As runners, we often face disappointments and mental stresses that not only affect performance, but can also dampen running enjoyment. Some workouts present a challenge that is more mental than physical. Overcoming the mental blocks of running is key to a continued love of running and to hitting your goals.
Here are five of the most common mental blocks runners face and how to overcome them:
Mental Block #1: Fear of Failure as a Runner
Fear of failing can drive you to a great performance, but it can also be overwhelming. Many of us run harder when we are nervous, whether fearful of not reaching our goal time, or by being passed by a competitor or teammate.
The cost for giving into fear is anxiety, confidence loss, and a less-than-ideal running experience. With any given workout there may be some fear of not meeting expectations. Recognizing when fear has become a mental block – and overcoming that fear – is a challenge most runners face at some point.
How do you overcome fear of failure as a runner? Instead of resisting fear, face it head-on. Decrease your own resistance to it so you can control it, instead of it controlling you. Acknowledge the fear and then take positive actions to begin to think differently. The combination of setting realistic, short-term goals, developing positive affirmations for yourself, and practicing relaxation techniques can be helpful here.
Remind yourself that if you aren’t willing to risk failure as a runner, you’ll never fully succeed. When you make a commitment to be the best you can be, while keeping your expectations in balance, you can celebrate what you achieve rather than reinforcing what you have yet to accomplish.
Mental Block #2: The Runner’s Comparison Trap
It is easy to compare yourself to faster runners and to assume faster times will make you happier. While comparing yourself to other runners can help to motivate you, someone else is always faster, so this comparative dance can be futile when taken too far.
The stark reality is all runners are not created equally. We don’t all start off with the same genes or have the same time and resources for training throughout our lives. Completing challenging workouts is commendable for everyone who commits to this effort, regardless of relative pace.
If you routinely make self-defeating comparisons between your pace ranges and those of much faster runners. Stop yourself immediately, put your effort level into perspective. Use self-comparison to your earlier season pace and effort levels to motivate yourself and you’ll overcome the runner’s mental block of comparing yourself to others.
Mental Block #3: The Myth of the Perfect Run
We can all get caught up in believing that we will someday run the perfect race or workout on the perfect course on the perfect day, and then we’ll run the way we’ve always known we could. It is far better to strive for excellence, not perfection, and to accept imperfect success.
With some designated pace workouts for example, the goal is to get as close as possible to nailing a specific pace. If this doesn’t happen, you’ll still walk away with a productive and successful workout if you’re brave enough to evaluate your workout and to assess what you learned from it for the next time around.
Mental Block #4: Chasing a PR with Every Run
For some, one of the great delights in our sport is running fast and setting personal records. But you can’t run a PR every time. Train yourself to enjoy your workouts and races, even if the result isn’t a time you are proudest of.
Look for rewards other than the fast time: gaining strength and fitness for upcoming key races, having fun taking part in your sport with others. Define success with a broad brush while you put your best self on the line.