Tricks for Dealing with Negative Thoughts During Runs

While we'd love to experience non-stop runner's highs during our runs, it doesn't always work out that way. There are plenty of times while we're running or racing that we start feeling down, discouraged, and lacking in confidence. So how do you turn it around and get yourself feeling confident and motivated to keep running? Here are some tricks for banishing the negative thoughts.


Run with Optimists

Two women running on dirt road
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If one of your running buddies complains frequently during runs, it can be very contagious and may turn your runs into a negative experience. It may be time to start looking for a new running group or some new running partners. You're probably even better off running alone than with someone who's going to bring you down. A good running friend will build you up, support you, and remind you about all the great benefits of running. Seek out positive running partners you'll be amazed at how quickly your runs fly by and how much more you enjoy them.


Play the This Could Be Worse Game

When I'm feeling negative during a run, I try to make sure I'm not taking running for granted. I think back to times when I was injured or unable to run for another reason, and how frustrated and disappointed I was back then. I think about those who are not able to run and realize how lucky I am to be healthy enough to continue running.

Or, I think about how running is so much better than other things I could be doing, like sitting on a work conference call or doing an undesirable house chore like cleaning the bathroom. Before I know it, I'm feeling more optimistic and grateful, and the time starts passing much more quickly.


Picture Yourself as an Elite Runner

Think about an accomplished runner whom you admire and try to imagine yourself running as him or her. Whether he or she is a famous runner, a coach, or a running friend, think about how fluid and flawless his or her form is, and picture yourself doing the same thing. Try to focus on running with good form to help distract you from any negative thoughts in your head or discomfort you're feeling.


Use a Mantra

Whether they're positive or negative, words can be very powerful during a run. If you let the negative thoughts, such as "I feel tired" or "I'm never going to finish this race," creep in, they'll become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep saying a positive phrase such as, "I feel good" or "I'm feeling better." You'll eventually start to believe it. 


Think About Your Fantastic Runs

If you're having a bad run, think back to one of those perfect runs you've had in the past when running felt so easy, smooth, and effortless. Think about that run you did when the scenery was so beautiful, it almost took your breath away. Remember how good and inspired you felt as you were running. Don't forget that another fantastic run is right around the corner.

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