Tips on the Mental Aspects of Running

A buddy of mine asked me how I go out there and just run long, day after day, week after week. Here is the email I sent him:
You have hit on a key element in long distance racing, which is the mental aspect.
Some things to try:
1. Get used to the time. If you do this a lot, pretty soon you’ll just be used to being out there that long.
2. Grow to just love running. If you love what you do, you can do it longer!
3. Keep mentally occupied, like having a set of intervals to run which require you to look at your watch, compute times and paces, etc. Pretty soon before you know it, you’re through the workout and the time goes by pretty quickly.
4. Music helps although I don’t train or race with music generally, since it’s not allowed at triathlons. I never run with music, although I do like music while on the bike trainer, but not while I’m out riding as it’s dangerous and I can’t hear cars coming.
5. Don’t focus on pain. This never works for me. I just want to quit! If anything, I try to focus on perfect form, which tends to lessen or remove pain. I never try to get out of perfect form to lessen my pain, which could cause me to hurt somewhere else!
6. Focus on repetition and perfect form for every step. I try to keep aware of each step and try to make each step my perfect step. Get used to repeating for long periods of time.
7. Focus on distance goals, like running out to a point and then back, or saying I’m going to finish this loop. Then mentally you’re committed and you will yourself not to quit and turnaround because you said you’re going to run somewhere and then back.
8. Interesting terrain helps.
It’s one of those things where you need to train this as much as the physical aspects. Most people can get physically capable of finishing a race of any distance; you just need to swim/bike/run the distances and you’re pretty much physically there. But many people don’t have the mental stamina to finish. This is the will that drives you to the finish line even if your body is screaming for you to quit.
Given all this, there are still some days when you just don’t have it mentally. At this point, you should just go home because on some days you’ll find you just won’t be able to do the workout. But make sure you’re quitting for the right reason and not just slacking because you’re lazy.
If you’re really into some of this stuff, I often use Biorhythms ( to help give me some forewarning on days when I may not have the right physical or mental attitude for a hard workout. I will post more about this later, but it’s an interesting way of looking at your body’s energy and how to apply it to training.

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