How to Improve Your Running Mindset in 4 Steps

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If you are anything like me, sometimes negative thoughts creep in during training or even during a race. Those negative thoughts are normal, but they don’t help you succeed. In fact, a negative mindset can be holding you back from setting a new PR or breaking through a plateau.

Just like physical training, mental and emotional training is something that must be practiced. Every runner, from the first time 5ker to the professional, can benefit from practicing a positive mindset. It’s often training that is overlooked.

But how do you change your mindset? How do you stay positive when the going gets tough?


Step 1: Be aware of a negative mindset

In many situations, admitting you’re doing something is the first step. Admitting that you are negatively putting yourself down, is the first step here as well. If you don’t realize there is a problem, how can you fix it?

Reflect upon your thoughts. Here are a few cues that your mindset is more negative than positive:

  • Are you focusing on the uncontrollables like the weather or a delayed start?
  • Are you focusing on your personal weaknesses?
  • Are many phrases, “I can’t”?

Are you focusing on your pace that is too slow or the hard aspect of a course?

Step 2: Stop the negative thoughts

If only it were that easy! This is much easier said than done. All runners face the same weather or same variables during a race. Don’t focus on the negative aspect.

Step 3: Replace the negative thoughts with positive

Changing your mindset can be tough, and no athlete or runner is perfect at it. Now comes the fun part of replacing the negative thoughts with more positive ones.

  • Is the start delayed? Don’t forget, everyone is facing this issue.
  • Is it pouring rain? Well, at least the race was not canceled.
  • Do you still have 5 miles to go? You’ve already run 8 miles and are over halfway done!
  • Is the workout, “the hardest one you’ve done”? Don’t forget, you completed the last “hardest one.”
  • It has been shown that by simply smiling (albeit fake), you can drastically improve your mindset.

It takes a lot of practice to replace the negatives with positives, but any runner new or old can practice.

Step 4: Focus on what you can do

You can finish a workout or race. Think about the training you’ve done previously and what you have accomplished. As mentioned, one of my favorite ways to motivate myself is to dig through training logs and look at runs, workouts and races I felt successful at.

There have been plenty of runs, I never imaged I would complete or run as fast as I did. Those are the days, you want to remember and focus on. Those help us keep moving forward!

Hollie Sick is an avid runner who’s completed more than 30 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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