Whilst running is a physical act, there is so much mental strength involved in it - more than most realise. This mental strength extends beyond being able to push your body to the limit on a regular basis. It spans the ability to hold back when you need to and allow your body the rest and recovery it requires. Outside of this, it covers being able to take comments from others with a pinch of salt, especially those who don’t have your best interests at heart.
Ability to push harder when it hurts
Out of all the aspects of running that require mental strength, this is probably the easiest. To improve and push your performance, we have to be able to work our body to their limits in order to extend where they lie. The ability to do this is only marginally physical, because if you don’t have the mental strength to work hard, your physical ability will never be put to use.
Ability to withstand outside comments
Now, whilst you can’t control how others act and behave, you can control how you respond to them, and this requires a lot of strength. You need mental strength to be able to let the irrelevant comments of others bounce off of your brain rather than get absorbed. As you go through life, inside and outside of running, you will always be faced with the opinions of others, and these may not always be conducive to your wellbeing. For this reason, if we can’t stop their comments, we have to possess the strength to not let them get to us.
Ability to pull back when you need to.
Now this is where true mental strength lies. For a lot of runners, doing more and working hard is the easiest option. It is being able to pull the reins in and hold yourself back when you need that poses the true challenge. For example, some sessions, such as leading into a race, aren’t about emptying the tank, they’re about getting the legs moving but feel strong and good. If you didn’t hold back when needed you’d never witness your true potential. If you work too hard all the time, sometimes you risk not getting the best out of yourself.
Discipline to allow your body to rest
Similarly to the previous point, this is crucial to progression in running. Our bodies need rest to get stronger and be able to consistently perform at a high level. If we don’t have the mental willpower to be strict and force ourselves to rest, our bodies won’t ever get the time to become stronger, and inevitably faster. Similarly, we need sleep. I’d like me, you undoubtedly wake up early, be strict and make sure you get an early night. If you get a sufficient amount of sleep your body has much more time to build and repair, preparing you for a hard days training the next day.
Strength to do what is right for you.
This is something that for a while I struggled to do. I felt in order to improve and become faster, I had to train like those who are faster than me. However, I soon realised that to be the best I can be, I have to train in ways that are right for me, otherwise I will more than likely become exhausted and go backwards than improve. Thus, one of the strongest things you can do mentally is have confidence in yourself and what works for you. Don’t allow yourself to conform to what works for others, besides strong and trust your instincts.
All of these points require mental over physical strength, and they can be just as influential over your performance as you physical strength. So, be sure not to neglect your mental strength, because it’s as important to build it as it is your physical power.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!