Mental Strategies For Runners and Walkers

by Annie Crawford AM 02 Feb 2017

Early in your training program you’re going to realise that the thing you thought would be impossible – running or walking long distance – is not as hard as you think. And better, you'll realise that with hard work you can too achieve that goal.

Building resilience and mental toughness is a big part of any physical training program. Building your own mental toolkit, through these experiences, is where the magic happens.

When I’m out there training with our people on the weekends, these are some of the techniques I share. Some people think some of these are load of rubbish. Others swear it’s what has got them through the race. So it’s important to build a mental toolkit that works for YOU.

To me the mental aspect is what’s really important – that over short periods you can build such a fitter mind and body.


Break your distance down into chunks, and achieve them. When you’re running or walking up a hill, set yourself a goal to get as far as the next car. And when you’ve done that chunk, aim to get as far as the car after that. Celebrate the little victories, build your sense of achievement, and keep your mind active.

Focus on the Moment (or the Goal)

For some people, a more zen approach helps. Think to yourself, I am right here and I am right now. You don’t need to think about any other step than the step you’re taking. Focus on that thought, all the way to the finish line. Others need to visualise themselves crossing the finish line – smiling, strong, and injury free – and stay focussed on that one thought throughout the race. Find what works for you.

Recognise Your Discomfort & Move Away From It

If you’re hurting on a long run or walk, acknowledge the discomfort. Say, yes my legs ARE hurting. Recognise it, and move away from it. I ask our people on long runs, “Are your hands hurting?” – and 99% of the time they say no – so I tell them, “I want you to focus on your hands”, to move their mind away while they train their bodies to go the distance.

Find Your Mantra

I have lots of little songs I sing to our people when they’re tired!

"Hills are great, losing weight."

"Hills are fun, good for the bum."

"Hills train the brain."

It focuses on the positive, keeps your mind active, and most importantly keeps you moving.

Remember Why You’re There

When you’re tired, remember why you’re out there pounding the pavement. If you’re doing it for something bigger than yourself, for family or friends affected by cancer, for those who can’t run; remember those people. Remember what you set out to achieve, and why, to keep yourself focussed.

Believe In Yourself

It sounds really cheesy, I know – but you need to believe in yourself.

Believe that you can too achieve the goal you set for yourself. Trust that with the right training, support, and practice, we’re all capable of far more than we often give ourselves credit for.

And remember that it’s called a challenge for a reason! Particularly for beginners, it’s going to be really hard at the start. You will get the “high” eventually, and the endorphins will kick in! Believe in yourself, and believe in the endorphins.

Here at Can Too we believe in our people until they can believe in themselves. We're an opportunity to be a healthier, faster, stronger you.

Take the training day by day, and remember my mantra, “Go out slowly and come home strong.”

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