Getting mentally stronger for workouts, don’t we all want that?
Mentally stronger for workouts or just mentally stronger for life in general. The truth is, my approach to doing things that are hard or overwhelming is exactly the same regardless of whether it’s a project with a deadline, or a workout. It’s all about breaking it down into bite-size pieces. This helps to take me out of overwhelm and into a place where I feel like I can be useful and productive.
Have a plan
A plan calms down all manner of fears. It gives you a path to follow, it gives you options and by creating a little bit of structure you can keep that anxious brain distracted while you get down to work. This might mean talking with your coach about a pace guide for your session, or a certain heart rate range. It might also involve taking down the expectation for the workout. If the idea of running something at 6:30 min/km pace is a bit too intimidating. Take it down to 7:00 and then just see what happens. Nine times out of ten when you aren’t stressed about aiming for a certain pace, you’ll go faster than you think you will.
Do the easy part first
In our case, the easy part is the getting out the door and warming up. Sure, getting out the door might not always feel super easy but that’s usually because of what comes after – not the warm up. So focusing on the easy first steps that you can do helps to put you on auto-pilot.
Break down the hard parts into manageable pieces
I like to break workouts down in a variety of ways. So let’s say if I have 5 x 1km at tempo pace, that’s 5km of work at my 10km race pace. Which is 50% of my actual capacity. See how it sounds way easier? Or if I have 6 x 400m that’s only 2.4km of actual work with loads of recovery in between. Or if I’m doing a fartlek with the intervals at 5km pace and let’s say the intervals are 2:00. A great 5km would take me 24 minutes at the moment. I’m running 1/12th of that. Those types of things help because apprehension of failure is worse than anything that might happen during the session. It should feel good (for the most part!) If it doesn’t, it’s probably an over-reach.
In any workout, I will tick off 1/4 done, 1/3 done, 1/2 done, only 10% to go! It helps to keep mentally ticking off those segments as you work your way through and self-talk your way through some of the tough bits. In reality I’ve had plenty of workouts go really pear shaped, but I’ve always finished them, but in my mind I’m thinking doing 1/2 is good if that’s all I’m able to do, doing 2/3 is great, doing 3/4 is awesome and doing it all is outstanding. So I’m getting little pep talks about where I’m up to the whole way through.
Acknowledge what you just did.
While the temptation might be to downplay your efforts, or focus on the things that you would have liked to have gone better, you need to create the narrative for the next hard thing. If after every session, you focus on what didn’t go well – that’s what you are going to remember next time. So instead of thinking ‘gee that last interval was really slow’, I tend to go with ‘how cool is it that I didn’t have anything in the tank at the end, but I still finished’. Then next time you will remember that you are capable of leaving it all out there and having fun doing it too. Getting mentally stronger for workouts is a whole lot about practice, but it’s also about the story you tell yourself. So make it a good one.
I’m writing a book about how to love running enough for it to change your life.
The book is going to focus on my journey so far, the when the why and the how of the workouts and of training, but also how it all connects to things that are far bigger than running. I’m taking up the challenge of writing a book in 30 days. Which is a lot of writing, but hopefully just enough pressure to keep the momentum going. You can sign up to read the daily words on patreon and get access to a whole range of bonus podcast episodes, and an ebook with 52 running workouts, so you’ll never be stuck for ideas ever again. Stay up to date on: