How to train to be mentally tougher

Physical training for any sport, particularly an endurance sport, is immensely important. To realize potential in long distance running, day-to-day time on your feet plays an enormous role—arguably the most important role. Training the mind, however, is an area too few address. To focus wholeheartedly on the physical ignores this fact: Our mind can make or break amazing performances on race day regardless of how much you trained your feet.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at four effective methods to make your racing mind more effective. The mind—like the body—can be made more resilient.

Set Goals, Both Kinds

Goal setting is a lost art. Fewer and fewer athletes take the time to set concrete goals for their upcoming training and racing. Setting goals holds an athlete accountable to themselves and—if made public—by their training partners. In addition to the obvious outcome performance-based goals, be certain to have daily process goals which, unlike outcome goals, are completely within your control. Drink eight glasses of water each day. Get a massage once every 10-or-so days. Execute two training runs each week on softer, non-paved surfaces. Process goals should also be put on paper, thus, enabling a level of confidence on race day that comes only from knowing you’ve done all things properly.

Possess and Follow a Plan

Having goals is an important first step in realizing your potential. Choosing a path to follow toward those goals is equally important. The most effective runners of all ages and abilities have plans for their success. Be sure to find a coach or advisor with greater knowledge than your own (few can be truly objective about themselves) and find a road map for your day-to-day training with room for tweaks should life’s surprises dictate an on-the-fly adjustment. Having this plan will instill confidence—knowing your running has been anything but haphazard. On a related note, be sure to open your training log on the eve of an important race or workout and review what you have done. Much of an athlete’s lack of self-confidence derives from uncertainty; reviewing all the work you have done will remove much of that.

Self-Affirmations, a Positive Environment

Professional runners across the globe use positive self-talk both in training and racing, and you should likely do the same. This type of internal affirmation is immensely effective both in calming pre-competition anxiety and helping runners stay in the moment during the race.

Create short repeatable affirmation to power through competitions, as well as tougher training sessions. Examples are saying things like “I am light and strong… powerful and fluid,” and the results speak for themselves. Place yourself in a positive training atmosphere, complete with training partners and coaches who rejoice and help drive you toward your success. Few things are more destructive to an athlete’s training and racing than a negative environment.

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Heat Nor Gloom of Night…

Often the most difficult aspect of training for excellence in long distance running is simply getting out the door. Doing so, despite the conditions, will steel your resolve for excellence.

As we all know races can and will occur in virtually any weather. Prepare fully by training in anything mother nature throws your way as well. Eighteen degrees and windy? Get out the door. Steady rain fall and a humid 80 degrees? Get out the door. Knowing you have absorbed all that has been thrown at you in every atmosphere will give you yet another notch of confidence.

Keep in mind that in less-than-optimal conditions pacing mean very little. The current running population is more in tune than any before regarding its pace per mile. Be open to leaving the watch at home when conditions are poor and train purely by feel and effort. Confidence often takes a big hit when runners see they are moving slower than expected. In tough weather, keeping your numbers out of sight is indeed more powerful.

Train aggressively, train happy and intelligently.