Mental Games

Mental Games are credited by experienced runners with the same importance as physical training. Runners World Facebook posts frequently talk about the mental game. Examples include: consciously smile when the running gets tough, let your mind wonder rather than always think about pace, heart rate, etc. When it feels like you can’t take another step just tell yourself, “one more step. I can take one more step.”  I use these regularly. They are game changers. They work.

Wednesday morning called for 5 miles after an 18 mile long run over the weekend. Because my calves were still tight, the night before, I questioned, “do they need another day of rest?” There’s another side to that coin: we run on really tired legs during the final miles of our half and full marathons. A run on tired legs is good training.

The decision to run won. I set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. Next morning, as the alarm sounded, the mental games began. “I don’t feel like getting up. If I go back to sleep until 5:30 I’ll get through the 90 minute deep sleep cycle.” You need those miles on your legs. Slack today and it will be easier to stay in bed tomorrow. “Yeah, but I don’t want to injure myself. The extra day of rest would do me good.” You know better than that. What is it you tell runners in your e-mails? Get up and go run. If you don’t want to do 5 at least do 3. You can do 3. “Okay, I can do 3.”  I rolled out of bed at 4:15 and was on the rail trail at 5:00 a.m.

The Run

What an awesome morning, the temperature started out at 47º and actually dropped a few degrees during the run. Crisp clear air with stars dotting the black morning sky. The kind of morning that makes it worth getting out of bed at 4:15 a.m.  As you might imagine, once I started to run the idea of “only” 3 vanished. I headed for the 5 mile route. You know the routine. The mental game challenge is to start, get over the excuses, the false comforts, the lame reasons to bag the run. The entire world changes once you’re out there.

My 5 mile morning route is an out and back but it sort of starts in the middle. I run .75 turn around, pass the start for another 1.5 and turn around again. That’s only 4.5. You know those spots on your runs that drag you down? I know mine. For whatever reason we don’t like them. There’s a 1/2 mile loop at the end of the 4.5 that I just don’t like.

Because I don’t like the loop, the mental games went like this: “You thought to run 3, just call it quits at 4.5.” It might only be 1/2 a mile but it’s an important 1/2 mile. Finish it out. “It’s not really that important. Besides it would be good to get home a few minutes early and get ready for work.” Take that loop. It might not be a complete 1/2 mile but it will get you closer. Just run it back to the car.  Finally, that’s what I did and the 5 mile indicator when off before I reached the car.

Mental Games Revisited

In many ways mental games are as important as physical training. Our thoughts and attitudes can keep us off the road. We need the runs to get our body ready for race day. Mental games cause us to cut runs shorts. Our body needs those miles. Run too far because you feel good often results in injury. Pushing through the pain of a true injury makes the injury more severe. You need to pay attention to mental games. Take control of the dialog. Don’t let excuses steal your runs. Don’t let stink’n think’n rule your thoughts. Do what you need to do and stay positive. In conclusion, the best advice I can possibly think of is “Enjoy the Run”, enjoy each and every step. Enjoying the run is the best mental game of all.

See you on Race Day.

Run On!
Scott Miller, RD
Garden Spot Village Marathon | Half Marathon | Kids Marathon

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