It goes without saying that physical training is important for successful distance running. But did you know that running and mental endurance also go hand in hand? Mental toughness for running can be just as essential as physical strength when it comes to long-distance runs.
Here are some suggestions that will get you closer to the finish line.
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The Psychology of Long-Distance Running
Veteran runners know that strong legs and physical fitness are only part of a successful running career. The mind is also vital to making the most of your physiology. That’s because long-distance runners often face a host of challenges, both during training and on race day.
For all levels of running, it’s essential to use your mind to overcome challenges and push yourself physically. Runners with low mental endurance can easily become overwhelmed by obstacles, while those with strong mental toughness for running know how to use the mind to their advantage.
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Preparing Mentally for Your Run
Mental preparation is critical when training for a race as well as the days that lead up to it. Running and mental endurance can also help your recovery following race day. Consider the following suggestions to improve your mental toughness for running:
- Perfect your mental imagery. Pre-race imagery can help the goals in your mind become reality. To try this, picture yourself during the race and walk through each step of the course. Consider your posture, your clothing, and your body language. Imagine yourself running and crossing the finish line. Imagine the elation you’ll feel upon completing your race-day goals. If a course map or video is available prior to your race, consider reviewing it to help with race visualization.
- Focus on controlling your breath. Proper breathing can help you manage stress from training and racing. That’s because breath is both a release and a trigger for your nerves. To use it to your advantage, practice breathing through your nose, deeply into your abdomen. Next, exhale slowly through your mouth. Breathing can have a calming effect on your body, thus relaxing your mind. Try to slow your breathing and match your breath to your steps as you run.
- Practice positive self-talk. You’ve probably heard the old adage, “You’re your own worst enemy.” The expression is true in that negative thoughts can lower your self-confidence and decay your performance, as your body starts to believe what your mind tells it. Instead, give yourself compliments, motivate and cheer yourself on as you train. Consider what you’ve accomplished, and regularly remind yourself of your victories and successes. During training and before race day, create positive mantras to repeat, like, “I am a winner,” “I feel great today,” or “I am my own superhero.”
- Set realistic goals. It’s easy to have a laundry list of every goal you’d love to accomplish. But being practical pays off when it comes to running. Think about why you’re running to determine some realistic goals. For example, do you have a certain time you’d like to finish within? Is there a specific distance race you would love to complete? Come up with some smaller goals that are possible to accomplish during training, and reward yourself each time you reach your goal.
With a little preparation and effort, you can use the psychology of long-distance running to help both your mind and your body succeed. For more information on marathon training tips, contact UPMC Sports Medicine.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.