Mental Challenges of Running

Running is so mental for me. I have had some great runs lately and yet sometimes it is so hard for me to just put on running clothes and get out the door. Last night, for example. I had four miles planned. Why was it so challenging to run just four miles when Julie managed to run a marathon that morning in 3:20! She is a beast and I admire her. There is nobody who looks up to Julie more than I do. Just try me. I’ve basically tried to be her since I was little. Why do you think I took an Econ class in college?

Anyways, when running is more mental than physical I’ve realized it’s important to plan ahead. And yesterday I didn’t.

  • I didn’t pack gym clothes. Usually I can force myself to run after work by changing before I leave and driving straight to the gym.
  • I didn’t have a running buddy. Running with someone else makes me look forward to a run so much more.
  • It was cold. I was cold all day at work and the wind chill last night was 10 degrees. Sure it was better than the -20 the day before but still…that’s cold.
  • It was dark. I like running in the sun because it energizes me.

Four miles felt impossible to me. After work I went to Trader Joes because I needed chia seeds and peanut butter (hello staple foods!). I also ended up buying an acorn squash (random), brussels sprouts (why is there an “s” on the end of brussels), and a box of wine (it was a better deal than a bottle…and I am my mother’s daughter). I convinced myself that I could have the wine only if I ran at least part of my run. I decided 2 miles felt feasible. Three miles did not. And thank goodness I only did two because my phone died (either from the cold or the battery) and I thought I had frostbite for the entire run. As Julie puts it “every little bit counts” and after her killer race I knew I had to give it a try.

This view made the cold and the immense effort totally worth it.


One of the reasons that I love running with other people is the motivation to get out the door and the motivation to keep going. I, personally, don’t want to let the other person down who may be counting on me for their run or their workout. I also thrive on interpersonal interactions and look forward to any time I can spend with friends. I also am such a chatterbox while running, but it’s a great opportunity to get to know a new friend or discuss deep, personal issues with your best friends. It can be a great distraction.

When I really don’t want to run I need external help from a friend. I find that I am “in my head” too much and going for a run alone and even listening to music or a podcast is not enough of a distraction from my thoughts or my to-do list. This is why I have found running in the morning to be beneficial for me since I can get the run in before the stress of the day begins or the to-do list lengthens. To each his own though! The strategies that work for me to overcome the mental battle of running may not work for you. Just like most strategies in life, this is individualized. Try a few different things and see what works.

And on days when you are sick or really in need of a mental health day, take it. Do not force your body to do something that it doesn’t want to do. Respect your body and all that it does for you. Your body is pretty amazing and accomplishes a lot on a day to day basis. Missing one workout will not make you a failure. Exercise because it feels good and you enjoy the movement. Find what you enjoy to do for movement and do that when your body wants to and it feels right. 

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