Endurance is most commonly talked about as a physical phenomenon; the ability to resist the debilitating physical affects of fatigue for a prolonged amount of time. The burn in the legs. The increase in heart rate. All things that we runners train our bodies to prevent and resist. But what about mental endurance? Is that even a thing? And can we train it?
Who better to ask than the elite marathoners of the On ZAP Endurance Team? They know a thing or two about endurance (the clue’s in the name). And there’s no doubt in any of their fatigue-resistant minds that the mental aspect of endurance can make the difference between achieving your goals and falling well short.
Training Your Mind
Not only is mental endurance real, research shows it’s intrinsically connected to physical performance. In fact, the science recommends training with a calm mind where possible to avoid mental fatigue affecting your workout. That said, they also emphasize that having a tired mind isn’t a reason to skip training. Chances are, as many of us know, a run is a great way to help you switch off and de-stress.
According to On ZAP Endurance’s Tyler Pennel, mental endurance is something the team works on just like they do their physical conditioning.
“Mental strength is very important and while the brain is not a muscle, you can work on improving your mental endurance,” Tyler said. But how exactly?
One obvious way is running longer, harder efforts. Especially if you’re training for a marathon, you need to be able to learn to relax and recover at different times in the race. Those longer efforts will help simulate that.
For the team’s coach, Pete Rea, mental fortitude is a foundational element of being a strong distance runner.
“Possessing the ‘I can overcome anything’ attitude is immensely important,” he explained. “No matter what setbacks are thrown your way, athletes who ‘keep coming’ no matter the bump in the road will more often prevail.”