How to Keep Your Mind Busy on a Run

by Her Happy Balance on September 16, 2015

Today I am sharing simple tricks and tips on how to keep your mind busy while spending lots of time running.  Practicing these tips will help keep your mind off the I’m tired thoughts and preoccupied with little games and fun exercises.

Staying busy running

Over the last 3 months I have devoted one day each weekend to a long run. I’d say that after an hour or so of running, boredom can start to set in. It’s at this time that I become more prone to negative thoughts and mental fatigue. If I’m having a “bad run day” that mental fatigue can start to creep up even sooner at just a couple miles in. So what’s a girl to do when she’s got 15 miles on her schedule but is lacking in the motivation department? Keep your brain busy!

Some of my best runs have been when I’ve completely forgotten I was running, getting absorbed in my surroundings and lost in my head. Sometimes that can happen naturally, but oftentimes for me it is an active process. Occasionally I really have to take a moment and redirect my thoughts. Here’s a few simple ways I trick myself into forgetting about the soreness and just have some fun instead:

1.) Count Something. Maybe it’s the Type-A in me, but I love to count. My favorite things to count are flags and specific types of plants. I loved going on summer runs down the shore during the Fourth of July weekend – there were so many American flags to count! Have a little fun, make whatever you count holiday or season specific. If it’s December, why not count all the houses you run by with hanging icicle lights? If you find that you still can’t keep the fatigue at bay, maybe set a goal for yourself – once I’ve counted 50 mums, I’ll take a little walking break.

2.) Tell Yourself a Story. Whenever I need some extra motivation, I like to imagine myself crossing the finish line of whatever race it is that I’m training for. I write a whole little story in my head –  from the cheers I hear the sideline supporters yell as I cross the finishing point, to the breakfast I order at the post-race celebration brunch.

I also like to take note of the interesting people/pets/places/objects that I pass during my run. If I spot a man riding his bicycle early in the morning, I’ll assign a little story to him. For example, maybe that man got up early every morning and cycled to his favorite coffee shop to grab a lemon poppy seed scone to take home to his wife so she could have breakfast in bed. Maybe that’s a little strange, but it’s fun to use your imagination and see the places it can take you.

3.) Make a List. Need to go grocery shopping when you get home? Why not do a mental inventory of your pantry and fridge and create a preliminary grocery list in your head. Have some errands to catch up on in the afternoon? To-do list it! Sure, without a pencil and paper in hand you may not be able to create a complete list, but you’d be surprised at the random items and errands you can remember to buy/do when you’re alone in your head for a couple of hours.

4.) Catch up on Work. Dropping everything to go run for a couple of hours really can impede on your schedule. Instead of spending those 2 or 3 hours thinking about how behind you are on school/work/blogging, try to use that run time productively and creatively. I get some of my best ideas out on a run. If I have a presentation to give at school, I’ll work on writing the speech for that presentation in my head while trucking along. Or you could use your pavement pounding time to draft out an email you’ve been putting off. Maybe come up with some blog post ideas. I was actually running when I planned out this post!

5.) Choose a Mantra. Still having trouble getting into your run? Even when you’re not feeling it, try to remember to always steer your brain in the positive direction. Try to set a specific intention or goal for your run. Once you have your intention, create a little mantra and repeat it to yourself. If you’re telling yourself “I am powerful and capable of all things” chances are you’re probably not going to want to take as many breaks, you’re going to want to live up to your mantra!

6.) Devote the Mile. Really, really bad run day? How about you choose a person, and then devote that next mile to them. Think about that person and what they mean to you instead of how heavy your legs are. Whenever I devote a mile to someone, I know I want that person to be proud of me, so I really push through the tough times.

Well, there you have it friends –  a little peek into my runner’s mind! I have 18 miles on my schedule for this weekend so you can bet that I’ll be counting and storytelling away.

How do you keep your mind busy on a run?
What is your current mantra?

Comments on this entry are closed.

jill conyers September 16, 2015 at 5:42 am

Some of my best blog posts and ideas come to mind while I’m running 🙂

Her Happy Balance September 16, 2015 at 7:47 am

I completely agree – it’s amazing the things you can think of when all you have is time to think and an open road!

Jenn September 16, 2015 at 7:33 am

Great tips!

Her Happy Balance September 16, 2015 at 7:47 am

Thanks, Jenn! Hope you find them useful 🙂

Heather @Fit n Cookies September 16, 2015 at 9:41 am

I think you may be doing each one of these for the 18 miler! Gosh I’m so impressed. It’s such a time commitment, and I know you are going to rock the marathon with these mental strategies!

Her Happy Balance September 16, 2015 at 10:06 am

I think you’re right – let’s hope I can hold out and not have to start devoting my miles to anyone before the second half of the run!

heather September 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

I agree with a lot of the things you said. Great advice. It is mentally difficult on long runs especially if you are along. Have a great day

Her Happy Balance September 16, 2015 at 10:05 am

I so agree – running seems a little less tiring when you have a buddy to do it with. Even if you’re not talking to them during the actual run, it’s nice to know you’re out there doing it together.

Kelly September 16, 2015 at 1:37 pm

These are great ideas! I am partial to the to-do list myself, but I also like it when I can get in the zone with a mantra. One of mine is “Find the strength you know is inside you.” A little cheesy but it gets the job done! I also like the imagine the finish line scene as I set a new PR.

Her Happy Balance September 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm

I love your mantra – I am definitely going to have to remember it for this weekend! You mentioned a PR, sometimes I calculate how quickly I have to run the next X miles to get a new distance PR…that helps pass a little bit of time too.

Katie @ Run Now, Wine Later September 16, 2015 at 2:44 pm

I love this! It’s so hard to explain to someone who doesn’t run long distances that sometimes you really can just zone out, ignore the pain/exhaustion, and have your mind go elsewhere. I definitely do #3 and #4 on the regular! I get bored even on my weekday morning runs, haha, so it’s helpful to be able to think about what needs to be done at work that day.

Her Happy Balance September 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I completely agree – I’m all about the mental to-do list, it helps make use of all that time you spend out there pounding pavement!

Liz September 16, 2015 at 7:20 pm

This is great! I always end up writing out posts, emails, lists while running. The trick to remember them without writing them down! 😉 I also write what I think is the next Great American Novel. Of course I can never write it down after my run quite the way I’d drafted it out in my head.

Her Happy Balance September 18, 2015 at 9:16 am

Thank you, Liz! I’d love to read a chapter or two of the next Great American Novel 😉 Too funny that that’s what you do, but completely understandable – you really can be inspired on the road!

Kristen September 17, 2015 at 1:11 am

Love this post! I definitely get kind of bored on my long runs too, so I may steal some of these on my next one!

Her Happy Balance September 18, 2015 at 9:18 am

Boredom is the worst part, right?! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hope you find some of the tricks usual on your next long one 🙂

Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie September 17, 2015 at 8:51 am

I really like the devote the mile idea! It’s such a positive way to take the focus off your physical pain and direct it towards someone you love.

Her Happy Balance September 18, 2015 at 9:19 am

Thanks, Stacie! Devoting the mile is my secret weapon, when all else fails thinking of loved ones really, really helps push me along 🙂

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