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3 steps to building mental strength

What to do before, during and after your run to cultivate mental toughness

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Runners understand all too well the importance of mental toughness during a hard workout or race, but just like you train your body for your goal race, you also have to train your mind if you want it to be strong. For many, training your mind can seem not as straightforward as physical training, so if you’re not sure where to start, follow these three steps to fortify your mind before, during and after training.

Before your run

Building mental strength starts before you even start your run. As you’re getting yourself ready to head out the door, start going through the workout in your mind. Remind yourself why you’re doing that particular session, and go over how you’re going to get yourself through the tough parts.

For example, you could say something like this: “I’m doing my long run today to build my endurance so my body will be ready to handle my race distance. When I start to feel tired, I’m going to use my running mantra and motivational self-talk to push myself to keep going.”

Think of this as your “mental workout plan,” and keep running through it in your mind as you put on your shoes and make your way to the door.

During your run

This is when the most challenging mental work happens. During your run, especially when you start to get tired, is when you need to draw upon those strategies that you were thinking about before the run started. As we already mentioned, having a running mantra is a really helpful strategy for developing mental strength during a run or workout. Don’t have one already? Follow these tips to create the perfect running mantra that will keep you going.

After your run

The mental strength training doesn’t stop when your run is over. Before you head inside and carry on with your day, take a minute to go over how your run went in your mind, making note of what you did well during that session. Maybe you weren’t as fast as you had hoped, but you didn’t give up when you saw you were behind. Perhaps that run felt hard, but you managed to push through it and stay mentally tough. If your mental game slipped during that run, make a note of what went wrong so you can work on it next time.

Intentional mental work

The key here is that you have to be intentional about working on your mental toughness. Many runners believe that their mental strength will improve passively alongside their physical strength as they train, but this is often not the case. Too often, runners’ mental strength lags behind their physical abilities, holding them back from realizing their full potential. Make a point of working on at least one aspect of your mental game every time you step out the door, and your performance will improve right along with it.

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