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Mental Mind Tricks

I have to admit that one of my least favorite workouts is the tempo run.  Intervals I can handle because they are shorter.  Long runs aren’t so bad because they are at an easier pace (and the turkey burger reward afterwards always helps too).  But tempo runs? 40+ minutes at a comfortably hard pace = no fun.  However, I know they are super important so I did my run today with a smile, as I imagined Meb would.

During my run I was struggling mentally.  Forty minutes at a comfortably hard pace is kind of a long time to be uncomfortable.  And after 5 minutes in when all you can think is I have 35 more minutes, you know it’s going to be a tough run.  Today I started by focusing a lot on my form, then staring straight ahead, then singing along to my iPod, but after a while I needed something else.  I decided to cut my music off and really try and get inside my head.  This may sound weird but I tried to visualize separating my head from my body.  If I could limit the pain to my body and make my mind separate, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Then I started counting with each step 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5, and even though I was only counting to 5, it really helped me.  Eventually I was done and had a nice easy cool down.  Phew, thank God that was over.  BUT it got me wondering what are some other mental tricks to get through the pain.  If I want to achieve my running goals, I am going to have to become very familiar with pain and learn how to deal with.

Christopher Collier: 

As runners propel themselves forward, some measure of discomfort is normal (provided it’s not a sign of a serious issue). Muscles burn. Joints ache. Exhaustion sets in. However, research suggests that our pain threshold is not set at an unmovable level—that the mind can, to some extent, control it. “When I tell an athlete that they can adjust their pain level by using mental techniques, they’re amazed,” says Raymond J. Petras, Ph. D., a sports psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. “They often find that their performance increases dramatically.” 

Here is an interesting article from on 6 mental tricks to help push through the pain.  A few I have tried before but I need to remember them when it’s really important.  This blog post from The Feel Good Lifestyle has a few Jedi mind tricks to try as well. 🙂  It reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes: “Do or do not. There is no try” – Yoda. .  I also really enjoyed this article titled Ironman Mental Strength: the Fifth Discipline.  The mental toughness to complete an Ironman is not even comparable to what I need for my little tempo run.  I can only imagine…

I feel like over the past month I have learned so much about the power of the mind and not just with my athletic endeavors, but with life in general.  In all aspects of life knowing your thoughts, controlling your thoughts, and mastering your thoughts can help you to achiever whatever it is you want to achieve.  I continue to tell myself everyday, you always have a choice, you just have to make the right one.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I was laughing while reading your post because I just walked in from a run about 30 minutes ago, and I think I used most of those techniques to get through it.
    I had a fairly concrete rotation of distractions from the discomfort: posture, relax ankles, heel pull, breathing, counting steps to 4…repeat.
    Fun stuff! 😉

    August 16, 2012
    • Oh yes, the distractions from discomfort. I use to think music was a good distraction but that doesn’t do it for me anymore. Counting is a big help and relaxation of the body like you said. It’s so much of a mind game 🙂

      August 17, 2012

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