The mental game is something I struggle with as a runner. I know my body has the ability to push through almost any run I put it through. Why then, do some runs feel so much harder than others? Yesterday’s easy run was really taxing both mentally and physically. I felt a blister coming on…and then felt it pop…while I was running…in my shoe. The slow burn became an intense burn that I finished an “easy” 6 miles with. At one point tears were coming to my eyes. The tears were only partly due to the uncomfort (I’ve dealt with many blisters) but were mostly due to my mindset. I felt foolish for wearing my old shoes and also felt like I wasted a recovery run. It did not feel like a recovery run at all. The mental anguish caused me to use more energy. That coupled with my legs compensating for my blistered foot did not make for the run I planned to enjoy.
It was rough to say the least.
Over the years, I’ve come up with mental tricks and bodily cues to pick myself up when runs get tough. It’s not the physical pain usually, but the mental stress. Yesterday I forgot about all those things and suffered through the workout. I went home, ate breakfast and then did a 90 min recovery bike session which went a lot better than the morning. I got blister band-aids, refueled and rested for the remaining hours of the day.
The second workout made me feel a lot better about the first. I was able to process the run, realize that all runners do silly things, feel pain and forget how to cope with mental stress. Running is an emotional sport for me in addition to the enjoyment and fitness I get from it. Quite simply, I love it and include it in the identity of myself.
What I want to get to here, it what I think about when I am running. I want to deluge the tips and tricks I use to stay motivated, engaged and what works to bring my mind back into focus.
1.) I listen to podcasts.
I know people will swear to music, but when I feel as if someone is talking to me it’s like having a friend there with you. It comforts me and I often learn something new.
2.) I smile. A lot.
When the pain is intense or I start going down the rabbit hole of self doubt, I smile. With my teeth. It does not solve everything, but the science says it releases neurotransmitters that block the perception of pain. All I know is it can turn around a negative thinking pattern and that works for me.
3) I repeat the mantra “I’m happy” from that really addicting song.
Yes it is super over played and not what I would choose to listen to on the radio out of context. However, I remember one time getting a huge runners high last year in on the treadmill in college and that song started playing. Hey, if it works 🙂
4) I pretend I am Shalane Flanagan…or Kara Goucher…or Mirinda Carefree
I look up to these ladies as ambassadors for women in sport. I try to channel their energy and imagine myself breaking the tape at Kona or in Boston. If that doesn’t make you feel legit, nothing will.
What do you think about when you think about running?