Let me start 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, four or ten hours of your day? Probably hundreds of them. Now imagine your thoughts over that period of time while you are out on a long-distance run.
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 for both new and experienced runners can at times seem daunting.
If you are wondering how you can keep a positive mindset during your long-distance runs, I have seven ways to keep those negative thoughts at bay and to help you have a positive and successful long run.
1. Surround yourself with positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive people can have numerous benefits for your overall well-being and happiness as a runner. Firstly, positive individuals tend to radiate optimism and enthusiasm, which can be infectious. By being around them, you're more likely to adopt their positive mindset and outlook on life. This can lead to increased motivation, resilience, and a greater sense of self-belief in achieving your goals. Positive people often possess a can-do attitude, and their encouragement and support can help you navigate challenges and setbacks with greater ease.
Secondly, positive people create a nurturing and uplifting environment. They are more likely to offer emotional support, empathy, and understanding during difficult times. Their positive energy can be a source of inspiration and help alleviate stress, anxiety, and negativity. Being surrounded by positivity can also foster a sense of belonging and enhance your social connections. Positive individuals often foster healthy relationships and foster a sense of community, leading to a greater sense of fulfilment and happiness in your interactions and experiences.
Ultimately, surrounding yourself with positive people can contribute to a more fulfilling and joyous life, as their contagious optimism and support can empower you to overcome obstacles, maintain a positive mindset, and cultivate a strong support system for your training efforts.
2. 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 recognised with functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), from the beginning of the study to the end of the study. Practicing mindfulness can be exercised 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 five 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 centre 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.
3. Acknowledge your 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 utilising your reasoning for running in the first place can be a great motivator. Do you run for health reasons, to achieve a personal best (PB), 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 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.
4. Listen to something that piques your interest
Whether you are interested in dance music, country music, a fan of a running podcast series, 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 gruelling miles. By listening to your favourite playlist, audiobook, or podcast, you will be sure to stay away from negative self-talk and be engaged by a different sensory approach. Just remember to keep your wits about if running with headphones on and stay safe. Consider a set of running specific, wireless, bone conduction earphones for improved safety.
5. Dedicate your miles (or km's)
When the going gets harder 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.
6. Use a Meaningful Mantra
A personalised 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”.
7. Work with a Running Coach
Staying motivated and accountable can be challenging, especially when faced with the inevitable ups and downs of a series of long runs running. A running coach (such as RunWithIan) serves as your cheerleader, offering encouragement, support, and accountability throughout your training. They can help you stay on track, push through mental barriers, and celebrate your achievements, ensuring that you maintain your focus and motivation. To read what some of you have said about my Running Coaching Services click here.
I can't take away the fact that long-distance running can be painful, tiring, physically and emotionally draining at times. However, the silver lining of long-distance training is that it becomes a great method of attaining perseverance, growth and endurance despite the effort. Running certainly is key in attaining both physical and mental strength and improving your overall resilience.
Hopefully, your “why” outweighs your struggles and using some of the above methods can help you better enjoy and finish your long runs.