8 Brain Games For Runners

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We all have tough runs where we want to quit – give up and head home to wallow in self-pity. In this situation, it is all mind over matter. We all know that we feel better after a run, we just have to get out there and get it done.

Here are eight examples of brain games to play the next time your brain wants you to go back to bed:

  1. Counting – Use this method by counting anything and everything. You can try counting:
  • Your steps
  • Your breaths
  • Light posts
  • Cows, dogs, sheep – whatever plentiful animal you may find on your route. For me, it is definitely cows.
  • Cars
  • Fence posts
  • Things of a certain color
  • Song lyrics – A running buddy, Jill, counts the lyrics to songs. This seems like it would be challenging, and a great way to keep your brain occupied.
  1. Music – Find some tunes that you really dig in order to fully immerse yourself in the music instead of your run.
  1. Mantras – I love mantras, and I use them a lot. Here are some of my favorites. Mantras are perfect for switching your brain from drained to vicious.
  • I’m a fierce b*&%$
  • I love running. I love running. I love running.
  • I’m full of energy. I’m full of energy. I’m full of energy.
  1. Math – Math is something fun to do to distract yourself from discomforts. Here are some of the math problems I do while running:
  • Mile math – I go back and forth between how much I have already run, and how much I have left to run. I transform the miles into decimals, fractions, percentages. It’s fun for about 4 or 5 miles, at which point my brain is incapable of doing the math.
  • Step math – I use my average steps per mile (approximately 1,600 as I have legs for miles) and add up to how many steps I will get for my run. Each mile I add up where I’m at. Subtract that from the total amount to determine how many steps I have left to go.
  1. Life Problems – I’ve used this method a lot, and my running friends Mary and Robin also use this. If there is something difficult I’m trying to work through, I will try to get it out during my run. Usually, this means I will run harder than normal, as I’m trying to work through something that has upset me. It’s a great skill to be able to leave it all on the road. As they say – Running is cheaper than therapy.
  1. Audiobooks/Podcasts – I love listening to audiobooks or podcasts on my long runs. It keeps my pace down, and as long as I’m listening to something that keeps me interested I will be singly focused on what I’m listening to, and not on how my body feels. Take it a little further and download podcasts or audiobooks for learning a new language. This is multitasking at its best.
  1. Pure Zonage – The pure zone. This may be a hard thing to do, but I am thankful that I can. It is especially good when trapped on the treadmill. I’ve found it doesn’t work too well while running outside because you have to essentially shut down your senses. For anyone who has attempted to do half marathon or marathon training runs on the treadmill because it’s too nasty outside, this is a fantastic method. You simply shut your brain down. You unfocus your eyes and just be present at the moment. Nothing hurts, you are just a body that is running. You aren’t thinking about anything other than your breathing.
  1. Spelling – For those runners who excel more in language arts than in mathematics, try spelling large words. Using your brain power to spell challenging words can keep your mind off how tired you feel.

There are so many unique and creative ways to keep your mind from tricking your body into cutting your run short. These are just a few examples. Hopefully, these are helpful, and you are able to trick your brain into submission on your next tough run.

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Liz Ward

Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.

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