What does it take to be mentally tough as a runner?
We’ve all stopped short, cut corners, checked out, bailed and...GASP...given up. You know by now that running takes some serious mental grit, but because you’ve fallen short of it a time or two (ok, a dozen), that doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to be mentally tough. Mental toughness can be learned, practiced, improved. But first, we must explain some traits of mentally tough runners.
Mentally tough runners bounce back
Mentally tough runners are resilient, they learn from their low points. The ability to make a comeback after an injury or a disappointing performance is a key factor in improving as a runner. Mistakes will be made and opportunities missed, but quickly pinpointing lessons learned allows you to move forward. Focus on those missteps too long and you’ll find yourself stuck in a rut of negative visualization. Mentally tough runners learn from their mistakes quickly, shake it off, and keep their focus on the goal ahead.
Mentally tough runners focus to get through a rough patch
Oh the distractions! The unexpected! No way to really avoid them. When times get tough, the mentally tough runner knows it’s time to focus instead of giving in. Focusing on a mantra or the rhythm of their strides can get a runner outside of their own head to reach their goal, whether it be a finish line or a tough interval training session (we know, those hurt).
They remain calm
Stress can get the best of anyone, but the ability to maneuver through the unexpected and remain calm is the only medicine you need (well, that and maybe a nice long run). A mentally tough runner is quick on their feet and able to divert from their plan if needed without panicking or losing their balance.
Mentally tough runners come prepared
They’ve done research, asked questions and visualized every possible scenario they can conjure up, and then some. They have a plan of action in their back pocket, and there’s usually a quick [mental] route to plan B if they need it.
They’re willing to try new things
Mentally tough runners are open to possibilities, they listen and process feedback without becoming defensive. They have an inner voice that reminds them they have the tools to create their own success instead of letting their feelings get the best of them.
Visualization is a part of their daily training
Whether it’s first thing in the morning or time alone before a training run, mentally tough runners visualize their goals and successes on a regular basis as a way to keep momentum. Remembering that PR, focusing on goals and visualizing aspects of their next race are all daily motivations that keep a runner mentally charged.
Mentally tough runners trust
They trust their body, their training, their plan (and their secondary plans) and their mind, they believe they can do it. Confidence doesn’t come from others around them, it comes from within.
Reaching a goal will always have challenges and obstacles, mentally tough runners tackle those obstacles with trust in their own ability.