How to Combat Negative Thoughts While Running

How to Combat Negative Thoughts While Running

We’ve all had negative thoughts while running. It’s not always “fun” to admit, but we have all been there. Sometimes running gets hard. Last week, I wrote about “How to Build Mental Toughness for Running.”

This week, I’m talking about how to combat negative thoughts while running.

How to Combat Negative Thoughts While Running

How to Combat Negative Thoughts When Running:

Anticipate and Be Prepared:

It can be easy to tell someone to “think positive,” but often times that isn’t enough. We must also anticipate that running will get hard. By preparing yourself, you are setting yourself up for ways to stay positive when it does get hard instead of letting them bring you down.

It might not seem motivated to anticipate bad thoughts, but it’s always good to be prepared. Negative thoughts are part of the process. These specific strategies will help you combat negative thoughts while running, so they don’t bring you down or ruin a good race or run.

Counter Them Your Negative Thoughts While Running: 

Countering your negative thoughts while running can be the best thing you do for yourself! Prepare with positive affirmations and mantras for when things do get tough.

Instead of thinking: “wow, I have so long to go,” think: “wow, I have come so far.”

Prepare yourself with positive thoughts and remember the progress you have actually made. Your positive thoughts don’t need to make sense to others; they just need to make sense to you.

Use the Word: “But”

Instead of saying: “I have so far to go,” say: “I have so far to go, but I have come so far.” Or running feels hard, but it used to feel harder.

By adding the word but to your negative thoughts while running, you are setting yourself to end on a positive note. This is something I practice often when things do get difficult.

Maintain perspective:

When I’m in a rut or hard spot, I try and remember that I’ve been down harder roads. When it comes to things being difficult, but it’s important to remember that at the end of the day: “it is just running.”

We choose to partake in the activity to improve our health and fitness. No one is forcing us, and if it feels like someone is, it’s ok to take a break. If you consistently have negative thoughts while running, it might be time for a break. We are supposed to do this for fun! During some of my hardest and most disappointing races “ever”, I’ve tried to remember…at least I finished healthy.

You Don’t Need to Go 100% All of the Time:

Social media can make it feel like everyone goes 100% all of the time, which is not true at all. Fitness does not need to be an all-or-nothing activity. It’s ok to have seasons of life that you are making time for some but aren’t full out training.

We all have negative thoughts while running. It’s okay and natural. It’s important to combat them and remember you are doing a great job. It might not seem that way at the time, but remember, we have all been there.

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Questions for you:

How do you combat negative thoughts while running?

What is a positive mantra you use? 

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  1. Great post, Hollie! Negative thoughts sink many ultra runners due to long, dark running hours. When I coach runners in these events, I make them carry a “why” just for this reason. When things look dark, dig out your “why” to brighten your path.

    1. I can’t even imagine the thoughts that go through ultra runners heads! I’ve found finding my why has really helped as well!

  2. I don’t try to combat negative thoughts so much as to replace them in my mind. I have two strategies: (1) find another runner who is running at my pace and strike up a conversation. We swap stories and the miles seem to disappear in the process. (2) If I have no one to talk with then I play music in my head. I don’t use external music but rely on my memory to find a catchy tune and then I replay it endlessly in my head. That helps to calm me down and drowns out any negative thoughts that try to creep into my skull.

    1. Thank you for sharing Doub and such good tips. I think we’ve all gotten something stuck in our head at some point.

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