Hi there, fans-of-Alyssa! I’m Ali from Hit the Ground Running. When Alyssa asked me to do a guest post, I was stoked! Alyssa and I – and many of our mutual blogging friends, it seems – have been struggling with some running-slumps lately. So today, I’m going to share the secret to building mental toughness and knocking down those invisible mental walls we build in our own paths.
This is a coveted secret and technique, espoused by the most elite of runners. Are you on pins and needles, waiting to learn it? Try not to feel too disappointed by its simplicity.
I have been a runner for only four years, and I’ve been timid and humble for three of them. Too humble, really. It’s good to be humble and honest about your capabilities, but when you let yourself be too humble, you end up defeating yourself.
Eventually, I had to look around at what I felt was holding me back. For me, it was comparing myself too much with other runners. To shield myself from feeling inadequate, I took on the tone of Average Runner…you know, that person who’s okay with not progressing and looks at setbacks, like cutting a run short, as inevitable and totally okay.
Change the way you look at fear and it will affect you differently.
And don’t get me wrong, sometimes backing out takes great courage and strength. But sometimes it’s a weakness, and for me, this was often the case.
When I forced myself to stop looking to others to validate my worth as I runner, I made myself the only one responsible for my victories or losses; I found an inner strength I had no idea I had burning within me.
The spark that truly ignited this flame was the Runner’s World Run Streak. From Labor Day until July 4, I ran at least a mile a day. For 39 days, no matter how weak, tired, lazy, or grumpy I felt, I laced up and headed out. And here’s the irony: I went into it with a losing attitude. I’ll aim to do 34 of the 39 days I said, giving myself an out.
But something magical happened. 15 days in, I developed shin splints, and they were a blessing in disguise. Faced with a “reason” to drop out, I asked friends if I should. The resounding answer was that I should stop being a whiny baby, suck it up, and power through.
So I did.
This meant a few back-to-back runs, late nights, and early mornings. I ran even on days I traveled by plane for a friend’s wedding. Most of my runs were under 3 miles, but I fit in a few 6-milers and was reminded that I could go farther if I chose to. When my single-mile runs started to come in a full minute under my usual time, I realized that I was stronger than I ever hoped I would be.
So how do you build mental toughness? Just run. Force yourself to undertake the impossible. When you want to bow out, force yourself to go farther. When you want to make an excuse, look yourself in the eye and acknowledge your weakness; then smash it.
Simply stop giving yourself the freedom to quit.
Because here’s a secret those who persevere discover for themselves, and those who quit will never learn: your mind and body are more powerful and resilient than you know, and will reward you for pushing your limits.
Every time you put the negative thoughts in their place, you chip away at the mental wall that stands in your path. Every time you prove you can go farther, longer, and faster, the wall crumbles into its foundations.
For me, setting a goal and challenging myself to meet it was enough to show me I really could transcend beyond anything I ever thought I could…and I am a stronger runner and person because of it.
How do you battle your limits?
Do you consider yourself mentally tough?