Pros and coaches share their mental strategies for pushing through the toughest moments.
“I try to quiet my mind and just remain in control and in a rhythm. Don’t worry about getting to the finish, hitting a certain time or holding a certain pace. Focus on how you can achieve those goals. Is your cadence good and are your calories OK? Focusing on the process will lead you to hit your goals.”
“I focus on small mental cues that help with my form. If I am running that would be: Run tall, shoulders back, chest forward, feet under hips, cadence, cadence, cadence. I also try to find ways to relax rather than fight through it. Sometimes a few simple words said over and over can help me stay on task. Some of my go-to’s have been ‘be a champion,’ ‘relax and maintain,’ ‘I’m not done yet’ and ‘grit and grace.’”
“When I’m racing and my thoughts are going a thousand miles a minute, negative chatter is rattling away and pain is seemingly overbearing, I take one deep breath and exhale—hard. That small moment after the exhale is that quiet place that I use to propel myself forward mentally. I do this over and over until I find a place of calm and the mental chatter and pain subside.”
“In training, if I have competed on the race course before, I like to visualize myself on specific parts of the course embracing and pushing through that pain threshold. Since giving birth to my child, I also tell myself how pushing through this pain in training is nothing compared to the pain I endured in labor!”
“I use the popcorn principle. You start a season with a jar full of popcorn kernels, each of which represents optimizing every opportunity to get faster for the season. Each time you skip a workout, give up in the middle of it, do something outside of a session to adversely affect a key session, you take out a kernel. You may not notice one kernel, but too many of those lost opportunities added up will mean a jar that isn’t as full and a season that isn’t either. My driving force was to get to the starting line with a full jar.”