Mindset

How Running Impacts You Mentally

It’s no secret that the mind-body connection is key when it comes to fitness – and running in particular. Your mindset can seriously impact your success (or not) in a race.

“Setting yourself up for any race starts with your mindset,” agrees EXOS expert Kerry Greer.

And while running a marathon in the 21st century presents plenty of mental battles (the “wall” at mile 20, for instance), imagine if you were physically assaulted and almost removed from the course by an angry race official – simply because you were a woman.

"The longer we go, the better we feel. We get relaxed, into the stride, and the world is rosier. Katrine Switzer, on marathon running"

That’s just one of the hurdles Kathrine Switzer overcame in the 1967 Boston marathon. You can read her full story here, but the gist: She was the first woman to officially cross the finish line of a 26.2-mile road race and in doing so she paved the way for women’s running as we know it today.

Of that infamous race day, Switzer says: “When that attack happened, I was angry and afraid for the next 20 miles. But then it left me. You cannot run 20 miles and stay angry. I got a great rush of inspiration and a sense of being free and even all-powerful then. I felt like I could do anything and was willing to die trying.”

Here, three ways Switzer pushes past mental barriers – and how you can too.

JUST PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER.  

How Running Impacts You Mentally“I concentrated [in the 1967 race] – and still do – on putting one foot in front of the other. Running itself gives you focus, vision, and fearlessness,” says Switzer. Greer agrees: “Focus on the short-term and the task that is immediately in front of you. Don’t reach too far out or you will lose focus.” Even if you start the run on the “wrong” foot, just keep going. “The longer we go, the better we feel. We get relaxed, into the stride, and the world is rosier,” says Switzer.

BE GRATEFUL. 

“The second thing I never fail to do is to go through my Gratitude List,” says Switzer. “I know I’m the luckiest woman in the world to even be able to be out running and so I have a list of thank yous I recollect to remind me. Every day I am grateful.” Greer adds that there is a physical impact of those positive vibes: “Positive talk and cues can help you get past those moments where it just seems too hard,” she says.

"Research shows that exercise can inspire creative thinking."

LET YOUR MIND RUN FREE.

“I let ideas rush in like fresh air. Running brings oxygen into the brain faster and opens pathways for quicker thinking and totally random thoughts,” says Switzer. (In fact, research shows that exercise can inspire creative thinking.) “If I have a particular thing I need to solve, I let my mind float free to get rid of the garbage on the top and then I let the refreshed brain think about the project or writing assignment or personal issue and focus on it. A solution or idea usually surfaces. The trick is to remember it, so you need to write it down quickly, or carry a phone and dictate it into notes.”