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Exercising mental toughness when you can’t run

Natalie Moore meditation mindfulness running running goals

There’s no denying that we all need great mental toughness when it comes to running and for any distance. A lot of people that tell me they can’t run or don’t run is because they can’t get themselves over the hurdle of it being too tough, being puffed out, being sore, being fatigued. It is the mental strength and belief that gets you past the pain point.

I really believe getting over that mental hurdle of running is within us and we can absolutely embrace it to achieve things we thought were only impossible. I was in this same boat when I started running, but just like us needing to the condition the physical body for running, you need to condition the mind for mental toughness too.

But what happens when all of a sudden you can’t run? When you are injured, ill, run down or fatigued. It happens to all of us at some point, no matter how great we may be feeling or how well we look after ourselves. I find this is where my mental toughness falls apart. I can't stop thinking about the fact that I am not running, I see other people run and have that pang of FOMO, I feel flat, I don't feel as challenged and I feel bored.  

At the moment, I am not running much at all. I am suffering with a mild case of Plantar Fasciitis and it’s driving me crazy,  I am missing the one great thing that makes me, me - running.

So I thought it was timely to share the sorts of things I am doing to help soften the blow of not running as much as I would like and keeping myself mentally tough, as well as keeping myself fit and healthy. These are few of the things I am doing and trying - 

Cycling and Swimming - Neither of these exercises are strengths for me, but it has been the perfect opportunity to give them a go. I could not swim laps to save myself, but I can now swim 750m! This is coming from someone who felt so puffed, sore and tired after swimming my first 25 meters. And because I like the thrill of a challenge, I've even set some goals around my swimming and cycling. One being a short triathlon in January.

Weights and strength training - I've set up a home gym where I can exercise anytime using the Nike Training Club app, which is perfect for me with my other commitments. So it’s an early 5am wake up call in the morning to do a session, whilst being as a quiet as a mouse so I don't wake my daughter - because the workout ends pretty quick once she is awake.

Pilates - I've always done Reformer Pilates once a week, but now I'm changing this up a bit with some mat pilates, just to keep me challenged. 

Meditation - I have really embraced the meditation practice recently and it is the greatest thing I have done. I alternate between two apps, Smiling Mind and Buddhify depending on what I feel like listening to and I just lay in bed before sleep or when I wake in the morning and do a 5 - 10 minute meditation session. If you haven't tried meditation before, it’s worth giving it a go. I think there is some stigma around meditation and I find people are almost put off by just the name alone. But meditation really just involves deep breathing, relaxation and bringing awareness to your thoughts and body. A great practise for us runners I think to help build our mental strength.  

Gratitude - This is a new thing that I do, where I take a minute at the end of each day to note down what I am grateful for in that moment and generally it is usually things that have arisen throughout my day. But this practise brings to my awareness the things I have in life, the things I can do and what I should be grateful for. I use a simple notebook and I write down 3 things each night. This does make me realise how lucky I am that I have access to other exercise options while I can't run.

There you have it. As much as my great passion, running is out of reach for me at the moment, there are other options that I can embrace to make sure that I am still living the healthy, active and happy life I want to be living. And my biggest advice to a runner who finds themselves sidelined, just keep an open mind to the opportunities out there. We can apply and use our mental toughness and strength to other activities.

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