As the old proverb says, “running is 90 percent mental and the rest physical.” With marathon season fast approaching, it’s a good time to address the challenges every runner needs to overcome if they want to complete a gruelling 42.1km course.
Yes, it’s important to be physically fit to reduce the risk of injury, however, race success is equally about having the right state of mind. Developing this is going to keep you going during the tougher times.
We’ve put together a list of helpful tips so you can maintain your focus during a long run.
#1 Remove physical distractions
There is nothing worse than heading out for a long run only to find your trainers are giving you blisters, or your running pants are losing their support. Investing in running gear that is not only comfortable, but delivers the level of support you need, is important to avoiding unnecessary distractions while running long distances.
#2 Break up your run
Long runs can be somewhat overwhelming, so breaking up the course into sections can be a useful tool for motivation. Going for a 15k run? Split it into three 5km runs and give yourself a mental pat on the back after each one. Mentally prepare yourself for those struggle points and have some rewards in mind when you hit a mental low. What’s your motivation? Think about the end goal and if you’ll reward yourself with a pampering massage, some new shoes or an incredible meal with friends at the end of your race.
To help you get round the course in a mental breeze, make sure you analyse a map of the course. Are you up that tricky hill yet? Prepare yourself for it. Have you passed the halfway mark? Then just acknowledge how far you’ve come and focus on enjoying the race.
#3 Ditch the music
Sure, your running playlist may be full of upbeat, motivational tunes that can often propel you towards the finish the line. But have you tried a podcast? Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of meditation app Headspace, offers guided meditations to help connect your mind and body while running. Meditation may not be for everyone, especially when exercising, but being mindful while running focuses your brain, allowing you to go with a clear intention.
Your brain has a tendency to think about physical pain at any given opportunity. Therefore, focusing on something external becomes integral to crossing the finishing line. Things you could think of include your family at the finish line or perhaps your favourite song lyrics. Mentally disassociating yourself from the pain will help you to the finish.
#5 Running Mantras
A mantra is a group of words used in meditation that helps with focussing the mind. Many elite runners use mantras to help them focus on the race and stay positive. A general rule when choosing a mantra for running is to keep it short, and of course, positive. For example, the dreaded hill is approaching and there’s still 10km to go. Remain positive and think, “Hills are my friend” or “Be strong, I’ve trained for this”. Suddenly, trudging up the hill won’t seem so daunting. Write down your running mantras and repeat them over and over in your head.
Running is undoubtedly a great way to stay physically fit and healthy, but it’s also a great way to build mental strength and focus. Next time you attempt a long run, try practising the above tips. They may hold the key to winning the mental battle that so often dominated your previous runs, and who knows, you may even start to enjoy running those long distances.
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