How to Build Mental Toughness for Runners

If you have ever run before you will know that it doesn’t just take practice, more distance and increased speed work to make you a better runner. Whether you are a short distance or long distance runner, the run length becomes irrelevant. There is a huge mental component of training. 

Where to Start

To dive into this we have to start by breaking down what you think about when you are on your run.

If you are the person who listens to music, then it sometimes becomes hard to think on the run unless you can drown out the music. That is totally fine, maybe you need that to relax and make the run yours. This is going to be the key to mental toughness on a run and while running or racing. Making the run yours and focusing on yourself becomes a bit selfish but it is okay to be selfish if we are talking about you.

Most mental toughness with running comes from being able to stay positive.

It may be one of the harder things in running to be honest. Being able to tell yourself that you are okay, you are doing fine, you are strong and you are ready is a very difficult task to do when you are actually in a race or out for a run. It’s easy to say when you are standing or sitting around but once you start thinking about the run, the workout or the race all of a sudden anxiety sets in and we start freaking out and here comes the negative talk… We all know it, “Am I ready for this?” “Did I train hard/long enough?” “Can I hold that pace?” “Can I run that far?” 

“If we take the time to train our mind and body as one connected system, we can improve our performance. Our training should be focused on things that lower our perception of effort and increase our levels of motivation.” – Tom Craggs

Why do we always let the negative self-talk beat out the positive self-talk? Well, because we are human, it’s normal but talking about it is going to be your first step in making it better. We have to start by being open with yourself and knowing what you are capable of, not only physically but mentally. This comes from practice and consistency. 

“You can also motivate yourself with self talk, because you know best what you need to hear and what drives you.” – Katrin Grabner

Work on Yourself to Build Mental Toughness

Being able to go out for an easy run and actually thinking about it being easy is the perfect start to working on mental control. Then transitioning this into workouts, and working on yourself. 

Below are some questions to ask when building mental toughness while running:

  • Ask yourself “why am I doing this”. Once you have that answer then you can build from that. 
  • Why not me? This is a good one, because you are capable if you set your mind to it and work for your goals in a smart manner. 
  • Who is your support system? This is a great question. As yourself, who stands with you, are you on a team that pushes you, do you work with a coach? 

A running coach is probably one of the best support systems you can have in this regard. As long as you match with your coach. They can help you practice, they will encourage you and point you in the right direction. The guidance of someone being on your team and helping you get to your goals will help take some of the stress off your shoulders as well. The right coach may be the best tool in your toolbox. 

These are all simple tips and tricks you can use to help guide yourself towards a better running path. They will help you improve daily life but also running life. Mental toughness isn’t something we just use for fitness or to improve athleticism. We use it in our normal life at work and at home. So you can work on practicing these things all the time. Be simple and don’t think too hard, keep it comfortable and acceptable. If the goal is too broad or too large it might actually make the entire thing worse. 

Let us know if you have any questions, we would love to hear from you!

Greg Laraia ATC

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