How to Build Mental Toughness for Running

Building mental toughness for running is hard. If you’ve been running for a while, chances are you’ve had a time or situation that you wanted to stop. Maybe you were just bored of it. Maybe you were tired of running. Maybe things just felt hard, and you gave up! All of these things can be helped by building mental toughness.

I grew up as a swimmer, and I can tell you that is the most boring sport out there. I loved swimming but spending 2 hours staring at the bottom of the pool with no music really helps build mental toughness. Looking back, swimming definitely helped build mental toughness for running.

How to Build Mental Toughness for Running

Here are a few ways to build mental toughness for running:

Remember your Pride: 

Sometimes when I want to stop, I remember my pride. Do I really want to tell people I stopped midway through a run or race because I just “didn’t feel like it”? Honestly, I find this to be one of the most effective ways to build mental toughness for running.

It sounds silly, but do you really want to log a run on Strava or Instagram and say: stopped because I didn’t feel like it. Your pride and ego can get in the way of a lot of things, but they can also be beneficial to others.

Find a Friend:

When going on a longer or harder runs, finding a friend to run with can be a great way to build mental toughness for running. Have you ever gone for a run with a buddy and realized, wow, we just ran further or longer than you ever have before? Running with friends is a great way to build mental toughness for running or anything really.

Don’t Forget: Running (or Any Sport) Is Not Always Easy:

Whether you are battling bad weather or your legs, don’t forget that running is not an easy sport. We will have those days that it doesn’t feel easy. It’s important to remember and recognize that. The faster you do, the easier it will be to build mental toughness for running.

I try and remember the hard runs or races I’ve done before. In 2016, I wanted to give up every step of the Shamrock Half Marathon. It was pouring rain, I felt terrible, and running just felt hard. But I kept trying to tell myself running is not always easy. I will be proud that I finished, and I was. I haven’t been more proud of a race than finishing Shamrock in 2016. I always tell people to run a race in 30-degree pouring rain because it will build mental toughness for running.

Create a mantra:

For some, having a mantra helps build mental toughness. You remember those hard times and have overcome them. Find something that is meaningful to you and works, whatever it is! It might seem silly to someone else, but it works for you; that’s all that matters.

Left Foot, Right Foot:

Something the best way of building mental toughness for running is just doing it. Move your left foot, then your right foot. Repeat, repeat, repeat. That’s not the answer everyone wants to hear but oftentimes, just doing something is the answer we need to hear.

Remember When You Couldn’t Run:

Were you injured? Did you hate running? Did running a mile feel overwhelming? Or even just running a block? Did running just feel challenging? Remember all of the times you couldn’t run and do it for that. Runners seem to want to run the most when they can’t or shouldn’t! Remember when you REALLY wanted to run.

Building mental toughness for running is hard. Like training, it takes time and patience, but anyone has the ability to build their mental toughness.

Another post that might interest you is: Ways to Keep Running When You Want to Stop.

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Questions for you:

How do you build mental toughness for running?

What is something you’re proud of that you’ve overcome?