TRAINING from couch potato to 5k

Published on March 10th, 2015 | by Mark

From Couch Potato To 5k – Mental Tips For Running Beginner

The physical ability to run is only half the battle. You may have legs built for running marathons and an Olympic heart that pumps blood and oxygen to your working muscles without missing a beat. However, if your mind is not focused on running and you are lacking the drive to finish your run, you may not succeed.

Not everyone is made to be a runner. Fitness instructors and personal trainers who have excelled in the fitness industry for decades, may not have the mental or physical abilities to run; this is not a bad quality- they may be able to lift weights for days when you struggle to curl 10 pounds. This is a lot due to the types of muscle fibers you inherited from your parents. Although you cannot change these muscle fibers, the percentages of the different types have an effect on whether you find aerobic exercise, such as running or strength-training exercises easier.

While you cannot change the amount of muscle fiber types you have, you can improve the functions of the different types. So, if running has never appealed to you, yet your goal is to complete a couch to 5K program, combine the physical training with mental toughness for the best way to succeed.

Benefits of Running Daily

Running is one of the simplest cardiovascular exercises, as all you need are a pair of quality, running shoes. Just steps out your front door, you find the path to a better life with things such as: improved heart and lung function, weight loss or weight maintenance, reduced stress, improved mental health, mental clarity, increased endurance, enhance self-confidence Mental Tricks.

Identifying what drives you and what motivates you are the first keys to mental success in running. Also, it is important to set goals since the desire to reach them is often a mental drive. At times, successful running comes down to harnessing your willpower. The willpower you use avoid eating those home-baked chocolate-chip cookies, is the same willpower you can focus when learning how to train for marathon running, or when running your first mile of four times around a track.

Drive – From Couch Potato To 5k

Your drive is what motivates you. If you are like most people, you may think that financial gain is the biggest motivator and financial rewards are what drives you. This can be true when earning a paycheck at a job that you do not want to make a career out of, but one that you use as a stepping stone toward your future. The hourly wages and paying your bills are a big drive to go to work every day.

However, when considering your drive in the terms of success, researchers at MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found surprising results when students were given monetary rewards. The study gave small, medium or large monetary rewards to students who performed challenges such as memorizing, puzzle completing or physical tasks. The results show that when a task is purely mechanical and involved little to no thinking, the students performed better and received larger monetary rewards. In contrast, when the tasks required even slight mental performance, the results were poor and students received small rewards.

This study shows that even though the students thought they wanted the larger payout, if they could not harness their mental skills and focus their thoughts, their performance was hampered. The same thing can happen with your running. You may have the desire and will to complete your run, but if your mental clarity is lacking, you will have difficulty and may not succeed.

Types of Drive

There are three types of driving factors or motivators:

  1. Autonomy- This is your desire to be self-directed and run your own life. You want to call the shots. You don’t want anyone else telling you what to do or how to do it. With running, you can have the best coach, but if his ways do not match yours, you will not improve.
  2. Mastery- This is your desire to get better at things. When you find something enjoyable, such as running, you have a natural instinct to get better at it. You want to master it and become the best runner you can be within your own personal limitations.
  3. Purpose- This is your desire to get up in the morning. Your sense of purpose is what motivates you to live through each day. This may be a need to change the world and make a large contribution to society. It may be to be the best parent or partner. Your purpose may be to complete the marathon in first place. Finding your purpose is a large contribution to your mental stability.

Drive for Running

If you use the three types of drive to define your motivators for running, you can have a better mental picture of how to reach your goals even if you are starting with a running for beginners program.

First, address the need to run your way. Think about your individual preferences, including:

  • Time of day for running
  • Types of shoes and apparel
  • Routes- whether you like city or country; treadmill or track
  • Adjustments for weather
  • Whether or not you want to wear a fitness monitor
  • If you are going to run at a steady-state, or use interval training

Second, consider why or how you are going to master running:

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Seek the advice of a trainer or coach
  • Watch running videos
  • Join a running club
  • Read technique books
  • Run with a partner

Third, determine what your purpose is for running. Is it:

  • To improve your health
  • To reach a personal goal
  • To fire your competitive side
  • To feel free
  • To reduce stress
  • To burn calories

see below:

Willpower and Running

Willpower is a strong factor in improving your mental capacity for running. It takes tremendous willpower to leave the comfort of your home and go run three to five miles; especially when the weather is poor. According to the New York Times, the more you use your willpower, the stronger it gets and the easier it is to use. (source)

This response is much like running. The more you run, the stronger your muscles get and the easier running becomes. If you find yourself lacking willpower, the NY Times suggests thinking about things that are valuable to you. For instance, if you began running to fit into your dress for your high school reunion, picture yourself slim and tone and feeling healthy while visiting with your former classmates. If you began running to complete a marathon, imagine your arms held high as you cross the finish line with a smile on your face. These images help you to rely on your willpower and make good choices.

The best way to train your willpower is to start with small tasks such as not eating a cookie or a piece of chocolate cake. Other ways to use willpower are to run one mile instead of three- and then see how you feel once you are out there. You may find yourself finishing your miles without any issues.

Brain Rules

According to the American Running Association, ARA, runners typically use four mental strategies:

  • Internal Association- focusing on how you feel internally
  • Internal Dissociation- distracting yourself from running by singing songs in your head or contemplating word or math puzzles
  • External Association- focusing on factors regarding the race or run such as if others are passing you, watching for fluid breaks, or calculating your race time
  • External Dissociation- distracting yourself by watching the scenery, route, crowds or costume-dressed runners

Which mental strategy works the best? The ARA, reports that runners who only think about how they are feeling, typically do not perform well. They tend to hit the wall sooner and experience a greater discomfort than those who focus on other things. For runners who distract themselves internally, the results are not much better, since they may forget to check in with their body and become dehydrated or experience low blood sugar. Runners who used external dissociation ran well and delayed hitting the wall. The reasons may be when you are focused on the runners around you, you may keep a steady pace and breathe easier. Using external association also worked well as a mental strategy for race running. Runners using external association appear to check in with their bodies and pay attention to outside influences, which may be the best combination for a winning time.

If your mind wants to put off today what it can do tomorrow, such as not running today, but you will run extra long tomorrow, try to use your rational brain instead of your reactive brain. You need both thought processes since the rational brain makes plans about your workout routines and draws up routes, times and exercises to help you reach your goals. The reactive brain has an emotional reaction to these plans and you simply may not want to. Your reactive brain is like the two-year-old who crosses her arms and says “No”. To be a successful runner and to also improve your life successes, it is important to learn to rely on your rational brain instead of making spur of the moment decisions, which may not be in your best interest.

When you are confronted with a lack of time for running, try to schedule it into your day the same way you would any other appointment. You would not break an appointment with your boss or an important client- view your scheduled running time the same way. Treat yourself like that valuable client and do not skip your date. If it helps, keep your running gear in your car so you are able to work out on a moment’s notice. If you’re driving home and see a beautiful park, slip on your shoes and go for it. You don’t always have to run in the same place every day.

Setting Goals:from couch potato to 5k?

Setting SMART running goals is another focusing tip to improve your physical and mental health. A SMART goal is not simply saying that you’re going to run a marathon. Although a noble goal, you want to create small, measurable goals on your way to running a marathon. These goals keep you focused and on track to reach your dream.

Use the SMART acronym when setting your goal. This process begins when you set a SPECIFIC goal. Ask yourself what it is you want to accomplish and identify the reasons why you want to achieve it. Determine if any other people are involved or if you require a specific location to reach your objective. This first step is also the place to identify any challenges or restrictions that you will overcome in your journey.

The second key to success is choosing a MEASURABLE goal. A measurable goal is one that you track on a weekly basis. For example, you are able to measure how fast you run a mile, but you cannot measure whether you are happier. Use this strategy to help you develop a workout plan. Determine if steady-state running is helping you reach your goal, or if an interval workout, suggested by the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, may help you reach your goal sooner. 

When choosing your target, select an ATTAINABLE goal. You can accomplish anything. However, an attainable goal fits within your lifestyle, financial, moral and physical situations. In other words, do not say you are going to run three miles every day when you only have 30 minutes available on Wednesdays.

Along this same thought process, the goal you choose should be REALISTIC. For example, if you are a small-boned, petite woman with muscular legs, you may not be able to run as fast as the 5’10” girl next door with slim, built-for-running legs.

The final step when planning your goal is to determine a TIMELY finish date to reach your accomplishment. Determine an end-date for your process to keep you on track and accountable. If the final date seems far off, break down your goals into a smaller timetable so your reach your accomplishments sooner. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon by the end of the year, set a mark to increase your mileage by 10 percent every week, which according to the American Council on Exercise, can help you when planning training for your first 5K. 

If you have trouble determining a goal, or are feeling overwhelmed with too many goals, start small. Select one that you are able to accomplish within a month. This will give you the satisfaction of knowing you can reach a goal as well as teach you how to use the SMART steps. (see wikipedia: SMART criteria)

Baseline and Recalibration

When developing a running program it is very helpful to measure your baseline running time. A convenient place to time a run is on a pre-measured track such as one found at your local high school. Time yourself when running one mile, typically four times around a track, and on a subsequent day, time yourself running 3.1 miles. This gives you an idea of your race times and can help you set the goals to improve your times.

You should see improvements after six weeks of training, so you can time yourself again after six to eight weeks of consistent training. It is important to take days off from running for recovery, so be sure to include these in your workout schedule.

Willpower Boost

To aid your mental focus for running, set a short, attainable goal. For example, tell yourself that you will run three miles every day for a week, then you’ll take two days off. Use your focus and willpower to reach your goal and help improve your running ability.

Used a fixed schedule and run at the same time every day to avoid interruptions or delays. If you need to run first thing in the morning before work, set your alarm for 45 minutes earlier and run your miles. If you enjoy running before dinner, ask your family to delay dinner until you return. This fixed schedule helps you improve your willpower by not allowing interferences.

Train Your Brain

Train your brain to be rational instead of reactive. When a thought such as “I can do it tomorrow” enters your mind, replace it with a visualization of you crossing the finish line, or you fitting into your reunion dress. These mental tricks help keep you on track to reach your goals.

Just like the way your body responds to exercise and training, so does your brain. The more you use your willpower, the stronger it gets. The more you use your rational brain, the stronger it gets. You use your filter and instead of just reacting to stimuli such as bad weather, or a headache, you can overcome these distractions and stay focused on your ultimate goal.

Finding a Running Partner

You may need to be accountable to meet your running goals. This is not a bad thing, but it does help. Much like fitness participants schedule personal training times so they know they will work out, scheduling a time with your running partner guarantees that you will not miss an exercise session. When you know someone is waiting for you and counting on you, you are more apt to make an appearance. It is easy to not run when it is just you, but when your partner is waiting, you will be there.

Start to Write a Running Blog

Once your passion for running grows, you want to share it with others. One way to do this is by creating a blog. Even if no one else reads it, you tie in your mental focus with your physical accomplishments and have an electronic diary of your progress. Your blog can track your emotional and physical responses to each run, can give you an idea of which type of training works the best for you and can remind you of the progress you’ve made.

The written word is a powerful tool to help your mind believe what your body can achieve. When you see the proof in the words, you are clear on what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Discover Personal Mental Change and Development

When your mental focus, training, willpower, goal setting and motivators link together, you are an unstoppable force. You feel powerful and confident, knowing that whatever goal you set, you can achieve. This translates into all areas of your life including your career and your personal relationships.

It helps you avoid the fear of failure and sets you up to try many new things- knowing that if you do not succeed, you can try a different approach. These life lessons cannot be taught; they must be learned. The only way you’ll know what you can and cannot accomplish is by trying.

Your mental attitude changes when you feel confident in your physical body. When you complete a run or a race, you know that the only person who got you across that finish line was you. You learn to depend on yourself and that greatly develops your character.


The mental skills that you develop when you choose to improve your running, will carry over into your life. This may surprise you at first, but you will notice an increase in willpower and determination. No longer will you struggle to avoid the chocolate snacks in the break room at work, or will you try to procrastinate regarding chores or career projects.

You want to live your life the best way that you can with integrity and mental focus. Your runs improve, your life improves, your work and relationships improve when you learn how to harness your brain power and rely on your rational instead of reactive brain.

Even as a beginning runner, you’ll notice the physical and mental improvements and understand why runners become addicted to the “high”. It is not just about putting one foot in front of the other. It becomes a way of living your life and reaching your dreams.

If you can affect others along the way in a positive manner than you are a success. By sharing your story and your passion with co-workers, friends and family, you encourage them to focus and reach their dreams. They may not turn into the road runner that you’ve become, but when you see them flourish on their life path, you are all successful.

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is actually a super running fan.

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