6 Tips for Aspiring Runners to Build Mental and Physical Endurance

By Meredith Sheldon

Lace up your sneakers and plug in your headphones, because it is time to build your mental and physical endurance. While running may seem to be a monotonous form of exercise, there are ways to make the sport more enjoyable and satisfying. Dr. Treva Anderson, sport psychology consultant and performance expert, said running exercises your mind as well as your body.

“It takes discipline, motivation, dedication, and perseverance to be physically fit — all of these are qualities of mental fitness,” she said. “If you are running, then you’re lapping anyone who’s sitting on the couch.”

Following these tips will help you increase your mental and physical endurance.

Tip 1: Set a goal for your run

Pinpoint a goal to motivate you through a cardio-intensive workout outdoors or on the treadmill. All runners start somewhere. Set mini goals for yourself before and during your run. These can be distance goals, like planning to run two miles, or time goals, like running for at least 20 minutes. Over time, you can modify your goals to increase the challenge.

“Feeling confidence in your ability to run can go a long way in setting challenging goals for running and staying motivated to continue,” said Dr. Anderson.

Tip 2: Track your progress

Journaling and logging your running accomplishments keeps you on track with your progress. Record the distance and time of your workout. See how your overall endurance improves.

Fitness apps, such as Nike Running or Couch to 5K, allow you to actively track your run. Add your friends on the app to work with them on building running stamina. Having a buddy will help you be consistent.

Tip 3: Build a killer playlist

Music can be a nice way to provide you with an external sense of rhythm, said Dr. Kristen Dieffenbach, a U.S. Track and Field Endurance Coach and executive board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.

Make your own personal playlist on Spotify tailored to your workout desires. Search for different workout playlists and songs with fast beats to help pace the run. Although music is a good pain distraction while running, Dr. Dieffenbach warned more experienced athletes and runners to be mindful when being using music. She said it can be harder to push the limit during a sprint or run while being plugged into a musical beat.

“If you are gonna run your best time ever, it is gonna hurt and you have to stay on the edge,” she said. “It is an uncomfortable place to be, but you want to be aware of what it looks and feels like to be running at a certain pace.”

Tip 4: Design an interval workout

Running at the same pace for 20 minutes will feel significantly longer than running in intervals. Switch up the pace and challenge your body to alternating sprints.

Find a solid pace that is challenging, but stable enough to do for long distances. Then do sprints for certain time increments and go back to your original pace. If you switch up the pattern of these paces, you will find your running stamina building and the time flying by.

Interval training also increases calorie expenditure, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, so it is a win-win for you

Tip 5: Distract yourself

Running hurts. It is not easy. Exercising your mind during your run will help take your mind off the pain.

Dr. Anderson said she advises runners to tune their thoughts to other things while running. Ponder solutions to daily problems or think about what you are having for dinner.

“This lack of focus on the task can allow the body to do what it has been trained to do, rather than have the mind slow the body down,” she said. “Many find that they run best when they are not mentally tuned into the act of running, especially if they have not fallen in love with the sport.”

Tip 6: Learn to love it

Seek satisfaction and joy in running. If you learn to love running, it will feel less like a chore and more like a reward. Dr. Dieffenbach said if you are intrinsically motivated, you can maintain a consistent, strong running habit. Make this exercise fun and exciting. Find the reason why you run and reflect on why this sport and exercise helps you, relieves stress and clears your mind.

“If you lose the fun and the satisfaction, you stop doing it,” said Dr. Dieffenbach. “You never want it to be 100 percent work. Make it fun. There is nothing wrong with stopping on the run to pet the dog.”


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