Your worst runs are always the most important. They show you your weaknesses. They let you know how bad it can be. The worst runs always teach you the most. Don’t quit on an opportunity to find your weaknesses and make yourself stronger.

I’ve mentioned before how sports have helped me grow up and taught me a lot about life. I remember football practices when I would be dead tired, thirsty, sore and didn’t feel like I could move another step. We would run forever in wrestling and then keep working. I was always so slow and weak I was one of the last people done whenever we ran, I was in the bottom group in weightlifting, and hated putting in the extra effort. When I was done though, it never seemed to matter how hard I worked, I always thought I could have tried just a little harder. I’ve never forgotten this feeling.

Here are my quick tips to develop mental toughness:

  1. Say and believe “I CAN”- If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? If you think can put in just a little more, you will start to put in a little more.
  2. Extra Effort- A little more every time will make a huge difference in the long run. I always finish the mile I’m on and push past whenever possible. I prefer to go at least .2 miles over my scheduled mileage for the day. Don’t quit at 1.97, your only quitting on yourself.
  3. Remember the feeling when you’re done- After I’m done and have gotten over my whining about how tired I am, I always think to myself, that wasn’t so bad. I could have gone a little further. I think this has led to my addiction to more, more, more! Having a positive attitude toward pushing yourself further will go a long way to achieving much higher goals!
  4. Wanna quit? DON’T!- I know it hurts. I know there are runs when you don’t feel good, you’re too tired, it’s hot, it’s cold, and on and on. Believe me, I know. But giving up will not get you closer to your goals. You are only quitting on yourself.
  5. Will the pain matter later today? This is one of my favorite questions to ask myself. When I’m tired, it’s cold and windy, I’m tired and sore, or I just want an excuse to quit; I ask myself, if I keep going what is the worst that will happen? Answer? I will be a little sore later. If I quit, what is the worst? The feeling I have to live with until I can get back in my running shoes. Quitting gives me a guilt no one else can lay on me and the guilt weighs tons.
  6. Is it pain, soreness or fatigue? This is a good question to ask when you’re hurting. The soreness in your knee, the aches in your ankle, soon to be frostbite on your fingers. You need to be able to assess the situation. If it is an injury, be done right then. Call someone to come pick you up. Don’t risk long term injury for a short term payout. I have noticed 99% of the whining I do to myself while I’m running falls under soreness and fatigue. Soreness means you’re working your body hard and it’s getting better. Fatigue means you still have work to do- keep going!
  7. Mini goals– pick a point when you want to quit and move to it. When I’m training, I look at the next achievable mark. I know I can run 6 miles any day of the week. So, I look for the next 6 miles. I will run the same 6 miles over and over if I have to in order to finish my run. This gives me a goal I have done a hundred times. My body and mind know what it takes to run that far. It’s a weird feeling, but once I say to myself; it’s only 6 miles, I get a second wind and the pain sort of drifts away. I also play the aid station game during long races. Just focus on getting to the next aid station. I can quit when I get there. And of course, I know I can’t, but I just focus on the next aid station. By breaking everything down into achievable goals, you will achieve the impossible
  8. Just don’t give up- I’m not a quitter. It has nothing to do with anyone but myself. There are some goals and dreams I’ve given up in the past and I refuse to do it anymore. I hate the feeling of I could have given more. The guilt of not accomplishing a goal keeps me up at night. I’d rather be tired from waking up early and working hard than staying up late with guilt of not going after what I want.

I am in no way comparing myself to others. I am simply sharing with you how I get through my tough runs, early mornings, and how I deal with what life throws at me on a daily basis. I hope you can find some value in the list in order to move you closer to a big goal you’re working on. Let me know which idea helped you most!

Published by Gary Stotler