Mental Toughness for Runners >> What to Think About When Running

Mentaltraining für Läufer*innen

If you’ve ever run long distances, you know that running is a lot more than just physically challenging. It can really test your mental toughness. No matter whether you are training for your next half marathon or your first marathon, don’t forget to work on developing a running mindset along with your strength and endurance training.  

Focus, relax, and keep your eye on the goal – building mental strength is helpful in many areas of our life, such as at work, in the family, and also in fitness. Mental toughness in fitness is partially about developing the right mindset, but also adopting strategies to stay both focused and relaxed so you can get the most out of your workout. Runners training for a long distance race can really get a lot out of mental training.(1)

runner getting ready

Did you know?

Mental training was originally used in sports psychology to teach athletes to adjust and control their movement by imagining the competitive event before hand. Today, mental training is an important part of training and is often based on contemporary behavioral psychology and therapeutic methods. It is used to reduce stress and calm the nerves of elite athletes before competing. Coaches have observed that victory against a competitor of equal ability depends about 50% on mental preparation.(2)

Long distance running: 5 ways to build mental toughness

What should I think about when I run? How can I stay focused and not get bored? Mental skills training should help you achieve a flow state, also known as being in the zone, so that you can reach your potential when you run and truly enjoy the experience. We’ve got 5 easy ways to train your mental strength and develop a running mindset.

runners on a long distance run

1. Visualize your goals

Visualization plays an important role in mental training, helping us develop our skills and reach our fitness goals.(3) Before and during a race, imagine what it will be like to cross the finish line. Or divide your route into shorter segments and celebrate the success of finishing each one.

2. Talk to yourself

A 2014 study shows that self talk helps prevent exhaustion and boost endurance performance. You can also motivate yourself with self talk, because you know best what you need to hear and what drives you.

3. Distract yourself

Your muscles are starting to get tired and you’d rather just stop and lie down? Try distracting yourself. Count street lights, people with blue sneakers, or puddles. Try to identify what kind of trees, flowers, or dogs you see. You don’t feel like counting? Try daydreaming and think about people, events, or other things you’re looking forward to or that make you happy – as long as it’s something positive!

woman cooling down after long run

4. Meditate

Focus on your breathing while you run. If you can, adjust it to your steps. This helps you maintain a steady cadence. 

Have you ever tried a mantra? The word mantra comes from Sanskrit and means a sacred utterance, a sound, a syllable, word or group of words. Today, mantras and their rhythmic repetition are used to reach a meditative state and keep us focused. Members of adidas Runners also use the power of mantras and other running rituals.

5. Look forward to finishing

Now is the time for more visualization. Think about what you want to do after you finish your long distance run. If you have time before the run, you can prepare a post-workout snack to look forward to. Or just imagine how great it will be to collapse on the sofa, exhausted but content, when you’re finished with your run.

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Katrin Grabner A graduate in Romance Studies, Katrin has professional experience in journalism and is an ardent advocate of inclusive language as a copywriter at Runtastic. Whether she's staying limber with yoga or penning a blog post, a spark of humor is present in everything she does. View all posts by Katrin Grabner