A blog by runners. For runners.

5 mind games to help you get through a tough workout

Head games for tough runs

Running is mostly a mental sport. Your state of mind can sometimes make all of the difference between a “good” and a “bad” run.

Even if you love running, finding the motivation to start a run or make it through a run can be tough.

The other day, I had an 8 mile run with four-1 mile speed repeats scheduled. Normally I’m a fan of speed work, but after a rough day, the couch was more alluring than the treadmill.

It took all of my willpower to lace up my running shoes. As soon as I stepped on the treadmill, I wanted to get off. I knew I’d have to rely on my mind to guide my legs to that imaginary finish line.

And guess what? The run went really well! The session completely re-energized me and left me in a good mood.

Here’s the glimpse of the mental tricks I used to help get through the workout:

  1. Keep in mind it’s only one hour (or one half hour, 45-minute session, or however long you exercise). One hour is just 1/24 of your day. Sure, one hour seems like eternity when you’re out there pounding the pavement or the treadmill belt. But you also know how quickly one hour can fly by –take your lunch break or an episode of your favorite TV show, for instance. Look at this hour as an investment in your mental and physical health.
  2. Lose yourself in the music. Crank up your favorite and most inspirational tunes and rock out to them for your entire run. Listening to music can help your run fly by. Plus, some research shows that listening to music helps athletic performance.
  3. Pretend you’re fighting a different battle. For many of us, there will come a time where we’ll do something more physically challenging than running. When the going gets tough, I try to relish the feeling. I do this so when I’m fighting an illness or having a baby, I’ll hopefully remember that my body is strong and physically capable of overcoming challenges.
  4. Know that your body was made to do this. Our bodies were meant to move — not sit behind a desk all day. Running is natural. Look at any young child and you’ll see how much joy they get from running.
  5. Picture yourself running fast, crossing a finish line, setting a PR, or qualifying for the Olympic trials. Thinking about how fast and awesome you are in that fantasy can directly affect your current performance in a big way. Psychologists say that using positive mental imagery in an athlete’s most powerful mental tool. The best visualization engages multiple senses. Think about how your legs feel when you’re running hard, how the crowd sounds when they’re cheering you on, and how the finish line looks.

What mental games do you play to get through tough runs?

Related: Treadmill workouts (that aren’t boring!) | CrossFit-like exercises can make you a better runner

Written by Jen Matz.