SIMPLE DISTRACTION STRATEGIES FOR YOUR MENTALLY CHALLENGING RUN

We’ve all been there, on a run that just plain old sucks. Whether it’s mental or physical, it can be a struggle-train run. You could throw in the towel and walk home, but sometimes it’s necessary to embrace the suck and push through (it’s excellent resilience training for races).

Here are some of my top strategies I use when all I want to do is give up.  If you have any others you use, please let me know in the comments box below.

SMILE – I find, no matter how miserable I am feeling, if I smile it can really help trick my brain into thinking that all is good. My smile is by no means natural and I probably look like a psychopath, but that grimace can really trick my brain into feeling happier.

COUNTING – I count 1-100, then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. I find this is enough sometimes to distract my brain into thinking about something else for a while other than the suck. And hey, before I know it, I’ve run a chunk more of my run and I’m slightly out of my funk.

LANDMARKS – rather than thinking ‘I still have X km/X minutes to run’, I pick a landmark up ahead 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, again just off in the distance, and concentrate all my might on getting there. And if I am running with someone else, we take it in turns to pick the landmarks out and give each other a high five every time we pass one.

AT LEAST I’M NOT – this is a great gratitude game, I list everything I am glad I am 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 in the shower with chafe’, ‘at least I’ve not been sucked into an alternative world through my laptop’ – it can be absolutely anything, although the crazier the better. It can be really funny the longer it’s played and the wackier the ideas become.

POSTURE – this one isn’t as fun, but when I am struggling I find my posture gets terrible. So I use this opportunity to make sure my shoulders are back, arms are at 90 degrees, chest is up, eyes are looking ahead, and my knees are working to lift each leg. Again, it’s just something else to concentrate on for a few minutes to get me out of my head.

LOVED ONE – think of a loved one, someone I would love to have with me.  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; I don’t want to let my loved one down, so suck it up!

BREATHING – this is an easy one, and shouldn’t necessarily only be done when I’m struggling.  But focusing on my breathing can really help a) to distract me from the misery I am in and b) to get me in tune with my body.  Breathing is so important when running (kinda an obvious statement, but hey, I said it), but if my breathing is out of control then I’m going to burn out fast. In through the nose, out through the mouth, nice big breaths.

PLAN B – if the run is going really, really badly, I give myself a plan B. So for example, I could cut my run short by 2-3km if I take a slightly different route home. Granted this strategy is a bit of a cop out, BUT just knowing that plan B is available helps get me through some of the earlier mileage. I’d say, 9 times out of 10 by the time I get to the plan B distance, when I think about it, I know I have a little bit left in the energy tank to reach my original distance, so I go for it; I stick with the originally planned distance and I feel epic afterwards. And well for that 1 out of 10 time, when I do cut my run short, then I try not to sweat it, I did an awesome job getting to my plan B goal when I wasn’t feeling it – don’t feel guilty.

 

HELLO, I’m Gillian, a running and nutrition coach based in Toronto, Canada. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, it really means a lot to me. If you are interested, I have MORE:

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