The mental side of running

Why I am working with a sports psychologist, and how you could benefit from one, too.

The mental side of running
Taking a bow on Boylston Street at the 2024 Boston Marathon
I run because I want to stay physically fit. Since I am of competitive nature (at least in sports) I am not running “for fun” but to bring out the best in me. I am running for myself, not for others.

In early 2023 I wasn’t sure any longer why I was running to begin with. Yes, I trained, went through the motions, and even improved my fitness. But I wasn’t able to torture myself in training like I used to. I would stick with “good enough” while at the same time being unhappy with the paces and splits I ran — compared to what I thought I should be able to run, not compared to others. I even DNF’d (did not finish) a race for the first time in my life, just because I was “mentally not ready for 4 windy loops”. This had to stop.

Luckily, I am in the privileged position to ask for help. Having (and paying for) a coach for running was always a no-brainer, so why not have a coach for the mind as well? Through a nowadays typical chain of events (podcast leads to person on Instagram, that person doesn’t have capacity but knows someone else) I got introduced to Amelie, a sports psychologist and yoga teacher.

Today marks one year of working with Amelie and while this is not a sponsored post in any way, shape or form, I still want to give a huge shout-out to her and the profession of sports psychology. Over the past year, I have learned a lot about myself, my running, and what motivates me. Questions were asked for which answers weren’t always easy or obvious. Amelie doesn't let me get away with bullshit answers. Goals were developed (to say they were “set” wouldn’t do the process justice) and put to test. I gained a lot of my confidence back and even tried new things, like running races without a watch. And I found my why again — you have read it at the top of this post. This was one of the first things we did together, and even a year and two marathons later, it still describes the essence of why I run very accurately.

I am happy and grateful to have Amelie in my coaching corner. In our debriefing session after the Boston Marathon in April, I said: “a good outcome of this session would be to realize that I don’t need your support anymore and then to decide to continue to work together”.

The mental side of this sport (or almost any sport, I guess) is too important to be neglected. And even on the ambitious amateur level that most of us run at, to be successful (according to our own definition of success) we need our mind to be as strong as our body. If you have ever struggled with your why, your motivation, or anything else that’s not physical, I want to encourage you to reach out to a professional sports psychologist. Then be patient and let a relationship develop, as with training and nutrition, there is no shortcut to the mental game.

And even though I will be flying solo for the next few races, I will continue to work with Amelie after the summer. There is so much more to learn and improve, it would be foolish to let that go to waste.

I'm curious, why do you run (if you run)? Have you ever struggled with your performance for other reasons then physical?