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This is because our imagination is unlimited and can give birth to new ideas that stimulate progress. Use your imagination to extend your runs by visualizing your desired pace. For example, see yourself completing or winning a race or marathon.
Imagination works best when you include as many senses as you can in your mental picture. Try to hear the cheers from family or friends, feel the excitement from completing your distance, and taste the water or sports drink you enjoy after the race is complete.
Athletes commonly use visualization to win races or reach milestones. Some prefer to meditate and spend a few minutes creating the entire mental scene of succeeding in their imagination, while others choose to see it while they are training mentally. No matter how you want to use your imagination for training, it can be a fun way to reach your goal to run farther.
Play Mental Games
Mental games are a fun way to keep your mind occupied while you are running. While in a perfect world, we would all focus on good form or goals, it’s not always easy to do with every workout and for the duration of the run. When your mind needs a fun break, try playing mental games. Some ideas that might be fun include:
- Count every pair of white running shorts you see
- Say “Hi” to every person you pass on your run
- Listen to one song over and over until you can sing it for karaoke
- Listen to a funny podcast
- Mentally list all the things in your life you are grateful for
- Play a mental game like you are running from zombies
- Get a fitness app that helps boost imagination with fun, virtual running routes
Mental tricks can make distance running easier, especially when the going gets tough. Don’t let your mind be an obstacle. Instead, use it to your advantage, and you can learn to extend your runs and make your workout time a more enjoyable experience.