Runners plod through those long, grueling miles not just to whip their bodies into prime shape, but also to build up mental strength. Going the distance requires serious brainpower, and it’s often the mind that wants to quit first. But for most runners, quitting isn’t an option. Sometimes to stay focused, you need to distract yourself. Here are 7 ways to busy your brain on that never-ending run.
These days, it’s a rare thing to be alone with your thoughts: no beeping phones, no files piling up on your desktop, and no kids tugging at your sleeve. Seize the silence by taking the time to think through some challenges you’re facing, whether it’s work-related drama or obstacles in relationships. You’ll come out of it with a clearer head—and you’ll barely notice the miles as they pass.
Music while running is a personal choice, but even those who opt to go sans-iPod can stay distracted with song. Run some favorite song lyrics through your head to give yourself something to focus on—something that doesn’t have to do with how exhausted your legs are.
I have a theory that the runner’s high is just what you experience when you meditate on a run.
Start by fixing your eyes on something up ahead in the distance, slightly up, like a tree, a cloud, or a mountain. Keep a soft focus on that thing—the same kind of focus you’d keep if you were staring at one of those Magic Eye puzzles—and let everything else float away. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the thing you’re looking at. You feel light. You feel peaceful. Guess what—you’re meditating!
Take It All In
Snap out of autopilot by playing close attention to your surroundings. Notice smells and sounds. Crunch leaves on the ground, or dodge a slug crossing the path. Smile at the people you pass by, then imagine their life stories in your head.
Be Your Own Cheerleader
Having a cheer squad or a supportive coach can be incredibly helpful when tackling that major hill or those taxing last few miles. Unfortunately, outside support isn’t always available on training runs. Fortunately, you can learn to be your own coach.
Your inner dialogue might sound something like this: “You can do this. You’re doing it! All you have to do is put one step in front of the other. Just like you’re doing. See? You’re already farther along than when I started this sentence. You only have to make it to that tree, and then you can reassess things. Oh look, you’re already past that tree, and you’re still going—and you look great! Don’t stop now, not when you’re doing this well!” Don’t worry—no one can hear how ridiculous you sound inside your head. And it really works.
Write Your Novel
A wedding speech. An e‑mail to a friend. Your autobiography. Start making a mental draft of something you might hypothetically need to write or say one day. Thinking of the people, the places, and the memories will keep your mind totally and utterly distracted from what you’re actually doing.
Take those moments of mental restlessness to reassess your form. Fix slumped shoulders. Check your breathing. Notice if you’re putting any weird stress on your hips or your knees. A physical check-in might give you that extra burst of energy that you crave.