While marathon training can surely be a physical challenge, I believe the mental side of it is just as important. If you go into training without your head in the game, chances are you will burnout halfway through the training cycle.
My last marathon was in April, and since then I have taken my time getting ready to start training again. I knew I had to give my body a rest but I also think my brain needed a break, too. It wasn’t until the past few weeks that I have felt mentally ready to start training again. I think that by the end of June/early July I was physically ready- I was running in races and feeling good- but I was also enjoying the time I was able to spend doing other things like easy runs, swimming, classes at the gym, and yoga. I liked that I could enjoy wine whenever I wanted without having to worry about getting a tough workout in the next day. I don’t think I could have enjoyed my summer and all the traveling I did if I always had to worry about training.
Once I came up with my training plan, I started to feel excited about starting to train again. Other bloggers I follow were getting started on their training and it made me want to do the same. I found myself willing to give up the cross-training and the wine and throw myself back into training mode.
I think the best part of getting mentally ready to train was taking last week (when I was away) as a completely care-free run-whatever-I-want kind of week. Running on the beach allowed me to run free of distractions and remember exactly why I love running so much. This, combined with the Charles St 12, left me ready and excited for the upcoming training cycle and whatever the marathon will bring.
Once you are in training mode you will need to rely quite a bit on your mental strength. You will need to be able to push yourself through workouts, make decisions about your training, and remind yourself of why you do it all. If your mental strength isn’t there before the training even starts, it will be that much harder to access when you need it most.
I believe that to be mentally ready to train you need to feel excitement, confidence, a little nervous, and willing to make some sacrifices. Once you are in training mode you will have plenty of time to look forward to the days post-marathon when you can sleep in more and enjoy Friday night happy hours. There are many tools you need to be ready to start training. I’ve been working on putting together a combination of things that I believe will work for me- including tweaking my nutrition, core work, a chiropractor, and specific workouts- to name a few. Now I think the final piece to pull it all together is the mental side. And as I officially started my training yesterday, I felt like that was right where it needed to be.
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What do you think about the mental side of getting ready to train for a marathon?
Do you think its harder physically or mentally?
Sam @ The Running Graduate says
This is awesome 🙂 You are so ready for training and I can’t wait for you to rock your marathon!
While I’ve never trained for a marathon, I imagine that I would find the mental part of it more taxing than the physical part. I would find it hard to push on the lonely runs and to keep going when I’m just so tired. I like sleep a little too much.
I think so much of the training is mental when it comes to such long distances! It’s one thing to convince yourself to go out and run for 45 minutes- its a whole other thing to think about running alone for 3 hours!
Michele @ paleorunningmomma says
Totally agree and relate to all of it! In fact during my run this morning which involved 4 MP miles I definitely had to access all that mental strength to push through and then reminding myself how it will make me stronger. Lately I’ve been going through that on nearly every run! And I agree that you need all of those feelings as well as being willing to sacrifice in order to make it happen. In a nutshell, you have to WANT it and be willing to WORK!
Exactly! If your goals are big enough, its not gonna be easy. You will need to push through the tough runs and it takes alot of mental strength to do that!
Great thoughts. I do believe alot of it is mental, your legs can only take you so far.
Agreed…when your legs get tired your mind will need to push you through!
There is such a huge part of running that is all mental. If you can’t wrap your brain around the fact that you’re going to be running the distance-then there is a piece of your training missing, too. One of the best parts of running is the fact that you have all this time to do that while out on an actual run!
Very true! And I think each long run or tough workout is another test of mental strength. And each time you make it through you come out that much stronger!
Lily @ Lily Runs the World says
This is a really great post! I have yet to train for a marathon, but I hope to start this fall, and I feel like I’m already preparing. I get butterflies reading race reports and I’m so excited to begin training, but I know it will be taxing, both physically and mentally. Reading blogs like yours gives me motivation!
It sounds like you are already taking the first steps towards training by getting in the right mindset!
Training is definitely very mental! I find that doing speedwork with friends keeps me from quitting. I am also “friends” with my running buddies on Garmin Connect. That helps keep me accountable, too. Whenever I read your posts, I feel so excited about the marathon. I love that you’re doing it, too!!!!
It’s really great to be able to connect with other runners as they are training- whether through social media or blogging or real life! Its awesome that you are so excited for the marathon- that means that mentally you are in a great place for training:)
While I’ve never trained for (or run) a marathon, I totally get where you’re coming from. When I was running track/xc with school, I was mentally exhausted. Sometimes it is nice to be able to just run not according to any sort of schedule. I feel like you have a pretty good balance on your training- you are able to run but also fit in some “fun runs” and cross training! It helps avoid burnout which is a very real thing, at least in my experience.
I’m sure that running competitively bring similar challenges that risk burnout! I agree that balance definitely helps. By taking time to back off and do other things, it makes you want to push that much harder when its time to train.
Michael Anderson says
Absolutely! The cliche that ‘your legs will only take you so far’ is absolutely true! When it is pouring rain, cold, windy, or you are just exhausted you need that extra push, that mental toughness to get you out the door!
Exactly! There are so many factors that can influence a workout, and you need to be able to push through using mental strength!
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
i think that the mental and physical sides of marathon training or inherently linked and can’t be separated. And that is a huge part of the battle–sometimes, you are just getting you groove, and then your hammy yells, and throws off your momentum. Or your body feels great, and you just can’t psych yourself up. I’m just under 2 months out from my 2nd marathon, and now I’m waiting for the shoe to drop, as it were. This time is just as hard as the taper–I am just hoping not to get hurt, almost to the point that I just wish the marathon was next weekend so that I could do it before something does happen!
I know what you mean, unfortunately. Similar to that, I’ve had training cycles where I’ve peaked too soon and then gotten hurt from continuing all the training for more weeks until the race. But yes, physical and mental sides are linked and it can be frustrating when one is going well and the other doesn’t cooperate!
Could not agree more hun. I was ready and excited to begin training 6 weeks ago, but now there are definitely days where I would love to sleep in, only run a certain distance, or not have to worry about time. When those times hit, or I’m in the middle of a rough run, I remind myself why I’m out there, think about how it’s going to feel crossing the finish line on November 9, and have faith in the fact that finishing the hard runs prepares me for the rough points that will hit in my race when I want to stop running or don’t think I can do it anymore. I’ve shown myself time and agin that I can get through the tough points on my training runs, so race day is no different.
That is so great that you have learned to overcome your negative thoughts in that way! You will definitely be able to remember those tough runs during your race and know what you can push through once again!
This couldn’t be more on point. I’m currently in training mode, and I find that whenever I’m not mentally in the game with my training plan, I struggle so much with my running. As soon as I snap back into it, I’m good to go. And this past weekend was a testament to that, as I only made it through part of my long run and I was just in a funk when I got up. Can’t wait to get back out there for my long run this weekend and redeem myself! Good luck with the training!
I can definitely relate! I’m sure you will have a redeeming long run this weekend!
Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes says
It is definitely mental for me. I’m midway into my training and starting to hit a mental roadblock for sure. Starting to feel burnt out and would love the feeling of just running for fun again.
I hear ya, but hang in there! Maybe a few easy runs will give you the drive you need to get back into tough training.
I couldn’t agree with you more! I really think you have to be ready mentally to train or it’s not going to happen. The body won’t do what your heart and mind won’t allow. Plus if you aren’t there mentally, you’ll make all the excuses in the world to skip a run, not eat right, and basically sabotage your own training plan.
Exactly! There are going to be points during training where you doubt yourself, but the important thing is that you can pull yourself back on track!
I’m with you, I think mental preparedness and training is key to a successful marathon. Last time I ran a marathon (last fall), I spent my summer eating, sleeping, dreaming with my race in mind. My heart and soul was in it, and I was usually excited to cross another tough workout off my list. I believe that’s why my race went as well as it did. That alone is why I haven’t signed up for another marathon (yet). I haven’t been bitten by the bug, so I don’t want to sign up for something that I’m not craving.
I know what you mean! And your story is a perfect example of how much the mental piece matters. It got you through all of your training and even your race! That’s smart to wait to sign up for another until you’re ready!
Cori @ She's Going the Distance says
completely agree with having to be excited to run a marathon. mental is just as important as the physical! If your heads not into it, your body won’t be either
Definitely! I think sometimes we get stuck on the idea of the 2 marathons (or big races) a year, and its what we may expect of ourselves, but its not always reasonable and our mind or body may not be ready that soon!
great thoughts here! i’m also training for philly and just did my long run this morning. i was thinking about mental strength during my run and re-confirmed to myself that it’s all about the attitude and the way you mentally lay out your run. i’m going to start thinking about my long runs as longer than they actually are because i think that will help me to keep running until the end. for example, if i head out for a 15 miler, i might try to think of it as 20. 15 doesn’t really seem so bad in that case. sort of twisted logic, but seeing as i can be pretty twisted at times, might just work out for me 😉
I think that’s a great idea! Mind games are an awesome way to get through a long run:) good luck as your training continues!