4 Tips That’ll Improve Your Mental Approach to Running

@javan via Twenty20

Many runners will tell you, running is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Even if your physical training goes well, you have to believe you’re going to PR.

I’ve competed in two different endurance sports: swimming and running. Both require a lot of mental toughness to break your personal records and meet goals.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned several concepts that help me mentally prepare for success.

Here are a few of my favorites:


The most straightforward and simple is visualizing your race day. Think about having a successful day. Every runner has both strengths and weaknesses.

For some runners, the first mile is the hardest, for others (like me!), it’s the final few strides. Visualize yourself successful succeeding at the parts of the race you find yourself most struggling at.

For me, I like to think about the feeling of the last few seconds of a race, crossing the finish line, and PRing. We all know it’s one of the most satisfying feelings of the sport.

Focusing on the positive versus the negative is important. That is what builds your confidence!

In collegiate swimming, our coach would have us visualize races the day before. We would spend at least 30 minutes visualizing and preparing mentally. Now with running, I try and visualize my success for my big goal races.

Get rid of negative and self-defeating thoughts

If you don’t believe the race will go well, chances are it probably won’t. I am guilty of self-doubt and negative talk before a race.

Over the past year, it’s something I’ve actively tried to work on. Just like visualizing, I try and remind myself of how well the race can and will go.

Get away from the start

I have found that hanging out at the race start can often create more nerves than necessary.

You find yourself looking at other athletes and can even fall into the “comparison trap.” Personally, I try and relax, or find another spot to hang out before the race.

In shorter distances such as a 5K, it’s easier because I leave and go warm up. In longer distances like the half marathon, I look for quiet places or arrive at the start as late as possible without sacrificing missing the race.

Even talking to family and friends, helps calm typical race nerves and gets the focus away from the start.

Good or bad, enjoy the moment

Let’s face it, not every race will go perfectly: It’s part of endurance sports. Always remember that no matter how well the race goes, your family and friends will still be there for you.

Numbers, paces, and races are just that, they don’t change who you are nor do they affect your relationships.

How do you stay mentally prepared and ready for a big race?

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

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