Despite what #fitspo and #sweatsesh photos might portray, running is really hard sometimes. Often, we don’t give ourselves enough credit that this masochistic activity is not easy, and we beat ourselves up over struggling to find the motivation to get out the door, whether we’re going for a 20 minute shake out, training for a half marathon, or an ultramarathon with an "easy" 30 mile long run. Luckily, that old adage that running is 90% mental and 10% physical is actually true. Listed below are a few mind games to help you start – and finish – that run you’re dreading.
The bargain game is easy and can be performed in a number of ways. It can either take place before you head out the door (if I finish this run, I will treat myself to an iced mocha frappuccino deluxe trenta strawberry cheesecake), or during the run (if I make it 15 minutes, I can turn around. Now if I make it another 5 minutes, I can take a stretch break. If I finish this run, I can make everyone call me Grand Master the rest of the day). This approach is effective because when we bargain with ourselves it is difficult to quit once we have set the intention.
Who doesn’t love the idea of banking money? When you have a long, hard interval workout planned for the day, such as 10 x 400 m repeats, assign an imaginary monetary amount to each interval, such as $1. Every time you finish a repeat visualize yourself placing each dollar into your bank account. Determine for yourself what $10, $50, or $100 will buy you: a finisher’s medal, a PR, an age-group award?
Do you have a loop (or even the track) that you find repetitive, boring, and difficult to get through? Break the loop up into as many sections as you can and give each section a name, such as villains from Harry Potter. By providing each area with an identity, you are better able to conquer your run-demons (or wizards) and crush your workout.
The next time you are struggling to lace up your shoes and head out the door for those hill repeats, assume an alternate identity of someone you know would never give up. Sure, you might feel like staying inside and sipping a cup of tea instead of starting your run, but what would Shalane Flanagan or Meb Keflezighi do? Figuratively step into someone else’s shoes the next time you need a boost.
Run To The…
This is a good way to get in more mileage than you really want to run, or to make a speed training workout go by faster. Tell yourself you’re going on a 3 mile run, but then around mile 2.5, choose a location to run to – a café you love located on the other side of town, Whole Foods, the drycleaners to pick up shirts, the bank to deposit that check…and next thing you know, you’ve run another 2-4 miles, getting in a 4-6.5 mile run instead of that 3 mile run you thought you were doing. When doing shorter intervals during a speed work session, choose points to run to, i.e. “I’ll sprint as hard as I can to that tree. Now I’ll sprint as hard as I can to that traffic light”. Keeps the mind busy and the workout more interesting.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have someone announcing every step you take during a race or workout? Apply that curiosity to your next hard run by providing positive commentary when the going gets tough. For instance, if your name is Amy and you are running a tempo, the announcer in your head might say, “Look at Amy go! She is crushing this workout! That last split was slightly slower than she was aiming for, but I have a feeling, folks, that she was just banking her energy so that she can finish this workout strong!”