Mental Freakouts: How to Stay Strong

It is all good saying be your own best friend, love yourself, be kind to yourself, but lets face it, in that moment, it is not so easy to do that. When those voices in your mind are punishing you, what do you do then?

How do you handle those moments?

Do elites even have those moments?

HECK YES, and I am gonna show you exactly what my mind tells me…..lets see if your inner demons are just as cruel.

Previously, I have talked about physical freakouts and how to handle them, today, I would like to tackle the mental freakouts, in which my dear friend, Evie was the reason I was able to overcome those.

So what are mental freakouts? These are where some of the following phrases (or type of phrases come into your mind)

Oh my god I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this.

I am going to stop

I have such a long way to go, how am I going to make it?

And many many more nasty, negative comments.

These are the ones you have to work through emotionally. You have to “weather the storm” as Steve told me before the race.

These are the ones you do NOT back off (well as much as you can), but instead, reassure yourself that you will be okay, it IS a tough patch, and that is okay, you KNEW there were going to be tough patches.

In the London marathon, I had these at miles 11, 18, and 25.25 (note: yes, at that point I had both a physical and emotional freak out)

If you stay strong, repeat mantras, and accept that it is just a patch, those waves pass too.

That is where Evie’s advice came in and helped me encourage myself through those moments. She even gave me enough courage for me to pursue creating my Mile 20 Mental Training Course  that has a WHOLE module completely dedicated to Mental Freakouts and how to overcome them.

This was possibly the biggest lesson I learned in the marathon this time around, when to push, and when to take your foot off the pedal.

How do I know I am in a mental freakouts?

These ones are actually a little easier to categorize, and a little easier to control.

These are the ones where you start to doubt your ability.

That little voice in your head tells you that you are not good enough, that you cant do this, that you have SUCH a long way to go.

These are the moments where your race comes in jeopardy for another reason.

You are about to sabotage yourself, and if you are not careful, it can spiral out of control, and you will cross the line feeling disappointed and frustrated with your performance.

At mile 8, I thought about how I had not even completed 1/3 of the race, and that it was going to bring so much pain in the future. I don’t want this.

London Marathon 2016-32

It’s not worth it. Why cant I be like a normal person who watches TV on a Sunday morning?

In the past, I always used to have an argument with myself during these moments;

“I cant do this, why do I do this, I don’t want to do this”


It would be an ongoing battle for a few moments while I fought with myself.

However, I have realized that just like punishment is never going to be as effective as positive reinforcement, rather than punishing yourself for thinking this way, instead, like a small child, talk to yourself calmly and in a reassuring way.

Tell yourself that you will be okay, and remind yourself that this does not define who you are, no matter what happens, you will still be you.

Rather than beating yourself up for having weakness, you are reminding yourself of your strength, which builds your confidence, and those nasty demons go back down.

In essence, you are being your own best friend.

Remember what I said last week; Imagine what your best friend would say to you if they were by your side, or imagine what you would tell your best friend if they were in your place, and you could speak to them directly.

If you do not want to use a best friend, then use your children, your parents, someone who matters to you.

You would never yell at them saying “YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, YOU ARE WEAK, YOU MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP NOW”.

No, you would say to them “come on love, you are doing so well. You got this! Come on, you are strong, you have done the work”.

Why are we so hard on ourselves, but if our loved ones were in the exact same position as us we would encourage?

By being your own best friend in the race, and treating yourself with compassion and appreciation, you are breeding more of it, allowing your confidence to rise up to remind you of what you have trained for, that you have done the hard work and this is the fun part.

I find it is even more effective if I can hear Steve’s voice in my head. I imagine the words he would be using. Imagine him running (or biking) alongside me, encouraging me, and I just found it worked wonders.

Tina steve bike

Another example of when you could use this is when we crest a hill.

We tend to go up hills feeling okay, but once we reach the top, our legs turn to jelly, and we start to panic “my race is over, oh my god, I cant do this”.

Rather than allowing those thoughts to spiral you out of control, what would your best friend say to you?

“its okay, you have done the tough part now, they will come back to you as you go down, just take it easy for a few moments and you will be fine”.

Whatever it is, whenever it is, just speak calmly and in a reassuring way to yourself.

Running is mostly mental, we know that, and it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has those doubts, but rather than allowing it to defeat you, allow it to remind you to be kind to yourself, the way you would be kind to those you love.

You put yourself through this for a reason, to challenge yourself and see what you can do. Well, you are only going to be able to get there if you believe in your strength, and you can only believe in your strength if you allow yourself to see it.

What do you tell yourself during these mental freakouts?

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half marathon, marathon, mental tactics, racing, struggles

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  • Oh Tina I could have totally written (or co-written) this post after my grueling race last weekend!! While I was in the freezing water I was thinking “I can’t do this! Why am I doing this? This isn’t normal!!” and some of the other things you said to yourself. It’s SO hard when you’re in it but, I took a moment to collect myself and remind myself of how hard I trained and that I CAN do it and I DID! I think, when you have those massive moments of self-doubt, and come though on the other side it makes the finish that much sweeter!! Thank you, once again, for showing that I’m not crazy – just a normal competitor 🙂

  • carla birnberg
    May 18, 2016 6:14 am

    This, my friend, is exactly why I devour your blog posts even though I don’t run. Life is a marathon. This post applies so very much to my life.

  • This is a great post and can be applied to many aspect of life. I think we all often worry and struggle with “can I do this”, will I be able to do this but staying positive is all you can do. We all have mental freakouts in various parts of our life…from running to other things too.

  • I wrote something similar today on my blog! Yep, it’s those voices in my head that bring me down. Every.damn.time.

  • Ha! Why can’t I just watch TV on a Sunday like a normal person? I love it! It’s true- runners are kind of a crazy breed, and in the middle of a race when everything is hurting it’s so easy to want to throw in the towel and ruin an otherwise good race. I think mental toughness can really make a difference between two runners of otherwise equal capabilities. Great advice here!

  • Another great post, Tina. I was just saying to my running buddy this morning, wouldn’t it be funny if we could have a recording of our mental chatter during marathons, just like we get the race photos? I think mine would be hilarious!
    “OMG, Heartbreak Hill!” ”
    You can do it, it’s not as steep as Leverington St.”
    “But my legs are so tired.”
    “Suck it up, buttercup.”

    Clearly, I need to heed your positive reinforcement model 😉

  • Michelle@Running with Attitude
    May 19, 2016 5:47 pm

    Such a great post Tina and definitely one I needed to read as I’ve been struggling with my mental game.

  • Dancingrunner
    July 17, 2016 1:12 pm

    This is such a great post — I am bookmarking this to read on long run and race mornings. Thanks, Tina!

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