Here are some of the strategies I use when all I want to do is give up. If you have any others you use, please let me know.
SMILE – I find, no matter how miserable you are feeling, if you smile it can really help trick your brain into thinking that all is good.
COUNTING – I count 1-100, then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. I find this is enough sometimes to trick my brain into thinking about something else for a while. And before I know it, I’ve run a chunk more and I’m slightly out of my funk.
LANDMARKS – rather than thinking I still have Xkm to run, I pick a landmark and put all my effort into getting there. It can be a car, a fire hydrant, a building, whatever, as long as it’s not too far away. Once I’ve reached said landmark, I pick another, and concentrate all my might on getting there. And if you are running with someone else, take it in turns to pick the landmarks out and give each other a high five every time you pass one.
AT LEAST I’M NOT – this game, you list everything you are glad you are not doing. It’s best done with a buddy, but can work just as well by yourself. So for example, ‘at least I’m not at work’, ‘at least I’m not stuck indoors’, ‘at least I am not being eaten by a shark’, ‘at least I’m not doing grocery shopping’ – it can be anything. It can be really funny the longer you play and the wackier the suggestions get.
POSTURE – this one isn’t as fun, but when I am struggling I find my posture gets terrible. So use this opportunity to make sure your shoulders are back, arms are at 90 degrees, chest is up, eyes are looking ahead, and your knees are working to lift each leg. Again, it’s just something else to concentrate on for a few minutes to get you out of your head.
LOVED ONE – think of a loved one, someone you would love to have with you. I tend to do this one during a race, I will dedicate either the whole race to someone I love, or pick multiple people for each kilometer. I then use their love, thinking about the good times with this person, and dig really deep. This is driven in part by guilt; you don’t want to let your loved one down, so suck it up!
BREATHING – this is an easy one, and shouldn’t necessarily only be done when you are struggling. But focusing on your breathing can really help a) to distract you from the misery you are in and b) gets you in tune with your body. Breathing is so important when running (kinda an obvious statement), but if your breathing is out of control then you’re going to burn out fast.
PLAN B – if the run is going really badly, give yourself a plan B. For me that is typically 2-3km less than what I originally had scheduled to run. I then work towards this plan B, and 9 times out of 10 by time I get to the plan B distance I know I have a little bit left in the energy tank to reach my original distance. And well, if you don’t, then don’t sweat it, you did an awesome job getting to your plan B goal – don’t feel guilty.
Give these a shot. I would love to know how you get on with them.