The last mile of a run is tough. You’re exhausted, at the end of your playlist, and probably have other things on your mind (read: post-run brunch). Even the pros sometimes struggle to get through that final stretch: “I know I’m getting close to the finish line, but it also takes a tremendous amount of energy to sustain my pace for what seems like an eternity,” says ultra-marathoner Stephanie Howe. But whether you’re training for an upcoming race or just completing your mileage for the day, that last mile is an important one. Here, the best mental tricks from runners, running coaches, and Health editors to help you stay motivated until the finish line.
Focus on the ‘after’
“I picture myself finishing, then enjoying whatever I’m going to be doing right after. Having something to drink, a snack, or seeing my family. Visualizing the ‘after’ seems to make the ‘just before’ less painful.”
—Beth Lipton, Health food director and avid runner
Use your secret weapon
“My strategy for getting through the last mile is twofold: First, I keep a positive attitude and tell myself what a great job I’m doing. Seriously. Sometimes I even say those words out loud: ‘Stephanie, you are doing your very best right now. Great job!’ or, ‘Come on little legs, only a few more minutes and then you get a long break.’ I really believe in the power of self-talk and keeping a positive attitude. Secondly, I make sure to keep fueling. Many runners totally forget that they need to keep fueling so they have enough energy to make it to the finish line. My secret weapon is CLIF Shot Energy Gel in Double Espresso ($24 for 24-count, amazon.com). It’s in a platinum package for a reason. Throughout the race, I alternate between CLIF Bloks Energy Chews and Clif Organic Energy Food, but I save my platinum package until the end. The energy I get from it not only gets me to the finish line, but I usually arrive with a smile as well.”
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Try the 10-minute trick
“One mental thing I always use when things are hard is telling myself, ‘You can handle anything for 10 minutes.’ I think about how short 10 minutes is in the grand scheme of things, and I’m able to go the extra mile (literally!).”
—MaryAnn Barone, Health social media editor and avid runner
Remember your goals
“I tell myself a few different things (and I say some of these in my class during the last pushes, too). The first one is from one of my favorite cyclists, Jens Voigt: ‘Shut up legs, do what I tell you!’ I’ll also think, ‘How would giving up now look on social media!?’, ‘You’ve made it this far. Just. One. More. Mile!’ and ‘Wait, this race is point-to-point? Have to get to the finish to get my bag anyway…’ It’s easy to say, ‘Remember why you came.’ But for some runners, that doesn’t mean much when they’ve gotten so wrapped up in what hurts, how far is left to go, etc.—that they do, in fact, lose sight of what their goal is. Cold, dark, and alone—that’s what carried me through 68 miles at the East River track in the middle of winter. Find your ‘why’. Find your breath. Let it carry you home.”
—Vinnie Miliano-Mile, a coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City
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“For me, it’s all about distraction. I usually spend my runs as tuned-in to my body as I can be—making sure I’m breathing well, that I’m staying on top of my cadence, and that I don’t get hit by a car… But that last mile is when I let it all go and ’empty the tank’. I like to pick a person running near me and secretly ‘race’ them—that takes my mind off the final mile!”
—Alison Mango, Health editorial producer and avid runner
Trust your training
“Here are a few tips I use and give to my athletes: Trust your training. It will carry you. Tell yourself that you are stronger than you realize. Focus on the task at hand—that stride, that breath, that mile, that form. And remember, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
—Elizabeth “Corky” Corkum, a coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City
This article originally appeared on Health.com
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