Use these Four Tricks to Power Through Tough Workouts

The mind is an effective tool when you know how unleash its power. This is especially important when you’re challenging yourself in a hard workout, or pushing in a race. Managing your mind is just as important as training your body, because the minute your thoughts go south, it affects everything from your how your body performs to regulating your breathing and more. Train your brain with these five tools and you’ll soon find that you’re able to push through the challenging workouts more effectively and believe it or not, more enjoyable.

Fuel your mind.

Performing at your best depends greatly on fueling well. When you go into a hard workout without optimal fuel, it can affect how you process the challenge mentally. Glucose is the sole fuel for the brain and it lacks a storage mechanism, therefore it requires a steady supply of glucose to perform well. Fueling your body with a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat is the first step in setting yourself up to push hard and power through. Time your meals to assure you have a steady source of energy flowing to your brain, and if you’re running long, supplementing with a sports drink or energy product will aid in continuing to fuel for optimal performance.


When done properly, breathing can manage the stress load on your body and take you to the next level of performance. Breathing is a release valve and trigger for your nervous system. When you breath erratically, and with short and shallow breaths from your chest, you are putting your body in fight-or-flight mode, which releases hormones that can help with short bursts of work (in seconds), but the effect isn’t useful for longer bouts of intense exercise. Train yourself to better regulate your breathing. First by focusing on breathing deeply into your belly, and then progress to taking air in through your nose and out through your mouth. Like all skills, this takes time to learn and perfect, but has a profound effect on keeping the body in a calm, flow state where you can perform at your best. The key is to slow the tempo of your breath, take it in deeply and then sync it with the rhythm of your feet, breathe in through your nose for three or four steps, then out through your mouth for three.

Think big, and then think little.

Performance anxiety can have a negative effect on your workouts, and create a downward spiral of your thoughts and reactions. When you go into a tough workout, look at the big picture, and then break it down into smaller bits and pieces. When I raced in the 7-9 day Eco-Challenge adventure race, my team would look at the big goal (the finish), and then break it down into micro goals and aim to reach one check point at a time. Whether you’re running a half marathon, or pushing through a high intensity interval workout, break it down, and digest each piece one at a time. It frees your mind from anxiety, and provides a fun sense of accomplishment every time you check one.

Create an empowering mantra.

A mantra is a message you repeat in your mind that pumps positive messages into your mind and energizes your body. I use this one in a race, “I’m feeling good, I’m running strong, I’m powering towards the finish line.” When you sync your mantra with your breath and connect it to the rhythm of your feet, you create a focused state of flow that will allow you to push harder for longer. Controlling your mind is all about managing what you eat, how you breathe, and what you think. Invest time in developing your mental toughness regimen and it will pay in dividends down the road.
  Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.