Mind Games Get You Through a Workout….

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….or race!

Have you ever struggled to get through a workout? We’ve recently had a number of local athletes complete an Ironman Triathlon which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Can you imagine how mentally tough you need to be to get through the training to prepare you to race and complete these types of distances?! Can you imagine swimming and biking for that long and then having to start a marathon in the middle of the day?! It is physically and mentally grueling and Ironman athletes report that they have to play mind games all day to get to the finish line.

Here’s some mind games that you can use whenever you are struggling to keep going:


Pick an inspiring phrase that you repeat over and over again to put you in a trance-type state that assures you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Something like “I can do this”, “I’m stronger than I think I am”, “Keep going”, “Never quit” or “I got this” might do the trick for you.

Make a Deal

A little bribery might help! Make deals with yourself. For example, you could say “Run to the next water station, then I can walk for 2 minutes” or “Make it through the first loop, then I’ll take a short break” or “Complete 5 workouts this week and then get 2 rest days” or “Push hard for 30 seconds, then go easy for 5 minutes” or “Just go for 10 minutes and then decide if you will continue or not.”

Mind Games

Literally play games to take your mind off the effort. For example, you could go through the alphabet thinking of an inspirational word for each letter. You could consider the months in a year and think of someone you love who celebrates a birthday in each month. You could count to 500 and then reverse counting backwards from 500. You could count as high as you can in a second language. You could create or add to your bucket list in your head.

Break it Down

There is a popular phrase that responds to the question “How do you eat an elephant?” with the response “One bite at a time!” If you are faced with a challenge that seems impossible and overwhelming, break it into smaller, easier-to-accomplish chucks. For example, if you are trying to run a 10K, break it into two 5Ks. If you are competing a triathlon, focus on the swim first, then the bike, then the run. If you are trying to get through a one hour workout, break it into four 15 minute segments. Whatever it is you are tackling, take it one step at a time.

Remember Your WHY

When you are struggling to finish, take the time to reflect on why you started. What is your reason? Ask yourself what did you hope to accomplish? Make a list of your goals. Keep asking yourself WHY! For example “I signed up for this race to challenge myself and lose some weight.” WHY? “Because I wanted to prove I could do it and I want to be able to get back into my clothes.” WHY? “Because I know I’ll feel a lot better about myself which is important to me.” WHY? “I want to be a good role model to my kids and live my life to the fullest”

Remember Others’ Struggles

I’ve participated in races where I had to force myself to gain a little perspective by remembering what others’ were going through. So if I was climbing a tough hill, I would consider that this was nothing compared to what my girlfriend who was undergoing chemo was going through. Or if I felt like quitting during a workout, I would think of a friend who had great struggles and wasn’t making any excuses. It’s easy to find someone who is older, less fit, dealing with health issues or physical disabilities, busier, with less resources that is still figuring it out. Sometimes putting things in perspective makes it easier to continue.

Past Reflections

It is often helpful to remember back to when you first started and reflect on how far you have come. Feeling good about how much you have accomplished can often give you a boost of energy and confidence to keep going. For example, when you are struggling to get to the finish line of a Half Marathon, remember back to when you couldn’t even run a block. Or when you’re struggling to complete a set of chinups, remember when you couldn’t even do one.


Having a carrot as an incentive to keep going can be very helpful for many. For example, if I finish this tough race, we are going on a weekend get-away. If I complete 3 cardio and 2 muscle conditioning workouts this week, I will book a massage. If I get through this challenging trail run, we’ll go to our favorite coffee shop and enjoy each other’s’ company. If I reach XYZ goal, I will treat myself to a shopping trip or buy something I’ve always wanted. Sometimes, if you can’t find the internal motivation, external motivation can work wonders to get you through a big goal!

Yours in health, fitness & business,
Sherri McMillan

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details. 


columbia river tri 2016 swimJoin us for the COLUMBIA RIVER TRIATHLON & MULTI-SPORT FESTIVAL
August 18th – 20th
Frenchmans Bar, Vancouver WA

This summer weekend Triathlon & Multi-Sport Festival at a beautiful venue along the Columbia River offers something for everyone from a Sprint & Olympic Distance Triathlon, Duathlon, & AquaBike, Girlfriends All Womens Triathlon/Duathlon/AquaBike, 5k & 10k runs, Kids Triathlon and so much more! It is one of the most scenic areas with views of the Columbia River, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Vancouver Lake.

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