Thursday, June 10, 2021

Mind and Body: How to Run Longer Distances

This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Kristen Susiekna. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome tips. Take it away, Kristin!

Running, just like writing, is a trick of the mind. It’s a form of endurance few people decide to tackle. Like writing, running invigorates the mind, stimulates the senses, and pushes us to learn along the way. But how do you train your mind and your body to cover new ground? How do you go from running a mile to running 26.2 miles or more? Like writing, does it get better with practice?

In my opinion, to run longer distances, you should concentrate on three aspects:

  • Strengthen your mind
  • Strengthen your body
  • Strengthen your determination

Together these elements can help you achieve running success and enjoy a longer run. Read on to learn more about the process and ways to achieve a new distance goal.

Strengthen Your Mind

Research shows that to run your best you must have focus. Without it, you may cross a finish line, but maybe not in your goal time or with your mind and body feeling fueled and fulfilled.

I’ve experienced this often in my running journey. When I first started, I never thought I could run a mile. Five miles felt astronomical, a half marathon a dream, and a marathon truly impossible. Anything beyond that? Well, people didn’t run that far, did they?

The main issue for me involved the idea of being in my own head for so long uninterrupted. Sure, scenery helped break up the monotony of my thoughts, but what could I possibly think about for that long and longer to make it worthwhile?

However, the more I learned about running, the more I realized that to run longer distances I needed to think of my mind as a tool. It could help me, if I let it.

Sometimes, it would stab me or force me to quit. Other times, it bolstered me on my run and helped me achieve paces and goals I never imagined myself doing.

But how do you strengthen your mind? It comes down to focus and taming that little voice in your head.
In my running, I like to distract myself, divert my attention from the act and think about other things. I find I can do this pretty easily when running with a friend. Conversations flow and make the miles fly.

However, when by myself, my thoughts become less positive and more centered on every little nuance — my breathing’s too fast, my footfall isn’t midfoot, my arm swing’s too stiff, I’ve only run a quarter mile … the list goes on.

When I’ve reached this point, I try to bring out my inner cheerleader, picture myself reaching milestones (a branch, a lamp, a house, etc.), or focus on time. These steps allow me to ground myself and motivate me to keep going.

Another big help for me in strengthening the mind involves speed work. Putting myself in uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing situations forces me to focus on what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and dig deep. Also, when I reach a cool-down stage, I make sure to congratulate myself on pushing past a limit.

If you want to strengthen your mind to run longer distances, make sure you’re taking steps to do so. Try to focus on certain parts of your running, run with a friend, or set small goals for yourself throughout a run.

Strengthen Your Body

Your mind is only part of the deal, however. If you want to run longer, strengthen your body too. My favorite way to do this is through speed work, bodyweight training, and planks. 

We’ve already covered speed work. To summarize: it offers a good avenue to strengthen your muscles, increase your pace, and endure longer mileage by breaking it up into chunks. 

Bodyweight training, however, works your muscles in other ways. What I like about this type of exercise is that you don’t need any equipment to do it. You just need yourself and about half an hour. Focus on running-related exercises, such as lunging and balancing. Yoga also helps strengthen and relax your muscles. 

Planking develops your core strength. You might not know it, but building a strong core can lead to big running gains. You use your core throughout your run. It’s the main body part holding all your other parts together. If you strengthen it, you can become a stronger runner for longer.

Strengthen Your Determination

Finally, to secure your path to longer running, make sure you have the determination to do it. Determination is another element of the mind, but it’s also so important to sharpen if you want to meet your goals and endure longer workouts. 

Try strengthening your determination through:
  • Breathing
  • Reading
  • Meditating
All of these activities motivate you and help you during your run. For instance, you can use breathing techniques to tackle anxiety that rises up in tough moments of your run. You can read inspirational words from athletes just like you and think of them as you run. You can invent a mantra from meditation to help you focus. Ultimately, if you have the drive to succeed, the focus to keep going, and the strength to dig deep, you can achieve great things — including running longer distances.
Kristen Susienka is a freelance fiction book editor and content writer. Her articles have appeared in publications like Fleet Feet Journal and Prime Women Magazine. When she’s not working, she enjoys tackling marathons and mentoring other runners. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter: @kristenseditor and Instagram: @kristensedits.

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