5 Mental Tricks to Make Running Feel Easier

Although running is a very physical activity, a lot of what you get out of running and how quickly you improve will depend on your mental strengths.

When the going gets hard the easiest thing to do is slow down or stop running altogether. Maybe you’ve gone off too fast with your run or you’re pushing yourself to the edge of your physical abilities. Or maybe it’s your mind that’s holding you back.

Very often with running it’s your mind that’s the problem. Your body can run further, your body can run faster, but your brain is holding you back. It’s thinking “This is getting way too hard, I need to do something about it”.

That’s when you slow down or stop before the end of the run believing that you can’t possibly finish.

So how do you break through these barriers?

How do you make running feel easier so that you can make your body run further or faster than ever before?

Here are 5 mental tricks that will help…

1. Run to the next target

Sometimes with running you can feel like you’re right on the edge. You’re at the point of thinking “I need to stop running any second”.

A good thing to do in this situation is to set yourself a target which could be the next post, tree, or house.

This gives your mind a sense of relief because it thinks “All I have to do is get to the next tree and then my body can rest”.

It’s the same feeling that many people experience near the end of a race. They feel exhausted and like they couldn’t do possibly do anymore but then they end the race with a sprint finish. This shows that it’s their mind that’s the weak link, not their body.

The good thing with this technique is that you can very often keep going when you reach your target because you realise that you still have a bit of energy left. So then you set another target, “Right, now I’ll aim for that tree over there”.

This helps to split the run into smaller segments which is very useful when you’re struggling near the end of a run. Aiming for the next small target is much easier mentally than thinking you’ve still got another mile left or another 10 minutes to run.

2. Think about something else

Rather than thinking about the difficulty of running and how tired your body is feeling, it’s often better to try and think about something completely different.

Try to let your mind wonder and think about anything except how your body is feeling at that moment. It could be things like what you’re doing tonight, what you’re doing at the weekend, or your next holiday.

Some people who run on a treadmill while watching television, or people who run with others, can run further or faster under these conditions than they can on their own. It’s because their mind is not telling them to stop, it’s thinking about something else instead.

Sometimes it can be hard to take your mind completely off the difficulty of your run if you’re really struggling. However, even if you can just get one or two minutes of mental rest it can be enough to get you through a difficult period or get you to the end of your run.

3. Listen to music

Listening to music is similar to thinking about something else when running, as described above.

However, with music most people find it easier to switch off from the difficulty of their run. You always have the music in your ears so it’s a constant distraction which makes it easier to let your mind relax and wonder.

You don’t need to try to think about anything else, you just need to listen.

Pick the right music that motivates you and you’ll also find that it helps to push you on to run further or faster than you normally would.

4. Concentrate on your running style

With this technique you focus on how you are running rather than how hard your running feels.

So instead of thinking “I really need to stop”, you think things like “Hold it together, keep your head up, keep those arms working”.

By focussing on your running style you achieve several objectives…

It takes your mind away from the difficulty of the run, you run further or faster during the run because you don’t tire as quickly, and you also teach yourself to become a better runner.

This is one of the main mental techniques that I use because improving your running style has a direct effect on improving your running ability.

5. Remind yourself that you’ve done it before

Another technique that I like to use is to remind myself that I’ve done the run before and there’s no reason why I can’t do it again.

Very often someone will be struggling mentally on a run and saying things like “I just can’t do it, I’ll never finish it”, when they’ve done the exact same run several times before.

If you haven’t had any time off, been injured, or had any other setbacks since you last completed the run then really there’s no excuse not to be able to do it again.

So when you remind yourself that you’ve done it before this provides more motivation to keep going, plus it gives you more confidence that you can make it through the run.

Break through those mental barriers

With running it’s important to do whatever you can to get the best out of each of your runs. The higher the quality of your runs, the fitter you become and the better runner you become…

And becoming a fitter and better runner is a great help when trying to lose weight.

With this blog post I’ve given you 5 mental tricks that make running feel easier which will help you run further or faster and improve your running ability quicker.

Just remember though that different mental tricks work for different people so try them out and do what works best for you.

Have you used any of these mental tricks to make running feel easier? Which do you find the most useful?

Do you have other mental tricks that you use?


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9 Responses to 5 Mental Tricks to Make Running Feel Easier

  1. Pauline says:

    I use all these tricks! But I completely agree that often it’s the mind holding you back. An example of this comes from my training last week. At the moment I do my running on a treadmill. I’d managed half an hour at 9kph before scaling back a bit and doing the last few minutes at a slower pace. When the time came for a longer run at the weekend, I started out at 9kph, which I’d managed half an hour of before, but soon thought “this is too difficult, I’m never going to manage very long at this pace” and I scaled back to 8.5kph, which I managed fine. It wasn’t until I looked back at what I’d done previously (I record everything) that I realised I probably could have done a longer run at 9kph, or at least more than the 5 minutes or so I actually did!! That was a lesson learned.

    I also make sure I use different music for different runs, so I have the upbeat stuff for the harder than usual runs, more pop type stuff for the interval runs (because having to change every couple of minutes is enough to keep me interested) and anything at all for the longer run, even the film showing on the gym TV. That way, I don’t get bored with the same thing every time and lose interest.

    Really enjoying the blog posts, they help a great deal.

    • James says:

      I’m glad that you’re enjoying the blog posts Pauline and that they are helping.

      It’s good that you’re using plenty of mental tricks to get more out of your running. Also, your tip about using different music for different types of running is useful.

  2. MaRia says:

    Or it may take someone like James to make you get your butt off the sofa and start running again through your stressful time or after an injury. Thanks James its hard going getting back into shape but I know its worth it.

  3. Donna says:

    Personally, I dont like running with the tv on. I use running kind of like “me time”, a de-stresser, meditation, therapy session(lol). So I like to zero in on the run itself, and focus on my breathing, form etc. I do like running to music at times, though, inspirational fast paced upbeat music, and at times, I even try to keep my stride to the beat of music thus keeping me motivated and staying longer. Whatever works!!!

  4. Liz says:

    I’m a former runner who is trying to get back into it & have alot of weight to lose & feel ALOT older. I’ve set an aggressive goal for myself (to run a 1/2 marathon in November) in hopes that I will stick with it. I am VERY slow presently so it is brutal for me to run such short distances & for it to take up so much time! So I use just about every one of these techniques above just to accomplish my small goals right now. Hoping to use them on my 13 mile one day as well!! Thanks for reminding me of ALL the tips!

  5. Katie says:


    These are good tips!! I did a 10k last year and doing the same again this year. I really want to beat my last year time 59 mins, but for some reason this year I am struggling with motivation and finding it soo much harder. Frustrating!!x

  6. Clayton says:

    I am just now becoming strong enough to support proper running posture. I notice the most comfort gains after having physical breakthroughs while improving my sitting posture.

    Running is becoming a great freedom for me!

    I’m working on improved foot posture and core strengthening exercises daily.

  7. Saba says:

    I’ve been runing from 1 year now and I ve managed to loose 15kilo through runing .
    Although still it gets very hard at times. I run at 9.5 kph for 40 minutes.
    I use all the above menal techniques , music and thinking about what I’m gona cook tonight are my biggest distractions . 🙂
    Also I stop for 30seconds every 5 minutes if I get very tired.
    As well as I keep reminding my self the higher pulse rate I have the better and younger my skin will look. For girls it’s a big motivation 😉

  8. Destiny says:

    I am a very slow runner and I think.it has to do with my mind