Mental Games While on the Move
Issue 29: How we talk to ourselves in a workout can translate to everyday life
Hi friends! I’m back from a bit of a vacation hiatus. Thanks for sticking by me in the interim. Before we dive in, a little reminder that I’m running the NYC Marathon this year, raising money for The Fresh Air Fund. Read all about it right here and then head on over to my fundraising page to make a donation. Any amount helps and I appreciate all of it!
Whether you’ve run 100 miles or one, you probably know that there’s more to hitting your stride than simply moving your body. You have to mentally work through the miles, too. Sometimes that comes easy when you get in a groove and find a rhythm to your steps. Other times, well, it’s a struggle.
As I kicked off marathon training over the last week, hitting double-digit miles on the weekends and hour-long runs during the week, I’m reminded of how a strong mindset is just as important as strong legs to conquer each workout. What I both love and dislike about long runs is that I get plenty of time to explore my headspace, figuring out what strategies work to keep me focused, calm, and positive, especially in my self-talk.
Just this week, I’ve discovered a few new things that worked to keep me happily moving forward. For starters, putting my phone in my pocket means I don’t check my stats every 15 seconds and allows me to just run, without worrying about how fast I’m going or how much farther I have to go. It also means I can get lost in my thoughts and actually enjoy putting one foot in front of the other.
I also realized how much it helps to tell myself that the struggle of the run is only temporary. I find hills very challenging and sometimes, when making my way up the incline, my mind immediately starts doubting whether I’ll finish the run. Simply realizing that this is where my self-talk goes on hills is helpful, because now I know I need to keep reminding myself that I’ll feel better at the top. Running, especially long-distance, has so many ebbs and flows in how hard it feels—you could feel great one mile and straight-up miserable the next—and it’s been super beneficial to keep my inner chorus singing about a feel-good stretch hiding right around the corner.
I’ve explored the mental side of running a lot in my writing, from chatting with pro marathoners about how they make it through 26.2 to experimenting with more mindful movement myself, and of course, covering it in The Final Rep. I’m fascinated by what pros think about as they hit high mileage or catch fast speeds and trying to mimic their thought process can provide a fun little experiment on my personal long runs or speed workouts. I’ll never forget when Deena Kastor said she actually looks forward to times of struggle on long runs because it gives her a chance to work through it mentally and find a way to flip negative thoughts to positive ones. TBH, I thought she was a little crazy at the time, but in this last week, I see where she’s coming from and I’m about to adopt that mentality.
I think there’s a lot to learn about ourselves and how we mentally process hardships and stress while moving our bodies. The little experiments we get to play with our self-talk as we go can have major benefits to our internal conversations outside of a workout. So, while I hope to have more feel-great runs than struggle-city workouts, I am excited to see where the road will take my mental game on those harder stretches. I’ll keep practicing a positive, calm mindset while I’m out there, so I can bring it right back home with me too.
A few other people’s words about wellness I’ve read (and loved) recently:
I can’t stop thinking about (and reading about) Simone Biles and the Olympics and the much bigger conversation around athletes and mental health and how we view Olympic success in general. I loved Megan DiTrolio’s piece in Marie Claire, “What Makes an Olympic Moment?” for getting me to think a little more about what makes an Olympic great so great, and what defines epic moments in athletic history. I think Biles and Naomi Osaka set a precedent for how to handle mental health struggles, even when the world is watching. And I think their choices will have such a positive impact on future athletes and how we view their health and success—and how they view their own.
Anyone else looking forward to fall? I said this out loud the other day and no one wanted to hear it, but the thought of brisk air, cool colors, and the ability to wear a sweatshirt every day has me excited for a new season. And I love me some outdoor adventures in autumn. In case you too are looking to book some time with nature, Backpacker.com has a list of 10 ridgeline hikes that look stunning and provide great inspiration to start planning escapes.
Because I know you haven’t heard the name Simone Biles enough recently, I also loved the story in Women’s Health, “Olympian Simone Biles Wants a Sponsor That Will Help Her Do Good—And She’s Not the Only One.” The story talks about how female athletes are looking (and finding!) brands that will not only support their athletic pursuits but also their passions off the mat (or track). Biles left Nike for Athleta, just like runner Allyson Felix and a few other athletes who have signed with other companies that make them feel supported. Give it a read.
The latest updates on the fitness industry:
Here’s one form cue that always resonates with clients…
These words tend to work for individuals I train as an ah-ha moment for feeling stronger in a move or activating the right muscles. I’m coming back to the glute bridge—one of my favorite hip extension exercises, which means it counteracts that seated, hips-flexed position that most of us spend too much time in every day. A trick that tends to really get those glutes firing is driving the feet into the floor. As you lift the hips up, think about pressing the floor down with your feet. Also, simply squeezing your butt muscles to start the movement is a surefire way to make sure they’re working.
One move to add to your exercise routine…
An exercise that my physical therapist prescribed, I now do this one all the time: reverse Nordic quad isometrics. (I know, quite the name.) This move gets the quads stronger in the eccentric action or the downward phase. When is this helpful, you might ask? Walking or running down hills or down the stairs! To do it, start kneeling with knees about hip-width apart. Tuck the toes and cross your arms across your chest. Keeping your body in a straight line from shoulders to hips, lean back as far as you can go. Then, come back up, shoulders back over hips over knees. Repeat for 8-10 reps.
For a full workout, try…
I’ve been ~trying~ to include more mobility work into my routine as I ramp up my mileage. The Nike Training app has lots of options for quick routines, designed specifically for runners. Check out “10-Min Yoga: Runner’s Restorative Sequence” for one solid routine. Also, it’s free!
The gear I’m loving to get me out the door…
Good run shorts are hard to come by, which is why I tested a whole range of them for Insider.com! I’ve already told you my favorites are the Lululemon Fast and Free short (and they are still my go-to), but I loved a bunch of others from brands like Brooks, Tracksmith, Icebreaker, and more. Check it out and report back with the pairs you love too!
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