5 Mental Tweaks I’m Making to Enjoy Marathon Training More

Running has been really difficult for me both mentally and physically lately. Physically: the heat and humidity are making me slower and my legs are still just kinda creaky. Mentally: there’s a whole lot going on AND the physical stuff and related slower paces are frustrating.

I read Kristin’s post about being excited to not train for a marathon this year and did some good, hard thinking. Did I still really want to do this this year? Yes, I want to run sub-4, but do I really want to do all the training that goes into it?

I thought about whether I’d have FOMO missing out on fun long runs with friends or if it was the training, goal-setting and goal-acheiving that I’d actually miss. Sure, if I weren’t training, I’d have some FOMO for the fun my friends were having on their long runs, but I’d really miss the thrill of finishing a long run feeling awesome or hitting goal paces during speedwork…and then the eventual high of hitting that big, sweet sub-4 goal.

A few days ago, I thought about what I could do to turn my training around. One big one was less wine. There’s just been too much of it in my life lately and it’s not doing any favors for my training, waistline or wallet. I’m also recommitting to my yoga practice to balance out the creakiness.

But there’s also a few significant mental tweaks I’m making.


Enjoying the journey. Life’s a journey, not a destination and all that. But in all seriousness, training is 16 weeks and the marathon itself will be 3 hours and 50-something minutes. If I don’t start embracing the journey, it’s gonna suck.

Thanks to my buddy Laura, I’ve really gotten into Jillian Michaels’ podcast. It shows a much softer side of the tough trainer, and it’s sort of like therapy in my headphones. Each podcast has several segments. Sometimes they’re focused on fitness topics, but more often and not, they discuss common issues. One I heard today that I really identified with was: Attaching to the Goal and Not the Journey. HELLO!? I am so attached to sub-4-or-bust that I’m not enjoying the journey to get there.

On the podcast, Jillian (we’re on a first-name basis now) talks about a man who tried out for The Biggest Loser who wanted to win the show, become his hometown hero and inspire everyone he knew. Jillian talked about him needing to focus on getting healthier and enjoying that and leading a life he was proud of, rather than having to win. He’d said he wouldn’t be happy unless he won the show, and she was nudging him to enjoy the process more.

Getting rid of negative thoughts. Jess sent me this exercise to get rid of negative thoughts. Though Believe I Am is a running journal, this is really a universal exercise. I took the 5 minutes the other night to write down all my negative thoughts–mostly focusing on running but writing the other ones down, too–and then writing down ways to reframe those thoughts.


Enjoying the surroundings. Instead of grumbling through my miles at how my pace and the weather suck, I’ve been trying to enjoy myself and my surroundings more. After all, I live in NYC. There’s ALWAYS something new to see. For Monday’s run, I was super-sick of my usual east or west side paths, and I ran down to the Brooklyn Bridge, across it and back across the Manhattan Bridge and up Bowery. Running south to the bridges, I caught this view and couldn’t help but appreciate seeing the two bridges and Lady Liberty.

Embrace the suck. Some of it’s going to suck. Not every run is going to be puppies and sunshine. But just as the hard stuff in life is what makes us who we are, so are the hard runs. They’re the ones that make us stronger, mentally and physically. I’ve been trying to stop fighting it and trying to embrace that my pace would suck for the foreseeable future…and what do you know? It’s slowly getting back down to where it normally is.

It’s supposed to be fun, as Jess reminded me. I’m not Liz, and I don’t intend on winning the marathon, and, oh yeah, I chose to do this, so I’m reminding myself to let go a little more and have fun.

How do you turn it around when your mind just isn’t into your training? This isn’t a mental tweak, but I’ve also started listening to music a bit more while running so I can completely get out of my head.

29 comments on “5 Mental Tweaks I’m Making to Enjoy Marathon Training More

  1. Becky @ Olives n Wine

    I needed this encouragement today. I am training for my first marathon and have had a couple weeks of crappy runs which are leading me down a super-negative thought path. I am afraid that I “can’t” do it and need to focus on the journey, not just the actual race date. Thanks for the inspiration and reality check!

  2. Crystal

    I think you read my mind. My marathon is in December and I’m having a hard time getting my head back into the game. Thanks for your inspiration.

  3. Caroline

    I love Jillian’s podcast! I listen to it on almost every long run during training cycles. I love that it shows a different side of her šŸ™‚

  4. Katie

    I recently had to do a little re-set also. I’m 3 weeks post marathon right now and was struggling with figuring out a new goal. I decided its time to take a little break from focusing on the road, and now I’m going to give biking a try! Irongirl has a dualthon a few hours from where I live, and the race is in 10 weeks, which gives me enough time to train, but also its close enough where I won’t get burned out from a long training plan. Then it will almost be winter, where I always take a break from goals and try lots of fun classes!

  5. Allison @ With Faith and Grace

    I adore Jillian’s podcasts! I listen to them on my runs all the time. She is awesome and I love how real she is and how you hear what the show is really like, because it’s certainly not what you see on TV or what people say.

    Although I’m a very newbie runner (only done a couple 5K runs), I’m working toward doing my first 10K and the runs this summer are killer. I don’t know how people do it. But I really like your bullet points and I think I’m going to keep them in mind next time I’m out on a run.

  6. Katie

    I am a little torn reading this post…

    On one hand, I loved it. I think we all go through phases where our passions can become a burden (especially when they require a stringent schedule and discipline). I love that you consciously made decisions to turn your mindset around. It inspires and reminds me to do the same. I also love hearing about Jillian Michaels’ podcasts, which I am downloading right now. I could use some therapy in my earbuds.

    I DON’T love that there is a lot going on mentally for you. I hope that you are working through everything and coming out on the bright side. I struggle with anxiety as well and I find myself relating to all of your posts regarding stress, etc.

    So… I feel your pain šŸ™‚


  7. Joelle (on a pink typewriter)

    So glad I read this post! I’ve been having some similar issues with training for my upcoming half (my first!). My long runs have actually been going well, but the mid week runs for some reason I’ve been struggling with. I’ve lost some enthusiasm thanks to weather, being tired, fitting in runs between work… you know, the usu. šŸ˜‰ But running is (/can be) FUN and voluntary and we’re lucky to have the ability to do it.

  8. Marina

    This is a good motivating article, I have had same issues, I go from training hard to not training at all, usually due to the injuries I get from pushing myself to hard. And each time it take more effort to get back. I think balance is the key and enjoying what we do is the most important of it all. Exercising is suppose to be fun and a healthy diet can help it make more fun by providing us with more needed energy.

  9. Liza

    You convinced me to try out Jillian’s podcasts :). I am actually having similar issues – I am really terrible at running in the heat/humidity, and it’s been discouraging. I think re-committing to yoga might help me too!

  10. Barbara

    Im also running wineglass, so I am about where you are in training through this humidity! Its been hard to accept my slower long run pace, and the last couple of runs ive been going out too fast. This friday my goal is to keep trying to forget about the pace for my 16 miler. Im usually pretty good about not watching my watch during the run, it is the afterwards pace check when ifinish that depresses me sometimes. I need to stop worrying about it.

    I try while im running to just be thankful that I can run and find enjoyment in it. I have one friend who is really sick, and i try to just be thankful for my health and strength. I also really enjoy the mantra, “hurting more today will make race day hurt less” . I really like what you said about getting through the tough runs.

  11. Betsy

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. My morning run didn’t go well and I had a moment where I wondered why I was training. I’m going to work on brushing off bad runs and enjoying the journey!

      1. Victoria

        @Theodora: It REALLY works well while biking hills, because those can be discouraging when you see your average speed dropping, but then you start laughing because MAHNA MAHNA and it’s all better.

  12. Ericka @ The Sweet Life

    I keep thinking I don’t want to do training this year. So, I just decided I’m going to do minimal training and go for a more “enjoyable” race rather than trying to PR. I know that the day of the race, I’ll WISH I had tried to train for a PR but the weeks and hours just aren’t worth it to me right now. I hope you really find your groove. I think as it gets closer, you’ll feel more motivated.

  13. Katie

    I am in the process of training for my first half-marathon and this was exactly what I needed to read. I also have been having a lot of negative thoughts and thinking that I can’t do this.

    Where do you get Jillian’s podcasts? I think I need some of this in my life!

  14. Sophie @ life's philosophie

    I’m training for my first marathon and I’m already nervous about not only my physical ability to finish, but my mental strength during the training. I always said I would never run a Marathon and now I’m doing it. This is exactly what I needed to hear today šŸ™‚ Oh and I’m in love Jillian Michael’s podcasts. I listen to them when I walk to work and they are helpful or just plain funny. Maybe I’ll listen to them while I run…

  15. Kristin miller

    I want to check out these podcasts! The heat can be a heart beaker in training, power through this week. Cover your watch or run GPS free! Runner HH will hopefully excite you by talking with different people in the same training boat as you.

  16. Courtney

    GREAT post – it’s true that sometimes you can become so focused on the goal that you miss out on the journey. With the heat, I’ve been having a bunch of rough runs and I try to remember that it’s the time on my feet that matters, not my pace (especially in this weather!).

  17. Shannon

    I can’t believe you posted about this podcast! I had heard a lot about JM and finally tried her out this past weekend. My favorite part is when she spoke about not focusing on what others think of you, just focus on being the best you can be and then people will notice you. But my second favorite part was enjoying the journey. I’ve been in a sucky life situation and I’ve been so focused on getting to the end that I’m not enjoying the journey. Thanks for the reminder! Online friends (or blogger that you wish were your friends) are the best!

  18. Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt

    I absolutely adore listening to podcasts when I’m working out. For some reason I lose track of time when I’m listening to talking rather than music. Maybe because I know how long each song is on my phone?! I also appreciate a good Embrace the Suck moment. Life, or a run, is supposed to suck sometimes so you can enjoy those brighter moments even more!

    Good Luck!!!!

  19. elle | nutritionella

    Great tips! I’ve always been about running for the fun of it – the second I get competitive with myself it loses all appeal. For me it’s about enjoying the surroundings and alone time. I LOVE me some alone time – going for a long run is the perfect excuse to indulge in that!

  20. Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut

    I love this! I think half of the battle of running is truly in the mind! I’m just getting back into running (with a bit of a back issue) and it has been truly humbling! I just signed up for two half-marathons though, so that is definitely motivation to get my act together!

  21. Michele

    As a beginner I used to have lack of energy and stamina when running. Thus, I was losing motivation and confidence. But Military Grade Supplements helped me enhance my strength and increase my distances. My recoveries are speedy and the results are noticed!


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