The Grind: How to Get Through Tough Workouts

I’m known for my grind. I often get complements after races about how much grit I showed during a tough race. I myself think of grinding on a bigger picture. This goes 1929812_17507466773_8950_nback to my years of running in high school, working my ass off, wanting so badly to be up at the front and yet always falling short. I told myself that I would not quit, I would continue to work harder until I was fast enough to run the times that I knew I could in my heart. To that, I say thank you little T. That story in itself is for another day, another blog. This blog I wanted to go through some tips and tricks that can help YOU push your body to get the most out of yourself!

Whether you are lifting weights in the gym or running hard intervals on the road, you need to be able to focus yourself when things get tough and you start to become tired. I have several tricks that I use to keep myself focused and I try to add to these constantly to improve my mental game. 


  • Reading mental training books. It’s a good idea to train your mind just as hard as you train your body. Luckily these days you don’t need to use trial and error to figure out what works and doesn’t work, just grab a book off your bookshelf. Some of the best mental skills training books I have read include – How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald, Peak Performance by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg, and Endure by Alex Hutchinson. Other books including Once a Runner, or even an autobiography of someone you look up to can also be particularly inspiring as well. Whatever inspires you, drives you. Use it.
  • Get mad at Josh for making you do the workout in the first place. Errr… actually that might only work for me… Actually that is to say use that nervous energy! Acknowledge that you might be nervous and tell yourself “it’s a sign that great things are about to happen.” I often tell myself this pre-race. In fact, in Peak Performance the authors say that changing your thoughts from “I’m nervous” to “I’m excited” will  help shift you from a stress to a growth mindset. AKA you will use that energy effectively instead of letting it derail your performance.
  • Review your training. A great pre-race ritual for me is confirming my confidence. This involves going over what I’ve already accomplished in this block of training, thinking back to tough workouts or high mileage weeks and using this to reaffirm that I’m ready!
  • Meditation and focus. You’re unlikely to perform at your best if your mentally exhausted or thinking about that thing that’s due at work. Read my past blog to learn more about meditation. One of my fav pre-workout meditations on the (free) app Insight Timer is “Connecting With the Power Within” a meditation for runners. It’s a 30 minute meditation, give it a try!
  • Fuel! Don’t go into a workout without proper nutrition. You can’t expect your body to perform if you haven’t eaten all day.
  • Don’t sugar coat it!! Don’t pretend that all your training has made you invincible. This race/workout is going to HURT. If you do it right, I may hurt more than ever before. We don’t always reach that “zone” in races where everything just flows and you feel unstoppable. If you go into the race expecting that, you’ll likely set yourself up for failure as soon as things start to get tough. Instead, “Bracing yourself – always expecting your next race to be the hardest yet – is a much more mature and effective way to prepare mentally for competition.” Matt Fitzgerald – How Bad Do You Want It.

During Workouts/Races:

Now this is the meat and potatoes of this post… err I mean fruits and vegetables of this post! Come on I’m a vegetarian, what use is meat to me? As Matt Fitzgerald says in How Bad Do You Want It, you need to become your own Sports Psychologist and this needs to be done in the setting you wish to perform. That is, sitting on the couch thinking about a tough workout is much different than actually working through one.

  • Think about it one interval at a time. Try to push yourself to do your best on each interval whether it’s the first or last. That isn’t to say to go all out but you should know your goal pace and work controlled within that pace.
  • Chunking. If I have a particularly long workout I chunk intervals together to pretend I have less to do. Eg. 15×400 becomes 3 sets of 5 400s in my head so I can complete 5 and think just 2 more left… when really I have 10 more left.
  • Just get to… Thinking about markers along your route for that interval/race. Intervals just get to half-way, just get to that light post, okay check got there now let’s get to the next one. In a race, an easy one is, just get to the next km marker or just get to your next gel, next water station... etc.
  • Have a calm conversation. This is talked about at length in Peak Performance as well. Instead of panicking when things start to hurt think Yes it’s starting to hurt but  it’s supposed to hurt and I’ve been here before and got through this pain before so I can do it again. Your goal is to get yourself refocused on the task at hand not the pain.
  • Repeat a mantra. This is a saying or even a word that means something to you. It motivates and inspires your to push yourself. Scott Fauble from NAZ elite just had a instagram post talking about his 3 race mantras during his 5th place finish at New York Half this past weekend which were: “just get to Central Park, just get to Central Park.” And “scared money can’t win” and “f**k with me, you know I got it.” His blogs inspire me you should check them out here.
  • Sing a song. I’ve seen many elites, even Lanni, talk about this. I know I’m on when I’m repeating some of my favourite motivational lyrics from songs I’ve been listening to while training. Some of my favourite lyrics are old school Kayne, or Macklemore or some obnoxious current hit that I just can’t get out of my head. These are often titles of my strava runs.
  • Run with your purpose in mind. This may be spoken as your mantra. My shortened version of my purpose I say “Do it for Little T,” which means do it for all of those who love running but want to quit because they think they aren’t good enough. Show them, if they work hard then can do it. Since this is so important to peak performance, I’ve expanded on this below.

The most important mental factor of all: purpose. If you haven’t read my recent blog about purpose go give it a read here afterwards. If you are familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you know what the top level to reaching your full potential as a person is “self-actualization.” A self-actualizer is a person who is living creatively and fully using his or her potentials. Very few people ever reach self-actualization. Now going back to the book Peak Performance, I learned that in order to reach this highest peak on the hierarchy needs, that is to achieve peak performance, a person must care LESS about themselves and live with a PURPOSE driven life. As I mentioned in my other blog, developing a purpose that involves helping others in some way is much better than a selfish driven purpose, according to Peak Performance’s research. So if you truly want to get the MOST out of yourself during a workout or a race you must reflect on your life’s purpose and why you are doing that task in the first place. The closer you live your life to your purpose, the happier you will be. As you have just learned, this will also help you become closer to self-actualization and reaching your full-potential as an athlete and person.

Try some of these mental tricks during your next work-out or race and let me know how it goes! There’s also a great video by Mind2Achieve Sport Psychologist Kim Dawson about getting mentally prepped that I watched this week you can check it out here or on my retweets.

I will be racing Around the Bay 30k this weekend, hope to see you there! Next week’s blog post I will be doing a race recap for the spring thus! So stay tuned for that.

As always, GRIND ON.



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This entry was posted in advice, meditation, mental skills advice, Peak Performance, purpose, running, Self-growth, training, workout tips. Bookmark the permalink.

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