Get (Mentally!) Tough

Gooood morning! We’re officially half-way through the week!:-)

Last night I was exhausted and crashed pretty hard – I even fell asleep on the bus ride home! (and managed to not sleep on the shoulder of the person next to me – that is skill my friends.)

My big cooking plans will have to wait until tomorrow evening- Boyfriend had a late basketball game so rather than whip up a long-winded meal to eat at 10pm, I was lounging on the couch and catching up on TV (Friends re-runs and the GIants game of course) while he was at his game.

After my sub-par mental workout yesterday, I got to thinking (does that phrase not remind you of Carrie Bradshaw every time you hear, say or type it?) about mental vs physical toughness and how much both matter in each and every workout we do.

As soon as we start to get tired, or feel uncomfortable (big difference between feeling pain and feeling uncomfortable – listen to your body!) it’s so easy to just decide you’ve had enough, or lessen your intensity, or just stop altogether. I’m guilty of it. I usually justify it with “Well at least I did something.”



But we’re capable of so much more than that.

For me personally, I know I’m in shape physically to complete the workouts I set out to do and more often than not, it’s getting myself into the right mental shape to push myself through the uncomfortable or the “I’m tired, I should slow down so it’s more comfortable” stages that’s the really difficult part.

Those stages usually hit me right before that lovely “I can do anything” runner’s high (around 2-3 miles in) and again right before I’ve reached my distance goal (when you’re so close you can taste how good it’s going to feel to finish regardless of how far you’ve planned to run!)

How I combat the mental fatigue?

  • Lots of internal monologue – “You can DO this, and you KNOW you can” (because quite frankly, you can.)
  • Run to the next block (or tree, stop-sign, etc) then re-evaluate. If you can’t go another step, stop. (when have you ever stopped when you start setting small goals for yourself? If you have, you probably needed to.)
  • When I’m on a treadmill, or using my Nike+ GPS when running outside and feeling mentally strained, I run “mini races”. Each tenth of a mile is a mini race. If I have 1 more mile to go, I have 10 mini-races to complete and that makes it seem much more manageable
  • Likewise when running long distances in a half-marathon, I break it down into three 4-mile races. At the 4, 8, and 12 mile mark I congratulate myself for finishing a mini-race and count-down how many more to go. Having 1.1 miles to go after completing my mini-races suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting.

My lovely friend Caroline (the amazing spin instructor that I rave about on a weekly basis, and also a Personal Trainer and all-around fitness instructor – SF-ers if you work out at any of the clubs she teaches at, check out her classes (on her website… you won’t be disappointed) offers some seriously motivating advice when the going gets (mentally!) tough:

The lovely Caroline herself!

When you can’t think anything positive say this mantra over and over till all the negative thoughts stop: “I am so proud of myself right now”. It WORKS! Focusing on doing SOMETHING positive for yourself and being grateful for your ability to do it in the first place shifts the negative mindset to a positive one.

And remember… you gotta have bad training days to REALLY appreciate the GOOD ones!


How do you get through those mentally tough workouts?


14 thoughts on “Get (Mentally!) Tough

  1. I am really good at the “at least I did something” excuse. I know I don’t push myself as much as I should, and I need to work on that – rather than relying on execise buddys or something else.

    I like Caroline’s mantra – I will give it a shot!!

  2. I know this sounds weird but when I’m in a tough spot and want to stop, I look at my wedding ring. It just gives me a million things to think about other than stopping; the husband, the wedding day, my family…. When I am realizing that a workout is tough, I usually have drained myself mentally from the growing to-do list I’ve created while I’m working out. ….If only I cold focus!!!!

  3. Oh what a great post! You are so right, sometimes it is all in your head and pushing through that is the real battle. And there is really something to be said to giving a workout all you’ve got and remembering how great you will feel afterward. I will definitely be incorporating the proud mantra in for those hard days!

    And omg I fall asleep on my commute almost every day. So far I don’t think my head has landed on anyone’s shoulder, but I always get a little nervous! And yes!!! I think of Miss Bradshaw every single time I see or hear that!

  4. oh yes, the mental games we play! it’s so funny the little ways we can trick ourselves into doing things. i completely do that mini-race tactic myself…if it’s a tempo run i break the miles into quarters and don’t even think about the next miles after that…lol.

    i think what also really motivates me is if i’m doing well and i want to keep on improving my time/pace/workout…i think, “oh gosh this hurts like a beast but dangit i WANT that satisfaction of writing down a faster time in my little log tonight!!!” hehe.

  5. Kristine!! THANK YOU THANK YOU for the shout out! thats so nice! Your question yesterday actually has inspired my weekly update this week. Im writing all about mental strategies to survive the dreaded “survival day” 🙂 Im glad you like my mantra… it has gotten me into the cold pool SO many times. You are so wonderful to give me such nice press on your blog. I cant even tell you how much I appreciate it.

    If you come to stephs class tomorrow night there will be more power words and strong sayings to find! let me know if you want to join in 🙂 And good for you for taking the day off today. I love my recovery days – thats when the body actually gets stronger from all the workouts. The best part is coming back and enjoying a ROCKIN training session with fresh legs. glad you had a wonderful day in the sunshine!

  6. Pingback: Give It a Rest « runningonhungrydotcom

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