How to Discipline Yourself While Running

How to Discipline Yourself While Running

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Discipline while running is largely a matter of mental focus.

John Howard/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Much of the success of your running regimen boils down to discipline but there is no magic elixir or mental trick for perfect discipline. While a disciplined routine begins before you hit the track, it takes a combination of methods to make your regimen a well-oiled, regular machine. Try experimenting with different tactics as you continue to grow as a runner.


Plan goals and track your progress. Start this process -- which heightens your focus by giving you a definite mental goal -- before your run and continue while you're running. Announce your goals via a fitness-tracking app or social media; people tend to stick to goals they've made public. Bring a pedometer with you on your run, and always log your progress. Record concrete, statistical evidence of your progress -- this little trick encourages the development of healthy, regular running habits.


Organize your thoughts as you run. Writing for Peak Performance, sport psychologist Lee Crust notes that mental organization leads to purposefulness. Count specific objects on your route -- such as red roofs or pine trees -- or play the alphabet game, in which you think of specific words in a certain category, such as types of animals, that start with letters “A” through “Z.” This mental method, called dissociation, helps reduce the focus on physical strain and may help you power through your run.


Listen to music, another dissociation technique. A 2011 study from researchers at the State University of New York at Cortland found that listening to any type of music during exercise helps inhibit the psychological feedback associated with fatigue, which in turn increases physical performance.


Practice mental association. This method, the opposite of dissociation, may help you increase your running speed and performance via mental discipline. Focus on what is happening within your body, noting your posture and feeling all of the minute muscular sensations. Establish a regular breathing pattern and make any necessary corrections to your form as you run.


Enlist a friend. Oftentimes, having a dedicated running partner benefits both parties; when you're not feeling disciplined, your partner's performance may inspire you, and vice versa. Ref 2


  • Attach a reason to your runs. For instance, sign up for a charity race or marathon that supports a cause close to your heart. You may find yourself more disciplined if you're training for a cause you care about.


  • Know when to stop. Good discipline does not mean pushing your body to the point of injury. Listen to your body when it tells you that you can't go on. Stop running if you experience discomfort in the upper body, faintness, queasiness or the sensation of forcing air into your lungs. If symptoms persist after you've stopped, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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