Mental strength on the treadmill

Ottawa has been covered in ice and snow for the past couple of weeks. For runners, this means risking it with the ice, or finding your nearest treadmill. Thankfully there’s one downstairs in my building’s gym. Even despite my efforts to get outdoors, I’ve ended up returning early with water logged shoes and having to get on the mill for final umpteen km of my long runs. Ugh.

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Treadmill running can be a mental challenge. There’s no change in the scenery, and your staring at the same place in the wall/out the window for unimaginable amounts of time. Over the years, I’ve managed this by watching movies, listening to podcasts, playing with the speed/incline to keep things interesting.

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I also do a lot of thinking on the mill. It’s hard to ignore yourself, when you’re running in the same spot for a while. My thoughts wonder from day-to-day things (what am I going to put in my post-run shake, what will I wear today), to deeper things depending on what’s going on at the time. It’s much harder to tune out and just run.

I’ve been using this time on the treadmill to work on my mental strength. One of my runs this past week was a 12k tempo, with 7km at 5:05/km. I knew this workout would be challenging, especially on the treadmill, but knew I had it in me. I told myself to envision running the Ottawa Marathon course. 

I warmed up for 4km then increased the pace to 5:05. I started by thinking of the section of the race through Gatineau. I pictured the government buildings and museums on my right, and knew there would be a water station just before getting onto the Alexandria Bridge. I thought of running across that bridge, and how that view of Parliament always makes me smile, and that in a few hundred meters I’d be back in Ottawa.

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I pictured the last 17 km of the race, going through New Edinburgh and then back towards downtown. For the final 1.2 of my 7km tempo, I pictured the 41-42.2k of the marathon. I got chills. In my mind, I was running along the canal, with spectators on either side, knowing that I will have left everything on the course and finishing my 13th marathon.

Mental weakness has hurt me in the past. Without mental preparation, I’ve given into the hurt of the marathon. I also put too much pressure on myself, which is something I’m getting much better at, but is ultimately a work in progress.

What do you do to mentally “train”?

In other news, I’m planning to run the local Run for Reach Half Marathon on Sunday, April 10th. If you’re training for Ottawa, this is a perfect tune-up for race weekend!

If you’re on Strava, I’d love to connect! You can follow my training here. There’s also an Ottawa Marathon group!

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