“It’s All Mental”

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I am having one of “those” weeks. You know… those weeks. It’s all small stuff, mostly, but enough to put me in a general funk.  Henry is battling a cold, which means that I’m a little sick, too. Just a river of snot for Henry and a tickle in the back of my throat, but I’m hoping it doesn’t become something worse – for both of us!


Anyway, I took yesterday off from training because of my cold, but today, I decided to go ahead and just do it, since I don’t appear to be getting any worse (or better).   While running, I was thinking about the oft-repeated phrase… It’s all mental.


As my fitness level has increase, I believe this phrase more and more.  Of course, six miles is going to feel like hell is you can’t run six miles.  But if you can… and it feels like hell… maybe it’s more mental than anything else (assuming you’re hydrated and fueled, etc.).


I definitely believe the swim portion of a triathlon is mostly mental. For me, I’d saw it’s 95% mental.  It’s a physical feat to swim in open water, but whether or not I have a good swim mostly depends on whether I can hold myself together emotionally.  Because if I start to freak out… I breathe faster, my heart rate goes up, my strokes become uneven, and it’s all over.


I asked my Instagram friends (Hey! I’m CaitlinHTP) what they thought about the mental aspect of working out, and here’s what everyone said…


klesm937   Reading blogs that relate to fitness is pure motivation for me 🙂


sarahlawth I just keep thinking, you’ve done this before you can do it again! or I take it 10 minutes at a time.


acgougler Positive mantras really help me push through! When running I also will set mini goals for myself throughout a long run. Like run this far for a quick walk break, etc. usually I can push past that point!


heatherslg I trick myself. For example on runs I break them down into smaller segments or say "just run to the stop sign" then it’s the next and the next!


klesm937 Also "the faster you run, the faster you’re done"


bermunn Fitness related Instagram accounts to get started. If I hit a road block while I’m running I try to focus solely on my music. My husband also tells me to think of something that really has made me mad and pour all that energy into my run.


katiepsouthard I just think about how far I have come with my training and how with each run I feel stronger! If I finish the run I will stronger for the next run.


cmguinane I give myself a day off. It took me a long time to give myself permission to do so but I’ve found that my fitness doesn’t suffer for it.


meredithpbrooks Training is 99% mental! Training your mind is key for endurance events. Some tips that work for me: if there is a portion of my run or ride route I don’t like, I make myself double back and do it twice. I also try to run by my house 5-10 minutes before the end of my run. Running past and not stopping is challenging, but builds mental toughness.


kimflobeck Sadly – I think about work. All of the stress and frustration and anxiety, I pour all of that into my soul and the next thing I know, my run is done and I’m in an amazing mood. Not to mention my blood pressure is down, my shoulders aren’t hunched around my ears and I’m ready to face the office again. 🙂


bentfsh2 Remind yourself that it’s a privilege to exercise! We’re lucky that we’re healthy and able to get out of bed in the morning, lace up our shoes, or jump on our bikes, and head out to a good workout. There are many less fortunate who aren’t so lucky! Do it for them 🙂


sydwitz For endurance events I totally agree… It’s all a mental battle. For sprint events, I really feel like its physical. The shorter the event, the more this is true (at least in my experience!)


wigglewoggle It’s 98% mental, but then there’s the part that is your body telling you to take a rest! It took me a long time of crashing my metabolism by working out to much to realize that rest days are a GOOD thing. When i opened my mind to that possibility, I started noticing all the fitness professionals telling you to take rest days and pointing out that rest days are when the magic actually happens!


joeycampbell07 Yep, "what you say creates your day" …


ahealthyslice I wouldn’t say it’s ALL mental but certainly in yoga when the teacher says to ‘try easy’ instead of ‘try hard’ I find myself able to approach a pose from a different mind frame and usually breathe through it more easily. However with running, I can feel my body physically shutting down if I push too hard, so I don’t think that it can ALL be mental 🙂

So – what do you think? Is it all mental? When you’re not feeling in the best frame of mind, how do you get out of your funk?



  • Jamie August 15, 2013, 2:33 pm

    I always tell myself, “There is no excuse for not working out.” (Barring extreme illness or injury, obviously!) Every time I’m having an off day and don’t feel like going I immediately tell myself to stop making excuses and that skipping the gym will only make my mood worse. I think the other thing that helps me is just taking it one day at a time. I’ll worry about tomorrow’s workout tomorrow, I just need to get it done today. 🙂

    I think it’s also important to find a routine you can stick with. I ran a marathon and roughly a dozen half marathons in my early twenties. Then once I had kids every time I would think about getting back into shape I would immediately start planning to train for a half marathon. Only I would NEVER stick to the training. Ever. Finally about 6 months ago it hit me – I don’t WANT to run a half marathon. So I started focusing on other fitness challenges and I have been enjoying that so much more!

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun August 15, 2013, 2:49 pm

    95% of training is mental and the rest is just getting out there and doing it. I always tell myself just start it and you can do it – mental toughness is something that is so important to learn and I even test myself to help to increase my mental toughness. Today I ran 11 miles on my home treadmill just to make it a little more challenging for myself.

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) August 15, 2013, 3:22 pm

    I totally think it’s all mental … it’s all about perspective.

  • Kendra August 15, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Getting out of a funk can be a challenge! I like to listen to music that I love, I make sure I take a “time out” for myself if I realize I’ve been last on my list of to-do’s. Maybe it’s a workout, pedicure, or even time away from the babies (which is okay to admit you need). And lastly I try to put things into perspective. I mentally check in with myself and decide which things have me worked up that I can control and which things I just need to let go of.

    Good luck beating your funk!

  • Julia @ Basket of Juls August 15, 2013, 3:31 pm

    Those responses were great/inspiring to read. I often think it is very mental. If you are taking care of your body, with rest, hydration, and fuel and you still aren’t feeling great on a run or swim that you have done before, it’s probably because your mind is getting the best of you.

    When I am in a funk, I try to not set any expectations for the workout I have planned and stay present in the moment. Not thinking ahead to next mile or when it’s all over, but just feeling my body moving and remembering how luck I am to be able to run, swim, do yoga, etc. New music also helps with funks! 🙂

  • Sarah T. August 15, 2013, 3:53 pm

    When I get in a workout funk I know that it’s time to switch it up. I will try a new exercise or vary my routine somehow. I’ve also found that having a workout partner keeps me from getting in to a funk. I know he’s at the gym waiting for me and that we’ll push each other through to the end.

    Also, doing little things makes a big difference. We have an awesome fitness center at work and one of the executives goes in and does as many pull-ups as he can whenever he walks by it. That’s sometimes 60 pullups a day! So I started doing it too (with the assisted pull up machine). It feels weird to walk in there and exercise dressed in work clothes but it feels great when I’m done knowing that I just made a small step toward better overall fitness!

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action August 15, 2013, 4:08 pm

    I do think that a large part of it is mental.

    For me, I try and visualize how I’ll feel afterwards. And I’ll try and be really honest with myself. If I’m exhausted, then when I’m visualizing, I realize that a workout will actually make me feel worse. If I’m just feeling lazy, then I’ll realize how much better I’ll feel afterwards.

  • Erin Z August 15, 2013, 4:10 pm

    I totally agree with one of the instagrammers that endurance events are such a mental battle. I find that during triathlons I have to focus on doing one sport at a time to the best of my ability. I can’t think about saving energy for the next leg of the race, but just have to go all out wherever I am. At first I was nervous that this would leave me with nothing to pull from during the race, but when I am just focusing on the run I don’t even think about all the miles I just completed on the bike.

    Sprints, well that’s a whole different story…

  • Emily @ The good era August 15, 2013, 4:31 pm

    I definitely think it’s all mental! I go through phases were sometimes I have to have a mental pep talk with myself just to get out the door to a workout. The best thing to get me back in the right frame of mind is to get outside or workout with a friend.

  • Marni August 15, 2013, 5:14 pm

    I love this!! My number one goal for racing is to make sure I arrive to the race with my mind as my only limiter. Many times when I race, I find my body and mind fighting. My mind is telling me to give up but my body is not showing me that I should. It is hard to fight those arguements in your head while you are training or racing but if you can quite the negative thoughts and bottle the positive ones, you will find yourself overcoming many metal battles when you train and race.
    Many times in life we tell ourselves that we can’t do something before we even get the chance to prove that we can do it. Keep on impressing yourself.
    -Your coach 🙂

  • Alexis August 15, 2013, 5:37 pm

    I agree with much of the sentiment on here — it’s a mental thing. For just getting my butt TO the gym, there’s a litany of quotes I think about (“nobody ever regretted a workout,” “two months from now, when you put on your wedding dress, you’ll be glad you went,”). I’m also a firm believer that sometimes you just have to slump, we’re not primed to be 100% on all the time. Having a few crappy workouts isn’t a big deal in the long run … but you have to get them out of the way in order to get the fun started again!

    As far as ruts during workouts, I just try to shake it up. Anything I try (particularly cardio) I stick with for 10 minutes. I find that I either find something I like (and stick with for the full 30 that I do cardio), or I wind up cross-training for the 30 across different machines. It doesn’t feel great to be so scattered, but I try to make the best of it!

  • Alex @ Kenzie Life August 15, 2013, 6:41 pm

    I’ve wondered the same thing! I started running 8 months ago and after getting out of the “out of shape” phase, I hit my stride with running (no pun intended). For about two months, my mileage was increasing and the amount of time I could run without a walking break increased as well. Then something happened. Not sure if it was mental or physical but my lungs felt like they had never even done a mile before! It was hard to keep my motivation for the sport when I felt like I had failed somehow, but I decided to not give up on it. My lungs still aren’t great and I don’t know if it’s the mental aspect or an actual physical problem, but I just download some new Pitbull songs and started running with a guy friend who keeps me motivated 🙂

  • Heathers Looking Glass August 15, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing my comment! Ah, the mental side of things…

  • Jill August 15, 2013, 9:13 pm

    Thank you to the comment from “bentfish” (I think that’s correct)…you are fortunate to be healthy. Really really really fortunate…
    Rest and just be grateful to be alive. Seriously.

  • Sarah August 15, 2013, 9:35 pm

    YES! Your mind can be so obnoxious!!

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More August 15, 2013, 9:56 pm

    It’s DEFINITELY been one of THOSE weeks for me too! I’ve been battling headaches and lacking motivation (which isn’t usually a problem). There’s definitely been a mental struggle but I think while I’m not sick, I’m just in a FUNK that I need to work my way out.

  • Sharon August 16, 2013, 1:14 am

    For me remembering that it’s always something (unless you’re sick, then that’s it!) that causes the funk. Sometimes it just takes longer for it to be clear. Sometimes, that helps me keep pushing on with the day. And before you know it – later that day (or week!) – it pops into my brain. Never fails.

  • Tess August 16, 2013, 9:07 am

    I think what wigglewoggle said is important: figure out whether it’s really a “mental only” kind of blah or a “you need a change or a rest, the body is rebelling” blah. It helps if you learn your own body’s cues about exercise and recovery.

    For mental-only reluctance: I imagine I’m with someone (friend, teacher) who has inspired or encouraged me — and I listen to what they say! They usually have great words of wisdom 🙂

  • Mia August 16, 2013, 9:51 am

    I’ve been having a really hard time with this myself on my last few runs. Where are the lines? How can you tell the difference between pushing yourself, and pushing yourself to far? When are some pains along a run normal pain (sometimes running is going to feel uncomfortable,) and when is it end the run pain? Anyone have any input?

  • Stacy August 16, 2013, 10:08 am

    i think a lot of it is mental. i did my second sprint tri this summer 8/3 and had far less time and energy to properly train for it (versus my first sprint tri in May). ultimately, i just had to tell myself i knew i could do it if i took my time and believed i could. and i did. even in a few minutes faster than my first sprint time!

    daily or weekly workouts are also mostly mental. just last week i was feeling so sore and not in the running mood. but once i got out there the running actually loosened up my muscles and helped me feel better.

    good luck with training! you’re inspiring me to aim for an olympic next summer and maybe a half-iron down the road!

  • Kimberley August 16, 2013, 10:44 am

    A friend of mine recommended a book to me: “Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer.” They offer several ways of getting through mental blocks. My favorite was playing a video in your head- over and over and over. You can envision completing the swim successfully (or whole race), how you’ll feel after it’s done, who will be there to cheer you on, etc. Good Luck!!!

  • Alyssa August 16, 2013, 11:42 am

    It is mostly mental 🙂 You can energize yourself just by talking yourself through it. However, if you have a broken leg, you probably aren’t going to just will yourself through a marathon. Then I would say, “You ARE mental!!”

  • Rachel August 16, 2013, 11:55 am

    I believe most of it is mental, and everyone has off days or even weeks!

    When I’m especially struggling there are a few things I do:
    1) I look to see if I truly am physically tired. If I think I am sore or physically drained I allow myself to take it easy–I call them daydream runs where I just look at the trees or houses as a I go and let my mind wonder.

    2) I tell myself I only have to run another mile, then when I get to that marker I tell myself I only have to run another quarter mile and I keep going with that. Typically once I’ve given myself an “out” I find the motivation to stop. Something about knowing I could stop if I want to pushes me to keep going because I know I’ll be upset later if I really stopped.

    3) I add some sort of interval into my workout. If I’m on the treadmill I change my speed/incline every couple of minutes or if I’m outside I run faster to the next block then run slowly for the next block and keep repeating. When I do short intervals I trick my mind into thinking only about the next couple of minutes rather than the hour or more I actually will be running.

    I find that typically the first mile is the worst when you are mentally not into it. If I’m still not into it by mile 3 then I’m most likely physically out of it and will cut it short if I need to.

  • Sophie @ life's philosophie August 16, 2013, 1:41 pm

    I think your mind plays a major role in training, but there are some days when your body might just need a break. In races I think the mental aspect takes over and becomes the carrying force. I think a race is a somewhat appropriate time to push through the discomfort (within reason) and let your mind carry you.

  • Erin August 19, 2013, 8:23 am

    Hi! I just had a road trip where I listened to like 11 podcasts! That really is motivating listening to virtual swim coach as he interviews a swimmer who swam 28 miles.

  • Becky August 20, 2013, 3:27 pm

    I just wanted to share this with you to help your inspiration! Leslie from the article is a coworker of mine at the hospital.

  • Sarah Danial September 3, 2013, 8:11 am

    When I get into a funk, I change my routine. Let’s say if I cycle three times a week, I will switch to hiking. The change of pace and scenery usually does the trick.

  • Cait October 11, 2013, 3:55 pm

    The only workout I ever regret is the one I skip. That knowledge in itself is enough to get me out the door most days.

  • SpaycerDewt October 21, 2013, 11:29 pm

    I tell myself how lucky I am to be alive and to be feeling pain at all. I focus on what I’m seeing and how beautiful it really is. You can find beauty in anything if you try hard enough. Also once you realize that working out is a gift, the entire workout is easy.

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