Happy 2020! Welcome to the Year of Mastering Your Mindset – when we focus on our mental fitness and develop the confidence, focus, and mental toughness to reach our biggest running goals.
Before we explore our new theme for 2020 all about mental fitness, I want to thank all of you for making 2019 such a success!
Even though we missed a formal theme last year, it was a busy 12 months… There were so many new developments last year that are helping us push forward and reach new milestones together.
The Strength Running community continues to grow and our message of smart training, strength, and hard work is being shared far and wide.
Last year, the Strength Running Podcast reached 1 million downloads! And as of today, we’re quickly approaching 2 million. These numbers blow my mind – and I have you to thank.
Every review in Apple Music, every share with your running friends, and every time you support our sponsors helps the show grow. And if the podcast continues to grow, then I’ll continue to produce new episodes.
Our YouTube channel also reached 15k subscribers… and then 20k… and then 25k! I’m glad our video lessons and demonstrations are resonating; I base many of the content ideas directly on your questions so feel free to search the Archives. You might just find a video that is all about you.
This was also a year where I did a fair amount of speaking. I…
- Delivered an injury prevention presentation at the Rocky Mountain Trail Camp
- Spoke on a coaching panel at the US Trail Running conference about strength training for runners
- Delivered a presentation to Budweiser on peak performance (corporate employees can learn a lot from runners!)
- Moderated a discussion between elite ultra runners about performance and recovery in Boulder, CO
These experiences reinforced my love for running but perhaps more importantly, my love for runners.
This community is so strong and welcoming that I wouldn’t know where I would be without it. Running has been such an integral part of my life for so long and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
New Resources for Runners
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As our community has grown, I’ve also been hard at work creating new resources to help you improve.
Last year, I debuted Simply Strong, our streamlined strength program for runners in a hurry. A simpler, less complex version of High Performance Lifting, it helps runners who might not have the time or inclination for more comprehensive weightlifting workouts.
And it dovetails perfectly with our “Year of Strength” for 2018!
We also saw Running Smarter, Running Stronger launched in partnership with XPollination Studios. This is a feature film length video course about running fundamentals, smart training, and staying healthy.
Filmed in gorgeous Colorado, it features elite runner Maggie Callahan and some of the most beautiful b-roll footage I’ve ever seen.
Next, we updated Finish Strong, our fueling program. It now has more fueling examples, Q&A, interviews, and discount codes. The goal? To help you appropriately fuel for any type of workout, long run, or race.
Most importantly, these resources are helping you improve! I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t helping to elevate your performances.
Here’s just a sample of the progress the Strength Running community has experienced:
- How James Ran 3 Personal Bests After Years of Stagnating Finish Times
- Kevin Got Stronger, Lost Weight, and Ran Two Personal Bests
- How David Reinvented his Running (at age 73!)
- See How Jennifer Built Confidence – And Speed
These major case studies are just the tip of the iceberg. Notes from runners around the world land in my inbox on a near daily basis. And I couldn’t be more excited about your progress:
“I wanted to share some exciting news and it’s thanks to your program. Today I finished my first half marathon. I finished feeling strong and not once during the entire race did I ever feel like I was not going to be able to do it. I am 44 years old, a relatively new runner with only one 5k to my credit, and had knee reconstruction within the past 4 years. No matter what program I used before, I always ended up with a pulled calf muscle, IT band soreness, or just unable to see noticeable gains.
Although at the start of the race, the director announced that no one should expect to PR with the weather, I can say I did. Thank you for putting years of your experience together in such an easy to follow format and making it available to anyone who has the desire to run.” – Karen
“The program was really enjoyable and I learned a lot! I came out injury-free and pretty much free from any little twitches or pains that I’ve gotten before so that was also a huge plus.
I finished my race yesterday with a 3:14:14 – and considering my “pie in the sky” goal was 3:20 – I’m absolutely thrilled. 16 minute PR! Thank you so much for your guidance! I feel really lucky to have a healthy body with the ability to do something like this. Cheers to many more miles!!!” – Nurrie
“18 months ago, I approached you with what I thought was an outrageous goal: to get my post-two-kids body into good enough shape to crack the 4:00 barrier in the marathon.
I got two PR Race Plans, followed them to the letter through 3 training cycles. And finally, Saturday, the big pay-off: 3:57:28! That time was actually good enough to win my age group! It was an amazing race, I felt so strong throughout, I negative-split the race, and my fastest mile was actually mile 26, at 8:35. I couldn’t believe it!
I can’t thank you enough for helping me with these plans, and with all the other content you put out to support the runners you coach. Every podcast and every blog post has a little gem in it that I can pick up and incorporate into my preparation.” – Dena
But we’re not done yet.
2020: The Year We Focus on Mental Fitness
This year, we’re focusing on the one muscle that truly matters: our brain.
It’s curious that in a sport like running – that so demands tenacity and mental toughness – runners so rarely work on their mental fitness.
Just think back to your last race that didn’t go so well. Did you make a deal with yourself to settle for a subpar race?
- Traded your “A” goal time for a “B” goal
- Adjusted your goal pace because it started to feel intimidating or fatiguing
- Promised yourself that if you can just get to the finish, no matter what the time, you’ll be satisfied. Anything to make the pain stop!
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
Our goal this year is to eliminate these doubts and replace them with confident, positive, and constructive thoughts that lead you to better performances.
Even a small amount of sports psych training can have profound effects. Here’s a story about the first time I experimented with visualization in my own running career:
And in hindsight, my best races were when I was having fun, I loved the suffering, and I was mentally fit enough to endure the discomfort.
It’s incredible what a week of visualization will do! But imagine if I had been working on my mental fitness for years…
My confidence in my abilities would have been higher. I might have had a few races with faster finishing times, due to higher levels of self-belief and mental toughness.
And I wouldn’t have missed so much time due to injury because my training goals would have been more appropriate.
Much like running itself, mental fitness skills take time to develop.
And every day not spent on these skills is a day wasted.
Why Focus on Our Mental Fitness?
The mental side of running has gotten more and more attention over the last five years. It seems that runners are starting to realize how important their mindset is for achieving big goals.
And after publishing 120+ podcast episodes and interviewing elite track athletes, mountain runners, triathletes, ultramarathoners, and everyone in between, it’s clear that even the best in the world are actively training their brain.
It makes sense that even the professionals are training their mindset. The next frontier in improving peak performances is in mastering our mindset, developing optimal thinking patterns, and developing the psychological tools to mitigate adversity.
Those “psychological tools” give you a lot of benefits:
- Improved confidence and self-image
- Better emotional management during periods of high stress, like right before a major race
- The ability to set more realistic and challenging goals
- Improved focus during racing and training
- More productive self-talk (which is the “story” you tell yourself about you)
- Increased motivation to get the work done no matter what
With a thorough understanding of sports psychology – and the ability to apply it – you’ll be able to cope with many different types of stressors and still excel.
When motivation is low, you’ll know how to complete your workouts despite that.
When injury or illness strikes, you’ll know how to get excited about recovery and your comeback to healthy running.
When it gets tough late in a race and you start to hurt, you’ll know how to push through and finish strong.
Denisse is a good example of becoming better at handling pressure, becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and building confidence over the course of a season:
“Last Sunday I ran my half marathon and to my surprise I did it in 1:51. That’s 10 minutes faster than my PR! I had already felt strong but it was great to see how I could do better under pressure. And thanks to the workouts I am becoming used to pushing myself harder while fatigued.
I feel confident because I know exactly what to do and I know I’m not overdoing it or underdoing it. I really look forward to see what I can achieve in the next half of the program!” – Denisse
Anne is another great example of developing mental fitness:
“I ran a half marathon and PR’d by almost 5 minutes! (to 1:49). I’m definitely crediting it to my marathon plan, it changed my way of thinking about my capabilities and I knew I had it in me, that I had to trust myself and go for it and it would work.
I felt good the whole way, confident, serene, and happy. So another positive outcome of your coaching!” – Anne
See how Anne built confidence and self-belief through training? And how those mental skills bled into her racing ability?
Your results are impacted by – and nearly dictated by – your brain in a sport like endurance running.
What to Expect
I’m excited to launch a new series all about mental fitness. I’ll be answering a lot of your questions:
- How do I shut that little voice in my head off that wants me to slow down or give up?
- What are the best ways to stop feeling so nervous before a race?
- How do I believe in myself more and “go for it” in races when I’m usually scared?
- What can I do to stay focused on my training for longer than a few weeks?
These questions are difficult! There is no simple answer so I’ll be bringing in sports psychologists, coaches, and other experts to help us figure out how to develop these mental fitness skills.
I’ll also be posting new guidance, material, and tips on our social media channels:
Give me a follow on those platforms and you won’t miss a thing!
But I also want to give you more in-depth guidance than tweets or quick posts. So I’ve put together a new email series on how to build mental fitness, the mistakes to avoid, case studies, and more.
If you want it all, sign up here.
This is all-new material and I want you to have every advantage in your running.