How to overcome mental block?!

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10/09/2012 at 10:53

Hi all,

I ran my first 10k yesterday - it was a tough one (lots of hills and a VERY hot day!) - and so my time wasn't exactly what I had hoped for.

However, as much as the heat and the hills didn't help, I could have done much better if my mind had been in a better place - I started off thinking "this is going to be really hard, I'm not sure I can do it", by the 7k mark I was thinking "I can't do this, it's too hard" and by the end I had had a couple of 'breakdowns' with tears and thinking "I really can't do this" and ended up walking most of the last kilometre, although I know I had the energy to keep running.

So my questions is this - how do you get yourself into that postiive state of mind when you're just not feeling it? Does telling yourself 'I can do this' over and over actually work? It all seems a bit too cheesy to actually work. How can I overcome this? Suggestions most welcome!


10/09/2012 at 11:33

For me it's been having a target at the end of my training.

If there was nothing at the end i could imagine feelng how you do.  But I booked a race before I started running That way I have had a target since day 1.  So I never felt like that it's always been my plan says i have to do x.... so I do x like it or not.

10/09/2012 at 11:35

Well done on finishing, it sounds like you really went through it on that run.

If it makes you feel any better, I personally think that positive thinking gets a whole lot easier once you have had that terribly difficult run - in a "things can only get better from here" or "at least this run isn't as bad as that run" kind of way.

I always thought the whole "I can do this" thing seemed a little cheesy, but it really does work. Try picturing the most inspiring person in your life, or remembering your reasons for running in the first place, anything to distract you from that little negative voice telling you to stop. Everyone has that voice, the trick is to find a way to block it out or tell it to shut up! I sometimes picture my kids cheering me on, as they wouldn't care if I walked or took a break, they would be thrilled to bits just to see me out there enjoying myself. Things can get a little emotional there though so as  a backup I sometimes picture my ex and the names he used to call me because of my weight - you can't beat a bit of smugness to get you up the steep hills!

I read another really useful tip in a book recently; a woman reached the halfway point in a 10k and felt like she couldn't go on, so she started counting backwards in her head from 5000 - in theory she was counting down the metres left to run, but she only had to do it for a short time as it provided a distraction until she got her second wind. I have used this on difficult runs and it also really helps.

I hope these are of some use to you. Remember, it doesn't matter what state you were in when you finished, or that you walked part of the way, you still did it and you should feel really proud of yourself. The next one will be even better!

10/09/2012 at 11:43

Well done on your run...You're better than me, I still can't pluck up courage to enter a 10k! Sounds like you put a lot of mental pressure on yourself during the race. So much of running is about mental training, as well as the physical.

Physical stress can release emotions too - the tension's got to go somewhere and having a cry is sometimes the result; some people feel an overwhelming sense of depression too during physical exertion.

Now I know I've no experience of racing, just running, however I find it helps to break the route down. I've coping methods like mapping out where I'm running and focusing on getting to that point rather than thinking of the entire distance. So 'through this bit of wood' I focus, then onto the next landmark etc. Also I take my mind off the actual running by thinking about other things.. sometimes these are a bit like dreams, they're really random. Known as blocking techniques, I believe.

10/09/2012 at 12:06

Thanks so much everyone.

There are some great tips in there (love the counting backwards one, and will try mapping out the route too), and also some very encouraging words. All most appreciated

I'm definitely feeling a bit better about it all now. I suppose I should be proud that I tried! Wouldn't have been able to do anything like that a year ago

10/09/2012 at 12:16

I know it sounds daft, but i just keep telling myself its all in my head, and my legs could go on and on! I do a little mental check on my legs and ask myself if they are fine to keep going? the answer is always "yes" so i ask myself why i need to stop? ...Its a silly little thing, but it works for me!

We have all had that one awful run, we would rather forget, but just chalk it up to experiance 



10/09/2012 at 13:35

"Once the weakness has gone all thats left is the strength" "Not failed before this won't be the first time" "The mind gives up long before the body needs to"

Not sure if these will help but when I am doing a LSR they get me through the hard bits...


10/09/2012 at 14:32
Go yourself a break. This was your first race so you are on the first rung of the learning curve. Lesson one - a hot day can really slow you down. Time to prepare to beat your PB in your next race on a cooler day.
10/09/2012 at 14:49

I have stolen my friend's mantra for when LSR get tough there will be times when I think I can't do it but I will have the rest of my life knowing I did. That seems to work for me yet to determine if works for actual events.

Oh and doing Maths in my head helps me block the negative thoughts. How many days to Christmas? How old am I exactly in years, weeks days? But that might be just me!


10/09/2012 at 15:01

I really struggle with this I must admit and I still have races now where I struggle if I start badly.

I either try and keep a song in my head and sing the same line over again when I feel negative thoughts creeping in something like Queens "Don't stop me now" ( proper cheesy I know)

I do try to set off with positive thoughts though and I must admit my best races have been the ones that I don't have any expectations of myself and I just think Oh well if I get round without crying or  then its a bonus. You will get there eventually. I find a lot of running is in the mind.

10/09/2012 at 15:03

Oh and there is no shame in walking a bit.

11/09/2012 at 16:40

Thanks again all. Very much appreciated! I shall try some of these methods on my run tonight

11/09/2012 at 16:59

Crimson  - ever since reading your post about doing maths, I have been trying to calulate my age in weekdays....not just when running, but all the time! Thanks for that!

11/09/2012 at 18:10
I thought the maths tip was for something else??
11/09/2012 at 18:28

oh. you mean like a man thing?

11/09/2012 at 18:40
Think I have learned more than I needed to know there!
11/09/2012 at 21:47
OT, but I was lined up at the start of a 10K a couple of weeks ago and there was a young woman crying her eyes out, in her running gear. She was there with her boyfriend (who was also running) and he was trying to console her, but she was just getting worse and worse. I'm assuming it was her first run, she had been training for x months and in her mind all the training and come to that moment just before the race and she couldn't cope. It impacts people in different ways I suppose.

She did finish though, and she looked incredibly relieved/happy at the end

This is no help whatsoever to the OP, but anyway....
11/09/2012 at 22:31

Big_G - that definitely IS a help to me! Good to know I'm not the only one out there who bawls my eyes out like that!! Now I feel slightly less silly

11/09/2012 at 23:31

Funky - every run will give you more confidence.  It takes time and perseverance, but there's a runner in all of is, and we just have to bring it out.  Back in high school days I was always third last in any race (two very fat guys behind me...), couldn't run to save myself.  With perseverance it was suggested to me in 2006 that I run a 20k race.  I'd never run properly before, thought it was madness, but entered for a laugh.  Got a 2:12 with a lot of walking towards the end, but was amazed to finish it.  Fast forward and I'm (all being well on the day with weather etc) in the right place to beat my marathon PB of 3:59 in Berlin at the end of this month.

It's not a fast time by some people's standards, but it's more than I ever dreamt I was capable of achieving.  Running 5k was "impossible" to me years ago, but now I'm running marathons.  Sounds silly to say, but if I can do it, any bugger can...  you did your first 10k, and I wager it's not your last (or your fastest)!

12/09/2012 at 00:20
Funky, doing recent marathon, on way up day before, I listed all sorts of positive words, phrases, little game. So words like

focused, Be brilliant, steel eyed, concentrate, awesome... Big list of 15-20.
Read the list a few times, and then on the day before start.

During the run, it really helped, literally had programmed myself to filter out negatives and keep going. It also gave me a few stray odd thoughts, a little funny.

I also had a mantra.

More here if you want the full details.

Much like strunner, I can remember not being able to do 5k in under 35-40 minutes on a treadmill. With a bit of will power, amazing what you can do.

Strunner, good luck in 3 weeks. Might be some tips in there for you, print a pace band!
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