I’ve been reading a lot of race reports lately, mostly related to the RNR DC Marathon and half marathon. I realize the weather played a role for many, but the one thing that struck me as I was reading was how often people referenced their mental state. There were negatives such as “I just gave up”, “my Garmin played with my head”, “I stopped caring” (that’s the one that most often happens for me.) There were positives such as “I was hurting, but I knew I could do it”, “I just dug deeper”, and “I wasn’t going to entertain negative thoughts”.
It amazes me how much of a role the brain plays in running. Lately, my legs don’t seem to show up at races. I’m still trying to determine if it’s a physical cause (not enough taper or hydration or fuel) or a mental cause (adrenaline or lack of confidence or?). Some races I’ve been able to push through it and some races I haven’t. What makes the difference? My mental state.
Most of us show up at the start line with a good idea of what our bodies are capable of. We’ve trained (or not) and know approximately what pace our body can handle for any given distance. Sure, hills, weather, and physical issues (stomach, anyone?) can throw a wrench in things, but some of the most amazing race reports I’ve read recently involve finding the mental strength to push past those things.
Lately, I’ve found that I’m easily undermined, not just in races, but also in life. Someone will say something and I’ll start questioning my ability to handle a project. Or I’ll forget to do something and I’ll start wondering if I can really handle all the things I have going on. Things will get difficult and I’ll decide it’s not worth it after all.
But, really, it all boils down to attitude and mental strength. When I decide I can do something, generally speaking, I manage it. Or I find a way around it. It’s all about finding my inner strength.
Do you work to build your mental strength when training? Do you have mantras you pull out when things get rough? Or do you sometimes let your brain get in the way of accomplishing what you wanted to accomplish?
19 thoughts on “It’s all in your head”
If I feel like my mental state is getting the best of me, I remind myself that’s in all in my head! You gotta believe in yourself and your strengths in order to be the best you can be. Of course, we all have bad days, but don’t let your negative thoughts get the best of you. Believe. In. YOUrself.
I’ve definitely found it’s a mental game, but thankfully I use positive self-talk to get me through. Initially it wasn’t very easy, but I’ve gotten better. My mantra is “Never say never, because I can.” However I often find myself just saying, “Come on, Heidi!” and it works =)
For all of my physical strength, you’d think I could muster more mental strength. I am often too afraid to push it an fail, so I just give up. Never in training, always when racing. I freaking hate it and wish I knew how to get past it.
Running is such a mental sport, and in many ways it’s even MORE mental than it is physical. It’s so easy to let your mind give up on you well before your body is ready to give up. The key is to allow your mind to believe that the impossible IS possible, that your body can do tremendous things if you allow it to. Saying positive mantras to yourself, learning to let your mind run free while you run, not comparing yourself to other runners — all huge ways that work for me in terms of letting my body go even if my mind is trying to tell me otherwise. Great post.
Ug, yes. My brain messes with me, both in real life and in running. Every time I race, I have a hard time sleeping the night before. Every day I say I am going to go running, but my head is a whiny baby who tries to convince me not to. It’s a constant battle.
I have the issue on not pushing hard enough during races. I totally wimp out and I have been that way forever. . . . had that problem in high school when I ran cross country. I know it is totally mental, but I fear “giving it all I got” and not reaching my goal. There are few races I can honestly say that I gave it my all and I was proud of how I did. I need a mental kick in the behind!
This is so true. I feel like running for me is so much more mental. My mind gets in the way or pushes me through depending on how I feel that day. I know I can do it, I just have to tell myself. Great post!
I always turn off my brain at the start line. If you are trained correctly, your legs know EXACTLY how to run the race and thinking just wastes energy…. at least, that’s how it works for me 🙂
I wish I was like commenter above who can turn her brain off
I cannot do that.
that is the hardest part of training and racing for me. I struggle with the mental part of it a lot.
mentra…DPDP dont panic, dont puke
I really understand what you’re talking about – is it your body or your head that’s stopping you from performing? I’ve spent the last three years wondering the same and thinking that sometimes I was just wimping out. Turns out it was my body after all. Huge relief! But attitude certainly makes a difference on those tough runs.
i never realized how much of it is mental and yes i try so hard to train my mental side – i have mantras and try so hard but i tell you those negative thoughts are hard to beat.
Great questions, great post. I needed this. 🙂 Thanks.
I find myself getting stronger mentally with each race – RnR USA definitely put it to the test! It’s still difficult but I’m working hard to fight those negative thoughts. I do find mantras & visualization help.
“I got this. I got this. I got this.”
I totally hear you on this. I have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with the mental game and it makes all the difference in how i feel and how i perform. A strong mental attitude is what has carried me through the toughest patches in my training and racing. When it’s not there, I completely give up and feel miserable. If I have a goal it helps me a lot. I don’t just mean a PR time goal – I mean a goal or purpose for every single run, each and every time I lace up my shoes – from recovery run to tempo to the long run or repeats on the track. I tell myself “the best you can do is the best you can do” and that I am worth it.
So much of the purpose of my running has to do with me having a clear mind and a positive attitude in life and as a mom, so if I go out there and beat myself up and feel like crud emotionally and mentally, honestly what is the point? When it comes down to it, I run to feel GOOD and to be HAPPY. Running is my antidepressant – if it is not serving that purpose then I know I need to step back and reevaluate my goals and adjust them so that I can feel good again.
I am convinced that mental training is an important aspect of the sport. I have totally psyched myself out before or during a training run or race and had things fall apart because of it. I’ve also kept my head in the game and a positive attitude and had success. The tricky part is talking yourself out of a bad place mentally and back into a good place. Takes a skill that I haven’t quite mastered.
This is a really good point. I can look back on my own races (or even training runs) and pin-point moments where the mental battle started. A tough race can turn-around so quickly (so can a good race, for that matter) when the mind comes into play. I have had my fair share of ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ in this department, but it really blows my mind. (hehe no pun intended)
I know my brain is definitely my limiting factor right now, so I’m experimenting with running with my Garmin set to show only distance. I’m trying to get myself to run by effort level and be more in tune with effort v. pace. I need to stop thinking that certain paces are too hard or that I shouldn’t be running at a certain pace and just run. I’ve only been doing this for about two weeks, but I’m hopeful it pays off by keeping my brain out of the equation.
Running is SUCH a mental game, it is so crazy how much mental it is. Like how much pain can your brain withstand?