Top Ten Mental Running Tips

By Rick Morris

All those miles or kilometers of training did its job. Your body is a finely tuned running machine. And yet, you still meet some running challenges. There always have been and always will be those times when, no matter how physically fit you are, running or racing becomes harder than it should be.  Those unexpected challenges are often caused by mental or psychological roadblocks. No worries! You can overcome mental barriers with a few simple mental running tips and techniques. Here are our top ten mental running tips.

Break it Up

A very easy and effective mental running trick for longer training runs or races is to break up the run into smaller segments. For example you might mentally break a 20 mile run into five 4 mile segments. Only thinking about the next 4 miles rather than the next 20 can make the run mentally easier.


The next time you start to struggle during a run, just go to the movies. Visualize a movie of how you see your perfect run. Run that movie in your head and let your body follow.

Distance Deception

Your brain is an incredibly powerful organ and is the source of mental running tips.  It can stop you from doing something that you are physically able as well as allowing you to do something that is beyond your current physical skills. One amazing thing your brain does is dole out just enough energy to get you to the finish line of your run. If you are mentally prepared for a 13 mile hard run, your brain, or more specifically, your central nervous system (CNS), will take charge behind the scene. It will dole out just enough energy to get you to the finish line with what it considers to be a safe reserve. This all happens sub-consciously. But, you can trick your CNS by convincing yourself that you are running further. When you are about 1 mile from the finish line, image that you are actually 2 miles away. With enough practice you will find that your energy and performance levels will increase in the later stages of your race.


When your body is hurting and your mind is weakening, go to your happy place. Take a ride to nirvana. Don’t dwell on the pain. Acknowledge the pain and let it go. Focus on feelings of peace and bliss. The discomfort may still be there but it will only be a sensation, not pain.

The Tourist

Disassociation is a tried and true mental running trick. Disassociation is basically taking your mind off your running and placing it elsewhere. A common disassociation technique is focusing on the external environment around you. Concentrate on sights, sounds and smells surrounding you on your run. You will forget about any challenges or discomfort and will reach the finish line in no time.

Inner Monitor

Another useful running trick is association, which is the direct opposite of disassociation. One type of association is inner monitoring. Using this technique you focus closely on your breathing, stride mechanics, foot strike, proprioception, pace and the condition of your body. This is a particularly useful technique for competitive runners.

Outer Monitor

Out monitoring is another type of association. Instead of focusing what is taking place inside your body, you concentrate on outside influences such as your fellow runners, road or trail conditions, your position in the race, etc. This is not the same as disassociation because you are still focusing on your running and race conditions.

The Lasso

The lasso is a mental running technique for competitive runners that is similar to drafting. That runner ahead of you can to you a great favor. They can give you a psychological assist by, in effect, pulling you along.

World Turning

When running you almost certainly feel like you are running along the ground. Here is unique mental trick that can make running just seem easier. Instead of thinking about running forward along the ground try to visualize the ground moving backward under your feet. Feel like the earth is spinning under you and you are just moving your legs to maintain your position. With enough repetitions of this technique you will soon feel like your running is effortless.

Forget About It

There are times that mental running tricks just don’t seem to work. If you hit that point, then fall back to the ultimate running trick – forget about it! Forget about the pain, the physical discomfort or the mental anguish and just run. Run hard or run easy. Run fast or run slow. Do both. Just run. That’s what it’s all about.