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How to Use Emotional Endurance to Prepare for the Road Ahead, According to 26 Marathoners

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Living through this coronavirus pandemic is tough for basically all human beings. We’re all doing our best to take things day by day as we face new challenges and brace for the unknown in these uncertain times, and doing successfully requires similar emotional endurance skills to that of a long-distance race. Indeed the challenging factors of this situation make for more of a marathon than a sprint of mental strength and fortitude, and, thus, a hearty dose of emotional endurance will make finishing this race of sorts all the more easier to handle.

So, what does it take to get through to get through 26.2 grueling miles? And how does that intel apply to what we can each do to adjust and cope with the changes and challenges ahead?

For guidance, 26 marathoners are providing their best emotional endurance tips. We can all use wisdom they’ve learned from mentally and physically preparing for past races to “train” for the marathon of uncertainty ahead.

Below, find 26 emotional endurance tips to train for the marathon of uncertainty ahead.

1. “No matter how much you prepare, you need to take it step by step.” —Paria Hassouri, 4-time marathoner

2. “Be ready for anything. In any marathon, things can happen that you may not be prepared for, such as crappy weather, you not feeling 100 percent, or an injury. You have to be ready to have a backup plan or to be calm in the face of uncertainty. Same with today’s situation: We have to be ready for anything to happen on any given day; a family member could test positive, we could lose our jobs, etc.” —Leah Jantzen, 10-time marathoner

4. “My biggest tip for training is to load up that iPhone queue with podcasts, audio books, and playlists, based on my mood for that training day. The same tactic goes for my days at home on quarantine. In addition to working all day from my apartment, I have these extra motivations loaded into my phone for when I need a pick-me-up or a mental-health break.” —Allison Frazier, 3-time marathoner 

5. “Rely on your support group and aid stations. Much like in a race, where you will be uplifted by your friends and family cheering you on, be sure to check in with each other while social distancing. Additionally, if you are facing hardship due to job loss or illness, rely on community aid, like food banks or neighbors to do grocery shopping and unattended drop-off for you. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be adaptable to ever-changing conditions.” —Andrew Lee, 20-time marathoner

6. “Each time you lace up your sneakers, you never know how your body and mind are going to feel on that particular day. Sometimes it feels like you can go forever, and other times you have to pep-talk yourself into just completing a short run. Because of this, I’ve learned to listen to my body and adjust my training plans accordingly, and I am applying a similar strategy now, listening to my body and understanding that some days I feel super productive and full of energy, and other days I am just doing what needs to get done and shifting my schedule based on my mental capacity.” —Jenny LaVelle, 2-time marathoner 

7. “My tip for getting through COVID-19 is to treat this like a long run: It can feel tempting to start fast, but as any marathoner knows, even pacing and restraint are key to holding out for the long-term.” —Anne Szustek Talbot, 3-time marathoner

9. “Running 42.2 kilometers can feel terribly tedious and boring, just like being on lockdown at home can—but you know that the finish line will come. You just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other til we get there.” —Karen Kwan, a 14-time marathoner

10. “When you’re training for a marathon, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed by the length of your training as well as the race itself, so I found it easier to focus on one day at a time or one week at a time. Each day or week can be an opportunity to keep working toward your goal, but it’s also important to not beat yourself up if you have a bad day or week.” —Ellen Hughes, marathoner 

11. “Your home can support or sabotage your training, especially now, since you’re spending so much more time there. Optimize your kitchen for easier cooking and cleanup. Make sure your bedroom is ideally set up for sleep, and your bathroom for personal hygiene. Adapt a safe space in your home to stand in for the gym. Create a quiet comfort zone where you can decompress. Make your telework space ergonomic. Ensure that your indoor air quality is not hurting your lungs.” —Jamie Gold, 2-time marathoner 

12. “Focus on what you can control: attitude, nutrition, and form. Smiling always helps, too. In a race, I’d say take high fives where you can get them, which now translates to taking connection and support any way you can. Don’t underestimate the power of supporting each other.” —Pam Moore, 6-time marathoner

14. “We’re going to have good and bad days during this crisis, just like we have good and bad runs during a training cycle and ups and downs during the race itself. But just because you feel that way now doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way forever. If you do the best you can on that day anyway, even if ‘the best’ means giving yourself a day of rest, you’ll find you eventually can go a lot farther than you think.” —Cindy Kuzma, 22-time marathoner

15. “Make your bed every morning and set a schedule because doing things that make your surroundings neat and orderly get your mind in a better place. Order in life always helped me on the course. I like to think that applies to keeping things sane when the world is anything but.” —Hannah Selinger, 8-time marathoner

16. “In the moment, the suffering feels like an eternity, but each moment of discomfort teaches us something about ourselves that we can use going forward. This time of pandemic is teaching us patience.” —Ashley Rademacher, 8-time marathoner

17. “When training for a marathon, I always tell my clients to just focus on one workout at a time. Thinking about the next week or the 20 weeks of mileage can be very overwhelming and sometimes stressful. Focus on today’s opportunities instead of worrying about the future of this pandemic.” —Bethann Wittig, 4-time marathoner

19. “Know what your endgame is. For marathoners, it is crossing that finish line, no matter what. The same can be said for life right now, because every mile and every day will be different, but each mile and day is part of the journey to your goal. Adjust your plan over and over again, figure out what works for you in [the] moment.” —Alexandra Weissner, 2-time marathoner

20. “Just like with race conditions, things are likely not going to have any level of certainty for a long time. But we still have the ability to train and to choose our response. I am getting out in nature alone, to clear my head and reconfigure and reassess what’s most important. I am going to try to control the things I can, and try to be my best self.” —Mirna Valerio, marathoner

21. “No matter how long and rough this pandemic is, I know I can stay mentally tough, as I’ve been able to throughout my running career. Try your best to do something physical every day, as it will help you stay focused.” —Allison Kort, 2-time marathoner 

23. “Every day, we are adjusting to the new unknown, and when I trained for my first marathon I felt the same way. I wondered, Can my body actually run 17 miles? What will the weather be like? Should I conquer it solo or with a friend? Running has gotten me through my hardest days and it is no different today. I am forever thankful to be part of a community that has taught me to keep going when the going gets tough.” —Danielle A., marathoner 

24. “When this is all over, you’ll look back and never see the world the same. You’ll realize how strong you really are, what you can endure, and what you can conquer.” —Paul Ronto, 6-time marathoner 

25. “Putting in the miles while training is like making a deposit in the bank, which allows you to make a successful withdrawal when the big day arrives. The same can be said about staying at home and socially isolating. Take this time to build a foundation of healthy habits so that when life returns to normal, you’ll be able to come out stronger than ever.” —Alex Davis, 5-time marathoner

26. “Marathons have taught me so much about determination. I’ve trained for Leadville (100 miles) on a treadmill in a hot garage in west Texas and by running a two-mile loop in my neighborhood. It’s still always hard to keep going after that first lap, but I push through it. I’m also a big fan of temptation bundling; I’ve learned to pair the things that are hard with things that are fun or guilty pleasures. So if I have to do a 40-mile run on a treadmill, I’m going to be watching trash TV or listening to a true-crime podcast.” —Liza Howard, ultramarathon champion

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