They say running is 90 percent mental. It’s true that your mental health is just as important as physical when it comes to marathon training. So make a conscious effort to build mental running strength by learning how to overcome bad days, break up monotony and push through when you think you can’t.
OVERCOME BAD DAYS
One of the most important things to mental training for a marathon is knowing that some runs will be more challenging than others. There will be days when you struggle through the miles, when your stomach is upset or when you simply feel unusually fatigued. Proper nutrition and rest will help reduce those less-than-ideal runs, but one will creep in every now and then.
It’s important not to let the bad days get you down, when it comes to brain training for runners. You might run 25km one day, feeling light on your feet and efficient the whole way. Then you might 10km two days later feeling heavy and sluggish. When you have an off day, do these two things. First, consider what you could’ve done better to avoid problems, better sleep, more water, etc. and then make any applicable changes for next time. Second, let it go. Overcoming mental adversity is a key component of successful training, and hanging on to the bad days will hurt your confidence.
BREAK UP MONOTONY
Running, by nature, can be monotonous, but it doesn’t have to be boring. That feeling of boredom while running can lead to decreased enjoyment and motivation. Ensure that doesn’t happen by employing some tactics to break up the tedium of a long run.
Running with a partner or group is the easiest way to ensure things don’t get boring. Casual conversation with others helps pass the time, and the accountability that comes from running in a group is a powerful motivator. If running alone, distract yourself by listening to something engaging, music and podcasts are popular choices. In addition, change up your route. Covering new terrain is a great way to keep your runs fresh.
BREAK THROUGH MENTAL BARRIERS
If you are having a tough day on the running path, you may have thoughts of stopping. Certainly, if you are injured or experiencing acute pain, cut the run short. However, if you are simply struggling with fatigue or challenging weather, use these mental strategies to push through.
Remember that slowing down is always an option. Instead of letting a decreased pace hurt your confidence, take pride in the fact that you kept going, even when things got tough.
When doing a long run, mentally break it into parts. For instance, instead of focusing on completing a 10km run, think of it as two five-kays. Once you hit the halfway point, it’s all downhill from there, figuratively, of course. Every step of those second five miles brings you closer to your finish line.
Finally, this may sound simple, but be positive. Instead of focusing on what might go wrong or the perceived disadvantages you face, think about the things you feel confident about, your dedication to the training plan or your good hydration habits, for example. With these mental running tips, you can push through any doubt and fear to eventually cross that finish line!
Read some more on the science behind mental motivation, here.