Your running body is pushing forward. Propelling you at a perfect pace. The temperature is a cool 60 degrees. The music is pumping, keeping you focused and locked in. You’re in deep in the zone. There is a knock at the door. You know who it is but you ignore the knocking. Again, the door knocks. Ok, you tell yourself. I’ll get the door in a minute. An ominous knock at the door – three deep echoing pounds on the door… “What!” you scream.
Your mind has just shown up to tell you that this perfect run is about to take a nose dive in flames. You quickly slam the door and start barricading it with whatever you can find. The door blows wide open and your mind impels itself through the doorway. It’s too late. You’re now walking, hanging your head low, breathing hard. This type of scenario happens to all of us one time or another.
The more years you tuck away running, the more you’re able to quell your mind and bring yourself back into the zone. Your mind is sneaky. It knows you better than you think you know yourself. In fact, I would wager that most of your runs that don’t turn out as good as they could are probably not a physical limitation but a blindsided sneaky mind trick. Here are five different mind hacks that you can use to help battle your infallible mind:
Use mantras or affirmations – remember that affirmations don’t do any good without discipline followed by routine action.
1 more mile
I’ve used this one numerous times. This trick comes in handy, especially for long runs that seem to go on and on forever. Whenever you start to think about cutting your run short, tell yourself just 1 more mile. When you get to the next mile tell yourself again, 1 more mile. While this trick is helpful, you actually start to get a diminishing return each time you say it. If you have a long run that is 10 miles long and you start telling yourself, “one more mile,” after your 2nd mile, it’s going to be a really long. It’s doubtful that your mind will still believe you after the fourth or fifth time.
Two more minutes
Like the “one more mile” trick, you can use the time to help you stick through the grinding runs. Same as the distance, you repeat to yourself: two more minutes. You keep doing this until your mind knows what you’re up to and starts see these truths as falsehoods.
Take a turn which is a fake shortcut
The fake shortcut or for better framing of this phrase, take the scenic route. I save this one for the days that I run my routine long runs. If I find myself becoming bored with the run I changed it up by taking a different route. I might even tell myself that this is a shortcut to the finish destination. I know it sounds kind of silly but you would be surprised how something so small can really allow your mind to detach from the mental grind so that you can nab a few more miles.
“what if I get lost?” Ah. I actually have gotten lost and guess what? I don’t run with a phone. Thank goodness the makers at Garmin put a really cool feature in my Forerunner 235 that I can click and it takes me back to my original starting position. The feature is called “back to start”. Also always charge your watch before a long run so that you can have this feature available to you if you become lost. I don’t run with my phone so my forerunner is my only backup plan if I become lost.
Use a fartlek technique to keep moving forward
By using obstacles in your running you turn your run into a game of sorts. For instance, when your mind starts to wander start picking out objects along your running route to run to. When you reach one object, such as a large oak tree, pick out another object in the near distance like a water tower and run to it. You can keep doing this for quite some time.
Don’t forget that by simply changing your running environment, you could actually be suppressing your tricky mind of acting up. When you’re running a new route it’s exciting, and I guess it could be fearful as well which might motivate you to get out of the environment as soon as possible. The excitement squashes the sometimes dull mental grinding of a run.
When I was taking my RRCA instruct led course, our instructor asked us how many of us listened to music while running. A good majority of our class raised our hands, including me. He then went on to say that if and when we become certified running coaches we could no longer listen to music when we run. His rationale was that we are becoming leaders and we need to have our ears open. I agree that when we are coaching, obviously we need to not have our headphones in. However, I disagree to a certain extent. I’m going to listen to music when I’m heading out by myself for a 10-mile long run. As runners, however, we still need to be able to hear our surrounding environments, so don’t crank up your music too loud.
Music can be a huge motivator in quieting the mind and helping you reach into your zone.Scott Morton is the author of, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury free race finishers. He recently completed his 10 half marathon race. He is also an RRCA certified coach.
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