When someone is mentally tough it is nearly impossible to bring them down. This is especially true when it comes to running and racing. I have been running for seven years and I have yet to completely master the mental aspects of running. What I have discovered is how mental strength can completely change my runs.
When it comes to racing, I have had varying experiences. What I have realized is that the tougher I can be mentally, the better I will race. It took me years to learn how to be mentally strong and I still sometimes falter.
Building mental toughness is a process. It doesn’t just happen overnight. That is ok, the journey helps you build that mental strength.
4 Ways to Build Mental Strength
Be positive. Attitude is a huge indicator of performance. Physical strength will follow your mind. So instead of thinking negatively – “I can’t do this.” I’m too tired,” “I will fail” – tell yourself positive affirmations. Thoughts such as “I am strong” or “I am capable” are all good places to start.
Set realistic, obtainable, and achievable goals. In order to achieve top performance, you need to set a goal and know why you are wanting to achieve it. When the going gets tough, you need to know why you are doing what you are doing. You need to know that it’s worth it. When I’m running for a PR, I need to know exactly what time I need to reach. I know it is going to be painful, but the pain will be worth the sacrifice and the suffering. Reaching any type of goal is never easy and it requires sacrifices. In running, there will be suffering when you push yourself, but it’s worth it if you know your why.
Practice visualization. If you have been running for a while you may have heard people recommend visualization. It really works. Just take a few minutes each day to close your eyes and imagine what your run will be like. This works for both training runs and races. It is especially important to do before races. Being able to imagine what you will do in all types of situations and how you will react will prepare you to be your best. Your mind can’t actually tell the difference between visualization and reality, so by visualizing success, you are giving yourself an edge on race day, since your mind already thinks you have been here.
Breathe. This isn’t just for yoga practitioners. Learning how to slow your breathing and breathe correctly can help relieve stress and keep you focused on your goals. You want to practice breathing slow and steady. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. A good way to implement this skill on the run is to breath in for three steps and breathe our for three steps. This will help you run steady and calm.
Working on your mental strength will dramatically help your race times improve. It will give you more tools to reach your goals and will help you stay centered and calm on the run and in life.