5 Mental Tricks to Tackle Tough Runs

We know how hard it can be to stick to your training program. Even though all our training programs are designed to gradually increase the effort needed, long runs are always tough and exhausting. And not only physically. Long-distance running can be as much a mental challenge as it is a physical test of strength and fitness.

When you find yourself struggling during a longer run, try some of these mental tricks to help win the mental battle while running:

Break it up


A very effective mental running trick for longer training runs is splitting the distance into smaller mileage, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by thinking about how far it is to the finish. For example, you might mentally break a 12 mile run into three 4-mile runs, a much more do-able and not so overwhelming distance.

One easy way to do it is by planning specific destinations into your route: 4 miles to the park, other 4 miles to the church and the last 4 will be logged on the route back to your house or starting point.

Talk to yourself

The person running next to you might think you’re crazy, but who cares? Giving yourself a pep talk can make the difference when you are struggling to keep going. Say to yourself things like, “I can do this!”, “I’m staying strong” or even “I’ll have some water in five minutes – that will make me feel better.”

Picking a mantra, such as “You’re stronger than you think you are.” or “One step at a time” can also be your inner motivation when you need it most and will definitely help you stay focused and centered.

Recruit a friend


Most runners prefer to do their long runs by themselves. But doing it with a running buddy might be the solution for your boredom and lack of enthusiasm during longer distances. Having a buddy to run with can distract you from the mileage and give you the motivation you need to get through the hardest miles.

Play games

Taking your mind off your running and placing it elsewhere is a tried and very effective mental running trick. And what better than playing a game to keep your brain busy while your body does its work? Here are two examples:

  • Counting cars: pick out a specific car color to look for during your run. Then count how many cars you see with that specific color. You can also do this with specific articles of clothing, houses, types of trees, etc.
  • Go fishing: if you’re running on a track with other runners, focus on someone in front of you who you think you can catch. Then picture yourself reeling that person in, as you keep getting closer and closer to him. When you pass that runner, pick out another person and continue the fishing game.

Imagine yourself on race day


Whenever you’re having a tough time with your long run, picture yourself on race day, running the course and crossing the finish line. During a race, you have to be mentally strong and do whatever you can to keep going. You don’t want to disappoint yourself or all those spectators watching you. So, toughen up and push yourself, while you imagine how it will feel to see your loved ones at the finish line cheering for you.

Do you have your own tricks to tackle your long run? Share them in the comments below!

2 responses to “5 Mental Tricks to Tackle Tough Runs

  1. Hey guys, some great tips here, my personal faves that keep me going for longer are a two pronged attack of…

    1) A good audio book you haven’t heard/read – I know a lot of people swear by their up tempo ‘running playlists’ but I find if I know the song, I know the verse, chorus, breakdown, etc blahblahblah, as such I know the rough duration, a ‘watched Kettle never boils’ type scenario builds up and it makes me more aware of my running and my running time. Not good, for me at least. A good book where you don’t know where its heading or how long the chapters are makes my running more effective as I’m not really concentrating on the act itself. I’ve A/B tested with my fitbit and my average speed and run length is always higher when I’m listening to a book over some music. POW, hard data!

    2) I can’t stress this enough but people think I’m crazy when I mention this – Beetroot! You simply can’t beat Beets when it comes to endurance. If you can’t hack the taste then don’t blend into your shakes, extracts are just as good and a tablet a day is a lot easier to stomach. With adequate Beetroot supplementation you can expect around 15-20% more efficient storage of energy within your muscles resulting in greater endurance, POW! Again there’s a lot of hard data out there on this one. Running essentials!

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