5 Steps to Increase Your Mental Toughness


Mental toughness. We all want it. We all know we need it. We all know it can mean the difference between a good run and a bad run. Yet mental toughness remains tough!

I’m a firm believer that what you believe, you achieve. It may not happen on your schedule, but if you keep believing — if you keep affirming it, keep believing it — it will happen.

I’m also including a mantra for each point that I built using this awesome post here.

Today’s actual topic is how we fuel our runs, but I’ve already written about that; you can read that post here. Although things have shifted a little, as I’m constantly experimenting, and honey stinger chews are definitely a staple in my long runs these days.

I mix it up with some “real food”, as I documented in the post above, so that I have something to look forward to — not that Honey stinger chews taste bad — far from it — but I crave variety on the run.


Today I am joining up with the  Friday Five 2.0  from Fairytales & Fitness and Rachel @ Running on Happy to share five beliefs you may have and simple ways to help overcome them (you might also be interested in my post on five beliefs I’ve conquered here).

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or a coach of any sort. Use your best judgement when trying my suggestions.

I’ll never get any faster
I started out slow. And then I got faster (although not fast by any means). And then I seemed plagued by injuries, and even when I wasn’t, either I was battling wind, or unusual heat, or incredible hills.

I felt stuck. Yet somehow I continued to believe that there was a faster race in me. Even when I doubted (and I did), I knew, deep down, I could run faster. Eventually that belief was rewarded (after lots of hard work!).

When this thought creeps into your head during a workout, tell yourself that you are doing the hard work to improve and you know that you will.

Your mantra: be fierce; embrace speed

I’ll never recover from this injury
It always seems as though all we see when we’re injured are people running. Everywhere. And we watch them with incredible frustration and loging.

When you believe that you will never recover from an injury, tell yourself that you are working with professionals to heal, and you are doing everything in your power to heal.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been lucky to run through most of my injuries, but I’ve had to battle through months of painful running and start back at square one. I may not know what you’re going through, but it hasn’t always been unicorns and glitter.

I do know that believing you will never get back to running (unless there’s a medical reason) will not motivate you to do the work to get back to running.

Your mantra: think positive; feel confident (ok, I put my own spin on that one)

I can’t run well on hills
Of course to run well on hills you have to train on hills. Incorporate hill repeats into your training plan — the bonus is that hill repeats are speed work in disguise! If you know that you have a hilly race coming up and you live n a flat area, either seek out a bridge (hills in disguise) or utilize that treadmill.

You may still feel afraid at the start of the race. The thought that you never run well on hills might enter your mind.

Tell yourself that you have trained for these hills. Go a step further and tell yourself that you eat hills for breakfast.

Your mantra: go strong; feel power

I can’t run well in the heat
I really struggle with running in the heat. I struggle with paces, I struggle with energy, I struggle with the will to finish a run sometimes. I had quite a few halfs that have had unexpected heatwaves — like, they couldn’t predict it just a couple of days before the half.

I won’t lie: this is a belief/fear I am still working on, despite my breakthrough at the Best Damn Race New Orleans (read about that here). If I know that I’m going to a place that will be hotter than where I live, I will overdress for some runs and I’ll try to hang out in a sauna. Don’t laugh — I’m convinced it helped! I will also put the vacation portion of my racecation first, so that I have time to acclimate.

What about races where it’s a sudden heatwave? You have to slow down. It’s frustrating, but if you don’t, you’re going to puke or hit a wall or cramp or even worse, DNF (did not finish). You have to pay close attention to your hydration — you might have to carry some water even if it’s a relatively short race. Try to eat more hydrating foods (see Rachel @ Runningonhappy’s post here). Consider supplementing with electrolytes a few days before the race. Freeze part of your water.

Your mantra: I’m a beast in the heat (definitely a CRJ creation!)

I always go out too fast
Ah, the beginning of a race. The adrenaline is flowing. You’ve trained hard, and you believe that you’ve got this. And it all feels so easy. And then it happens: somewhere in the race you get to the point that you know you let that excitement get the better of your common sense, and you went out way too fast. Either you mightily struggle to the finish, or you tank and limp along to the finish.

Then you berate yourself for always going out too fast.

Practice starting slower than you think you should. Tell yourself at the beginning of the race, “my race, my pace”. Hopefully you have a race plan. Stick to it. Tell yourself that you have trained yourself to start at the right pace for you and that will help you finish strong.

Your mantra: run light; start slow (another CRJ adjustment)

Did you come up with your own mantra from that list? I’d love to hear it! Let us know what it is in the comments, and what situation you plan to use it.

So let me know in the comments:

What do you need to work on?

How will you work on it?

What suggestions do you have for others to “toughen up”?