How to Keep a Positive Mindset During Long Distance Runs
Let us start out by taking a moment to calculate how many thoughts you create over a period of one hour, then consider how many you have in two, three, of four hours of your day? Probably a whole heck of a lot. Now imagine your thoughts over that period of time while you are performing your long-distance runs. If you had to estimate your emotional connections to these thoughts, one would hope the positives outweigh the bad. However, long runs are both physically and mentally draining and the idea of just doing the long run could seem daunting which in turn could bring up many negative feelings. If you are wondering how you can keep a positive mindset during these long-distance runs, we have 5 ways to keep those negative thoughts at bay and to help you have a positive and successful run.
1. Practice Mindfulness:
A study from 2012 by Harvard Medical School and Mass General Hospital, has found that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation over a 2 month period had measurable brain activation changes, as recognized with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), from the beginning of the study to the end of the study. Practicing mindfulness can be done at any time and even multiple times throughout the day. Just as we need time to practice increasing mileage or a new skill set, the action of mindfulness also takes time and practice. To start practicing mindfulness start in a seated or comfortable position, close your eyes and start to relax your body. Set an intention to focus on your breath. If the mind wanders, allow this but gently remind yourself to come back to your intention. Start with 5 minutes. Build your time gradually and then begin to incorporate a change in your environment from one of stillness to increasing dynamics and ultimately during a run (with eyes open, of course). Practice different methods of your focus from your breath, to your running form, to the senses of the environment and the weather around you. By setting an intention, you help your brain center on a focused awareness and you then deter the thoughts of pain or difficulties you may experience during the run. By being focused on the present, you will ward off fears or negative thoughts about the past or present. Mindfulness can, at the very least, get you through a small part of your run.
2. Acknowledge The Long Run As Preparation:
We can not deny that a long run is not going to be hard work, however learning to accept and acknowledge this will help with overall growth and proper preparation. The training, although difficult, will promote a thriving physical and mental change. Falling back on and utilizing your reasoning for running in the first place can be a great motivator. Do you run for health reasons, to achieve a personal best, or just for the love of running? When you think about your motivation or your “why”, you will develop a more rational way of thinking about your work effort. Ultimately, this can help reduce the negative thinking process that may come from the fear of performing the task at hand. Acceptance of the difficulty of long runs and in turn being grateful for the health and ability to be able to perform the long run may change your attitude altogether.
3. Listen to Something That Piques Your Interest:
Whether you are interested in rock and roll, country music, a fan of the Harry Potter series, true crime podcasts, or motivational pep talks, there are countless ways to listen to something positive on your way through a long run. Using an auditory tool can act as a motivator or at least provide a pleasant distraction. Listening to something that piques your interest can help to either fuel your speed, even out your tempo or help you get through those last grueling miles. By listening to your favorite playlist, audiobook, or podcast, you will be sure to stay away from negative self-talk and be engaged by a different sensory approach.
4. Dedicate Your Miles:
When the going gets tough you can dedicate miles to those in your support system, who are and were important in your life. When thinking about those who wholeheartedly believe in you, who have their own hardships, or even the loss of loved one, can help you to re-focus your purpose and help you live and run more gratefully by appreciating your own health and stamina when you are out on your long run. Mile dedication is certainly a nice gesture of sentiment towards your loved ones which can bring about fond memories and help you to pass the time more quickly and assist in distracting your attention away from the physical burden at hand.
5. Use a Meaningful Mantra:
A personalized mantra can help you get you through some of your difficult moments during a long run. Positive words of encouragement can help you believe you can get through the hard times. Simple positive self-talk or written words don't require a lot of energy and can be just enough to boost you to the next mile marker. Of course, you can quietly repeat small words of encouragement like, “Keep pushing forward” or “Have faith”. Or if you need a visual reminder, Momentum Jewelry is an admired company amongst runners for their sport safe and comfortable jewelry and motivational saying wraps that can be worn right on your wrist next to your sports watch. They have preset positive mantras or you can customize to create your own saying to help you overcome your physical struggles on the course.
We can't take away the fact that long-distance running can be painful, boring, tiring, physically and emotionally draining. However, the silver lining of long-distance training is that it becomes a great method of attaining perseverance, growth and building endurance despite the hardships. Despite difficulties, running certainly can be a means to attain both physical and mental strength. Hopefully, your “why” outweighs your struggles and using some of the above positivity methods can help you fight through and complete your long runs.