Running Psychology

As a runner we know that our mind is our biggest enemy. It never our legs that give in first, they do as they are told.

 Unfortunately it is always easier to stop, to stay on the sofa and eat some pie.

 So how do we get out of our own way? Well there are a few tricks that Sport Psychologists reckon we can use to squeeze out an extra mile or two.

 Thought Stopping

 This is all about stopping the voices in your head. You know the ones ……

‘My legs hurt’, ‘I’m tired’ ‘oh I’m only a couple of miles off the distance on my training plan, that’ll do’, ‘I’ve had a hard day at work, better take it easy’. ‘its too hot’, ‘its too cold’ ‘I’ve run loads this week, I can slack today’ ‘I can’t do it’ ‘I don’t feel very well’ ‘I’ll just walk for a bit more’ ‘It’s raining’

 As a runner you have two options of dealing with this:

The first is the counting method. As lame as it sounds counting to 8 over and over puts your brain on standby and shuts the voices up.

The second is to be aware of your negative thoughts and to turn them to positive ones. Act as your own personal cheerleader and remind yourself why you run everyday.


Actually imagining yourself running the last section is supposed to give your neural network practice, making you more likely to be able to do it, according to psychology boffins. And we all know practice makes perfect………….

Self Talk

 Think cheesy Americans (sorry guys, it’s why we love you) talking themselves up in the mirror. (sings)You are beautiful, no matter what they say, words can’t bring me down…….

Jokes aside, the idea is that if you tell yourself you are Mo Farrah’s more talented sibling, eventually you will start to believe it. Don’t worry about pedestrians after all, they shout at us frequently, its time we shouted back how awesome we are!


 Now this may seem absolutely ridiculous. The last thing you feel like doing when you are tired is a sprint. However if you are well aware that it’s your head rather than your legs, a short sharp increase in speed (ie a 30 second sprint) will raise your heart rate. This in turn will release adrenaline that will help get you out of your phunk. Now obviously if you repeat this too many times then you’ll get tired pretty quickly so you’ve got to use this technique appropriately, however it does surprisingly work.


 The right play list is supposed to be able to relax you, as well as keep your mind distracted. Its also great for pacing. However as a runner personally I wouldn’t get too reliant on this one as many races don’t let you have mp3 playing devices for safety

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4 Responses to Running Psychology

  1. jonfitzsimon says:

    I like the imagery theme. I regularly think about what it will feel like when I cross the finish line of the marathon I train for. It gets me out of my head and thoughts and into a fun imagination zone. That allows me to get the negative thoughts out.

    • Elite athletes more and more are coming round to the idea that it’s the head that makes the difference between winners and losers, so I think its time us amateurs took some of it on board! Imagery is great, and you can really have fun with it.

  2. TartanJogger says:

    Love this post- I’ll need to give Biofeedback a try!

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