Runners and athletes alike focus so much on our physical muscles: glutes, tris, quads, etc. but are often quick to negate the biggest muscle. The one that is the hardest to train, the one that can cramp up without any notice, and what is usually the easiest to injure: Our brain.
Even as a running coach I am a firm believer that without training our mind, we can’t begin to unlock the potential that we dream for. Our brain is usually the number one reason we didn’t start running sooner or don’t think that we are a “real” runner. Think back to when you started running—Did you hesitate to go because your legs weren’t strong enough? That you glutes were too weak? Or was it because that little voice in your head said “I can’t do that!”. Chances are its the latter that kept you on the sidelines for so long.
For a lot of us the training of our brain isn’t just exclusively tough in regards to a our running. It can be an every day struggle to not let our brain take over and bring us down before we even get started.
But how do we train this muscle? How do we turn off the noise? Most importantly, how do we get our brains to HELP us vs hinder us? I’ve put in the leg work, long days, mentally draining times and countless miles to bring you my go to tips and training techniques to help flip the script:
Force yourself to keep going: I’m not saying to make yourself keep running or walking if you are physically hurting but I’ve had those runs where I get a mile in and just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t let myself call for a ride, stop moving or quite. I margin with myself and say “Fine, you don’t want to run? Well your going to have to walk it out then” By not letting myself hang my hat on my feelings of self doubt, pitty partying, or throwing in the towel I push my mental limits of movement. I can cry, I can yell and I can curse the running gods but I can’t stop. More than likely I get pumped back up and get running again. I may take walk breaks throughout but I finish feeling like I can do anything. Knowing I didn’t WANT to keep going but still pushed through helps for that next run, race or hard situation where I know if I just keep going it’ll be over soon.
Mantras: It may seem cheesy but hear me out. When you are out and about and the sun is beating down, you just are over everything and you want to stop—Giving a full pep talk can be exhausting. I don’t make it complicated or long but I’ll pick a word or short phrase to repeat to myself over and over. Sometimes it has a curse word, sometimes its only a curse word, but regardless I have power behind it. Some of my favorites are: I’m a badass, I can do hard things, Power, Ease, Strength.
Taking a walk instead of a run: Walking gets a bad rap. Everyone hates on it and says its “just” walking. I ask you though, when is the last time you speed walked and actually put effort into it? It is not as easy as you think and you will get sweaty while raising your heart rate. Some movement is better than no movement so get up, put your shoes on and head outside or on the treadmill. You don’t HAVE to run just because your schedule says so. Instead of looking to “do the plan” just move. Let the endorphins rise up, get your blood pumping and get out of the funk. In the words of Elle Woods “Exscercise gives you endorphins, endorphins may you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t”
While running may not fix all of our problems, it definitely can bolster change and growth that will eventually seep into every facet of our lives.
Pulling my favorite quote of all time from Gabe Grunewald: