Keep your marathon training on track in the colder months with these mental tricks from the USA’s second fastest female marathoner

By Caitlin Carlson
December 04, 2014

You may be surprised to hear that you and an Olympic marathon runner (Find out why women are better at marathons) have a lot in common-but Shalane Flanagan says it's true: "What the four-hour marathoner goes through [during training and on race day] and what I go through is the same kind of thing. We all go through some highs and lows and self-talk to convince ourselves that we love it, even when things are rough."

And this winter may be especially rough on us runners. The season also brings shorter days and, for many of us, a little (or a lot) of holiday indulgences that translate to missed workouts, and a drop in fitness level. But fear not: You can keep your running routine on track this winter with these mental tricks from Flanagan.

Don't Just Set a Goal


Write it down! And then tell all of your friends, says Flanagan. "When people around me know my goals it's like having a bunch of training partners to keep me accountable."

It's About the Journey


Rather than focusing on the large end goal (say, a half-marathon next spring), Flanagan focuses on the process. She sets smaller, short-term goals (check out The Best Workout For Your Fitness Goals). For instance, just thinking: "You're getting fitter", or "This workout is making me faster" makes it worth it to push through each individual sweat session.

Think: I Will Learn to Love This


With running, the more you do it, the better you're going to be and the more you'll like it. So stick with it! If it's too cold or dark, run on the ‘mill. "Be consistent and have some type of schedule," advises Flanagan. "Anything is attainable if you give yourself enough time."

Visualize Yourself Crushing It


Sports psychologists often advise athletes visualize themselves running their goal race course-picturing themselves relaxed and fast. You can try it before a training a run. Flanagan takes visualization to the next level: "I visualize a top competitor running right next to me, trying to pass me," she says. "Then, when it happens in real life, I'm not so intimidated."

Make Your Mantra Super Specific


"I use inspirational words that apply to each specific race I run (rather than simply having a go-to mantra that applies to running in general)," says Flanagan. "When I was preparing for the Olympic trials for the marathon, it was so emotional. I used the mantra 'cold execution' to help me to be really calculated and not let emotions get the best of me," she says. Think about why a race or run is important to you and make that your mantra (for example "stay fit through winter" or "I'm tougher than the cold").

Get a Running Costume


"Having fun clothing-anything that makes you feel happy-helps give you a little mental shift-It can really excite people to get out there," says Flanagan. "I love wearing my compression socks-they make me feel fast-and I have a wide variety of colors. If I'm wearing ‘em, that means that I'm doing a hard workout and it's on!"

Expand Your (Running) Shoe Wardrobe


"I love my regular training shoes, but I also have a lighter weight pair that I wear for speed work," says Flanagan. "Slipping on a different pair feels transformative and it gives me a little extra boost," says Flanagan. (See 14 Shoes to Make You Fitter, Faster, and Slimmer.)

Put Quality Fuel in Your Tank


Flanagan snacks on a piece of fruit and a KIND bar immediately before a run to get energized. Even if you're running to lose weight, skipping a pre-workout snack (check out The Right Way to Fuel Up for a Workout) will just make you hungrier later in the day.



When deciding whether or not to get out of bed for your run, ask yourself: What are you going to regret? "I base a lot of decision around the fact that I don't want to regret things," says Flanagan. And when have you ever regretted a workout?

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