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Mental toughness while running

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  October 9, 2012 07:33 AM

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This weekend for my long run, I decided to really change things up.

New route. New hydration belt. And no music.


By now you all know that I love to run to a steady, pulsing beat while also listening to my GPS call out the miles I've completed.

Jamming to good tunes during a long run makes it easier for me to stay on pace (I just stick with the beat) and makes the time pass quickly.

As I laced up my sneakers for my trail run I wondered if maybe I was depending on music too much to drown out actually thinking about running. You see, listening to music makes it so that I can't listen to that voice inside my head telling me I'm tired, or sore, or bored, or running too slowly, or that I think I'm a klutz and I'm not cut out for this.

I wondered what would happen if I had to actually contend with battling those thoughts during a long run? Would I be able to finish? Would I quit? For me, running is as much (if not more) of a mental game than it is a physical one.

I know my body can run long distances. I know I've logged the miles training. I know my lungs and legs know what to do. But, would I be able to fight my own thoughts without music to occupy my brain?

Right before I hit the trail I left my headphones in the car, winced as I tossed them on the passenger's seat.

As with all of my runs, it took me the entire first mile to really settle in and get comfortable. Usually, by mile three, I'm on autopilot and just cranking. This time, though, without music, I started to think about the fact that I'd *only* gone three miles (which meant I had seven to go!).

Somehow, I willed myself to get to mile five.

Around mile five and a half, I started to just look around. Enjoy. I didn't have music, sure, but not having music allowed me to focus on my breathing and create a steady rhythm out of that. I noticed the way the morning fog was burning off the large farm fields I was passing. I noticed how clean and crisp the air smelled. I noticed I was nearly alone on the trail, except for a few walkers with dogs. I said "good morning" to people as they passed (usually I don't, since I've got my music cranked up).

Suddenly, I looked down at my GPS tracker and it said 8.8 miles. My goal for my run that morning was 10. As I hit my 10-mile mark, I felt like I had really worked hard to accomplish something. I hadn't just logged a training run that morning, I battled my own self-doubt and worked on my mental toughness.

I felt great ... but I still can't decide if I hated running without music or loved it.

Will I run without music again? Probably ... although maybe I won't run 10+ miles without tunes.

What motivates you to get through a tough workout?

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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