Mental Training in Endurance Sports

One of the areas often ignored by individuals who compete or participate in endurance sports is the mental side of their training. As a subset of training your mind, using your mind to push your performance levels higher and get off the plateau that you are currently on is a fantastic strategy.


We all have barriers that we would like to break but just seem unable to. My goal that I have be unable to break in 10 years of running is a sub 20:00 5K. I have gotten really close, with a PR at the distance of 20:30 even. Most of my other goals at other distances and disciplines I have achieved. But that goal at the 5K has always alluded me.

I just had a friend email me a link to this article in the NY Times. While I do not necessarily agree with all of their strategies, I think this is really worth a read. Take disassociation for example. This is the process of not focusing on the pain that you are in while in the middle of a race. It is sending your mind somewhere else while your body is hurting. Me, I want to know what is happening in my body so I can make adjustments to nutrition, stride, etc. I like the idea of “power words” or other happy thoughts to get you over the hump when you are really hurting.

I usually don’t like to run or ride angry either. Sometimes life gets in the way and you are upset before a workout and you have to workout angry. But workouts tend to have a calming effect on me, so I rarely finish a workout and remain upset.

Positive thinking during a workout is another approach entirely. You should check out this article in Running Times about this strategy. It is one that I use when my muscles really start to fatigue and want to give out. It involves more the power of positive thinking to improve performance. I grew up listening to Zig Ziglar talks on tape, so I think that is why this strategy appeals to me more than disassociation.

Either way, the mind is a powerful tool to help you significantly improve your performance. Just because your performance level is, let’s say at 10:00 miles, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve that to a 7:00 mile. There are lots of strategies out there for the mental side of training and racing, and the key is trying out several to find which works for you. 

What strategy do you use?

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...