Repeating a few key positive words to yourself can help you work through a rough patch.
It’s no secret—running a great race requires great training: long runs on weekends, hill repeats, and challenging tempo runs are all ingredients for a successful performance. However, preparing yourself mentally as well as physically can be what helps you push through the wall on a tough 20-mile run, or ignore the burning in your legs during a challenging interval workout. Colorado-based running coach Danica Lucker believes that physical strength at the end of a tough race or challenging workout comes from mental training. “You have to put in the physical work. You can’t go out there without any physical preparation,” said Lucker. “You also need to train the mental side to work through when you’re feeling tested.”
Mental training varies from pre-race visualization to simply believing you are capable of finishing the race or setting a personal best. Repeating a few key positive words to yourself is a simple mental strategy that Lucker finds to be very effective. “A running mantra is one mental training strategy that can help you break through physical barriers,” Lucker explained.
Kelly Calway, the first runner from the military to cross the finish line of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials uses several mantras specific to each race to help keep her mentally strong and engaged. “Running mantras are something that really helps to battle those negative thoughts,” Calway said. “I like to print out a map of the course and write down what I’m going to think at each 5K or mile marker—a key word like ‘strong’ or ‘I’ve got this.’” Having mantras planned out can give you the mental edge to persist when negative thoughts creep into your mind as your body begins to feel tired and fatigued. Calway uses her mantras to refuse those negative feelings and push past tired legs. “When you’re struggling and fighting against yourself you are beating yourself right off the bat if you let those negative thoughts get into you head,” she said. “If you are always jumping ahead of that and thinking positive things that helps me out a ton.”
At the Trials, Calway credited her running mantras for helping her make it to the finish line as the 25th female finisher. “My coach told me three things to think during the trials,” Calway explained. “The first lap was ‘stay in control,’ the second lap was ‘pick it up’ and the third lap was ‘now its race time.’”
Choose a running mantra that will help you to break through the wall in your next marathon or keep pushing in a workout when your legs feel like quitting. “Running mantras aren’t copyrighted phrases, so you can certainly borrow one you have heard,” Lucker explained. The main thing is finding something that resonates for you. We all have hurdles to work through on the mental side and they key is finding something that gives you that edge or makes you feel like you have that edge.”