How to Give Yourself a Mental Edge During Endurance Runs

Every runner knows that their sport isn’t just about physical fitness and ability, and at the upper edges of their performance it becomes just as much about mentality and motivation as it is about muscles and technique. Often, we can be our own worst enemies, and the only thing really standing between us and our goals is our own self doubt and self sabotage.

There comes a time when the majority of endurance runners will feel they have hit ‘the wall’, which is a well documented sensation which can take even experienced runners by surprise. This happens when you have reached what feels a lot like your physical limit, and a lot of people will struggle to resist the urge to tap out and rest.

The thing about ‘the wall’ is that it exists largely in our heads. It can be thought of as a mental block, where your mind feels just as fatigued as your body and you will feel as though you can’t continue your run. The thing is, unless you are otherwise injured, dehydrated, or have low blood sugar, you will be able to push through this and come out the other side if you are committed to doing so.

Knowing this secret, and even experiencing it for yourself and being able to overcome it can give a runner a competitive edge. Other runners who are less experienced may take ‘the wall’ as their sign to quit, but others know that it is actually their sign to check in with themselves mentally and find the strength to push through. Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do to give yourself a competitive edge, most importantly, looking after your mental health.

Take care of your mental health

As we’ve already touched on, running is as much a test of mental fortitude as it is of fitness and physical conditioning. If we’re not in the best head space when running, it can affect our performance by slowing us down, adding minutes onto our times, and making it much harder to complete the distances we usually would have taken in our strides. Sports gels can help when you’re feeling low on energy and motivation, but the best thing to do is to assess what is adding stress or upset into your life.

When we’re stressed, it can affect everything from our sleeping patterns to what we eat and our attitudes towards our daily lives. This can make us more inclined to feel tired and lacking in motivation, and can even make it harder for us to find the time to train, especially if your stress manifests itself as a feeling of being overwhelmed and spread too thin. It might be the case that you have additional work or family commitments at the moment that are putting you under strain, or you might be anxious about a life event. You may not even be able to pinpoint the source of stress.

Whatever the case may be, you should try and contextualise your stress and look introspectively at yourself and what is going on in your life, and work on finding healthy ways to manage your stress throughout the day to prevent it from boiling over. This can be much easier said than done and some things won’t have a quick fix, and if you are finding stress to be a serious problem then you should always consult your doctor and consider asking for therapy.

In milder cases of stress, or if you’re stressing about your readiness for an event, you may find that a change of pace or scenery helps. Book some time off work to do what you love, or give yourself time to run in a scenic place like a national park. If you are training for an event you’ll know that you can’t afford to take much time away from your training regime, so look for ways to carry on doing your training in ways that make it feel fun and refreshing again. This can really help you to clear your mind and get yourself back in the game before stress and anxiety over running make you want to quit.