Training to become a better runner can be tough. Endurance running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Even the most experienced runners may struggle with the temptation to go slow or give up during long runs.
We’ve all been there: we’ve started our duration run at a targeted distance and pace. Everything seems to be going fine….until this moment when our motivation begins to wane. Even though we physically got more in the tank, we mentally throw in the towel. We haphazardly try, making it through the first two rounds before telling ourselves today’s run is too hard. The argument in the head gets louder and louder, and then we permit our bodies to ease up. We stop trying or reduce our efforts.
When we allow ourselves too frequently to opt for a so-called ‘micro-quit,’ it will be difficult to reach our full potential. However, there are several ways to train the brain to overcome these mental hurdles and push through to complete the run.
What is micro-quitting?
While quitting is giving up entirely, micro-quits are tinier, more subtle, almost invisible ways to make things easier. We add some extra pauses, decrease the number of intervals, decrease the running distance, or run at a slower pace. We allow ourselves to make the run less intensive than planned. We convince ourselves that “a good enough run” is not as bad as fully quitting.
Our brain is designed to avoid failure and discomfort. That’s why we do this. When we know a training session will be hard or we will be racing in challenging conditions, our brain wants to opt out of the risk of failing by micro-quitting.
Micro-quitting slows down progress and our performance potential, because we convince ourselves we’re doing “enough,” when actually we are selling ourselves short and rationalizing taking the easy way out. In the process, we are not being honest with ourselves. And then we wonder, “Why am I stuck at the same level?”
Fear of failure
The most important reason to micro-quit is the fear of failure. Limiting beliefs, like for example ” This pace is too fast”. “This distance is too long”, or “This training is too challenging for me”, will tell your brain it’s OK to micro-quit. But when there is no risk of physical, emotional, financial, or social harm, there is no real reason to quit.
Learning to avoid micro-quitting is a skill that will help us reach our potential. So let’s decide to turn quitting into committing! Read out loud: “I can do this!”
Think of four examples of previous runs when we were micro-quitting. Let’s be honest. We should ask ourselves: “When did I micro-quit, and why was I avoiding discomfort? What happened, and what was I thinking?” Notice any patterns? This is an awareness exercise.
We can feed our brains with several beliefs. Instead of being afraid to fail, we should choose to see the challenges during training as trying and forward progress. It is OK to physically fail sometimes. Challenging ourselves is an opportunity to learn and grow as an athlete. But how do we stay motivated and positive all the time? How do we train the brain to be more resilient?
Before the next run, decide what the opposite of micro-quitting would look like. Let’s cut a new deal with our brains before heading out the door, and reframe our limiting beliefs. What do we need to believe to make it happen? Which thoughts are realistic and useful? What do we need to tell ourselves to continue and succeed? These reframed, positive beliefs will help us stay committed and intentionally give our best. Yes, we can! We will start the run in an entirely different way, with increased confidence and trust.
Our brains dislike being judged for not being good enough. Embarrassment, inadequacy, and failure will kill motivation and happiness. What our brains love, however, is social support: being encouraged, praised, and recognized. That’s why it is a good idea to share our goals and our training progress with family, friends, or social media. A running buddy, a training group, or a coach can also be a great support. They can motivate us to push through when the going gets tough. It will create accountability and offer an opportunity to receive (and give) praise. Being nudged is a gold strategy!
Additional strategies to avoid micro-quitting
One of the most important ways to train the brain for endurance running is to set realistic goals. This means breaking down the run into physically manageable segments and setting goals that are challenging yet achievable. By setting goals that are realistic, runners can build confidence in their ability to complete the run, rather than feeling overwhelmed or defeated before they even start.
Visualization techniques can be a powerful way to train the brain for endurance running. This involves mentally rehearsing the race or run, imagining oneself running smoothly and effortlessly. Visualization can help to build confidence and reduce fear of failure, making it easier to push through the mental barriers that may arise during the run.
Positive self-talk can also be an effective way to train the brain for endurance running. By replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations and reminders of past successes, runners can build mental resilience and maintain motivation throughout the run.
Mindfulness practices such as focusing on body posture, running technique, and optimal breathing can help runners stay present and focused during the run. These practices can also help to reduce stress, allowing runners to push through mental barriers and remain motivated throughout the run. If you’d like to learn how to apply mindfulness techniques to your running, please check out our Mindful Run® Courses & Workshops.
Endurance running requires both physical and mental strength. We can gradually train our bodies to achieve our goals. Step by step we will improve. It can help to break down a long run into manageable segments and follow a training plan to improve physical fitness and strength.
During our runs, we may still face mental barriers to overcome. But it’s good to know that we can also train the brain for endurance running. This involves intentionally exposing oneself to challenging situations and pushing through discomfort and mental barriers. By intentionally avoiding micro-quitting by reframing our limiting beliefs into positivity and commitment, we will build mental resilience. Through regular practice, we can better cope with the mental challenges that may arise during our training.
Now tell us about your next run’s goal! Decide to commit, visualize how, and avoid any micro-quits. I’ll cheer for you and praise you afterward!
I hope this article on mental strength was inspiring to you. I’d be happy if you’d share this blog post on your social media. 😉 Thank you! If you have any remarks or questions, please contact me by EMAIL or leave your comment below