Running Psychology

If running is really 90% mental, why are we sometimes slow to focus on our mental health? Does it sound more difficult than the actual running? Do we not know where to begin? Often the answer is simply that we don’t consider it. It’s not something we focus on until there seems to be a problem.

Mental conditioning is more than just race visualization. It is learning about what fuels and motivates us, understanding what our body is trying to tell us, and governing how we relate and act to our own thoughts. Each of these deserve their own training schedule and mentor. As we exercise our psychological muscles, each run will mean more.

In this Running for Real podcast, we asked your questions to sports and exercise psychologist Evie Serventi. As a consultant, it is Evie’s goal to truly get to know each client on an individual level. She understands that we all have different motivations, weaknesses, and tendencies. It’s impossible to listen to Evie without feeling her authentic and caring personality. Tune in or read along to learn more.

It’s Okay to Have Fun

First and foremost, running is a choice. And for each of us, it can be a positive choice. For the myriad of reasons we choose to run, in the end, we run because we want to. We are not forced to run, so we do not need to be miserable while doing it.

We’ve learned that smiling during a run can bring about positive effects, that running without a watch, choosing to do a nature run, or running with friends can remind us why we started to run. It is important to give ourselves space to have fun. Running doesn’t always have to be painful or even hard.

Remember that your running career, or lack of it, does not define who you are. “You’re not Tina the runner, you’re Tina the person.” says Evie. Evie also says that we should ask ourselves “Can you have fun and race hard at the same time?” Think through questions like these to find YOUR balance between enjoyment and work.

It’s Okay NOT to Have Fun

Okay, so you are the master of your own destiny and you are the one choosing to run, but does that mean you need to have a big fat smile on your face the whole time? Of course not! More than trying to always have fun, we should always try to be accepting. Being at peace with how we feel and what we are going through is often more satisfying than trying to force a happy emotion.

Another thing, discomfort is always going to be a part of running. It is easy to assume that world-class runners don’t deal with discomfort, but at every level there is a measure of pushing oneself. Although this thought may discourage you, it will help you come to the realization that running fast will always take work. Leave behind the “I’ll be happy when…” thought process, and focus on your current journey.

Three Ways to Conquer Nerves

When race day (or maybe even a challenging workout day) comes along, submitting to nerves can feel like you are undoing all the training you’ve done. Try these three tactics mentioned by Evie to avoid any negatives effects of nervousness.

  1. Challenge State vs Threatened State. When we are nervous, we are either in a challenged state or a threatened state. A threatened state focuses on fears like letting people down, or potential pain while racing. Try to get in a challenge state by focusing on your resources rather than the task ahead.
  2. Nurture Confidence by Acknowledging Evidence. A good way to replace nervousness with confidence is to remind yourself of the work you have put in. Think about the training you’ve done, the good nutrition plan you’ve followed, or simply the fact that you are uninjured going into this race.
  3. Focus on What You Can Control. Where you are standing, what you are wearing, what pace you are going to start at. These are all simple things we can control that put us in charge of our thoughts. Set small goals like checking your posture during mile two or drinking enough water at the first stop to get your mind started on a positive path.

You have control of your mind, and what you think determines much of your running performance. Take the time to think through what things may be stopping you from being the best, most content runner you can be. Find a sports or exercise psychologist to help you work through any nagging issues. Stay confident, stay content. You have an amazing mind, make sure to take care of it.


Evie’s Website

James Wiliam’s Instagram

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Thank you to Evie, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.

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