Although you can learn all the technical details of running at the end of the day the most important factor in whether your running is successful and how fast your running practice grows, is your own mind. You need to train yourself to perform and push on once your body starts telling you that it wants to quit.
There are various ways you can alter your thinking to give your spirit a bit more bite. First you can focus on the positives of a situation rather than the negatives. This little piece of advice sounds redundant when talking about running, but it is in fact ubiquitous. For example, instead of becoming down when it is raining and cold outside, be grateful for the days when it is warm and breezy. Instead of being irritated when you are injured or aching, appreciate all the times your muscles and body are feeling energized.
Likewise recognize that you have the ability to control your thoughts – you don’t have to let negative thoughts pester you and bring you down. Start a positive thinking habit by just being aware of when you are thinking negatively. Then when you recognize a negative thought, consider a more positive alternative.
You don’t have to deny the existence of a problem or brainwash yourself and see the world through rose-tinted glasses, but you can think in terms of solutions and redeeming qualities. At the very least instead of focusing on what is wrong you can simply direct your attention to something different as a momentary distraction. In the case of running, this can often be the music you are listening to or the environment that you run past.
As a side note on injuries, instead of seeing them purely as problems, try to interpret them as obstacles. This is more than trite life-coach advice; if you are consistently getting injured you’re doing something wrong and you are not listening to your body. It’s one thing to push your body when it starts to feel like it’s getting tired – it’s another thing to ignore that ankle or knee joint that is starting to hurt. Use your injuries as wake-up signs to the signals that you are missing.
If you ever find that you are bored of your training or simply unenthusiastic, try shaking up your routine or simply doing something different. Your body adapts to the routine you perform, resulting in less challenge and less difficulty as you repeat those motions. Doing something different forces your body to face a new challenge with the prospect of a new reward.
Never perceive your running habit as a chore. The moment you start to think of running as a duty or a chore it will become a burden. Instead re-iterate to yourself the reasons why you are running and try to feel excited for those reasons. Weight loss, energy, fitness, strength, and the famous runners high. It doesn’t matter what your reasons are but you should feel good when you think about them.
Although you might be training for a better body image, you also need to learn to put away your self-esteem too. There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by the promise of a beach body but if you are too invested in how you look, you will be deterred whenever your progress stalls or doesn’t progress at the speed at which you want.
You will reach temporary plateaus and even setbacks as you continue to train and you need to have the calmness and tranquility of mind to keep your cool.
Setting goals has been proven to improve gains and performance in athletics and other areas of performance. Nonetheless when using goals it’s important to establish and work with them in the correct way, else you may discourage yourself and fall into negative thinking habits. Good goals follow the S.M.A.R.T criteria, which stands for:
These qualities are relatively straight forward. The specific goal entails that your goal is well-defined and detailed – instead of just ‘be fitter’ or ‘start running’, a specific goal might be ‘run twice a week every week for 2 months’. A measurable goal is a goal that can be easily measured – the goal of just being ‘fitter’ is too vague to be evaluated, but the goal of running a 4 minute mile can be measured for success.
An attainable goal is a goal that is realistically achievable. If you are obese setting a goal of running a sub-4 minute mile in 1 month may not be physically or mentally possible. Establishing a goal of a sub-4 minute mile in just 18 months? Feasible.
Relevant goals are goals that are relevant to your overall desires – if your goal is a 4 minute mile, setting a goal about saving money isn’t helpful (as you might expect).
Finally the time-bound criterion is that your goals should have a time limit. With no deadline on your goals it is easy to procrastinate and delay, but knowing that you have a goal for this week or this month forces you to act now.
In addition to the smart criteria your goals should also be malleable. As previously touched upon, sometimes you will reach temporary plateaus, sometimes you will get injured, have setbacks or even suffer from a lapse of motivation. Regardless if you get too disheartened by not reaching your exact goal, you will struggle to achieve. It is better to aim high and fall short than not to aim at all.
When running for performance you also need to banish doubts. If you are attempting to set a new personal record or take a challenge you’ve never attempted, doubt can gnaw at you before you run and as you run, distracting you from your task.
You need to have confidence in your abilities, or at the very least, take your mind away from the doubt your feel. Rationalize to yourself why you can achieve your task, such as considering your recent or comparable achievements. Alternatively seek social support, voicing your concerns to other people who share your interests and can alleviate that pressure you feel.
You also need to avoid comparing yourself to others, especially when your running is more of a hobby than a career. There will always be a bigger fish or someone who is better in some regard. If you endlessly compare yourself to others you are probably going to find that you come up short, ruining your self-confidence in the process. Instead focus on what you can control – your own actions and your own feelings.