Tempo runs can seem daunting to tackle because you know the tempo part will be uncomfortable and if you’re like me, you want to do it well, adding pressure. – also, I did this on the treadmill, which may also be mentally challenging.
Mentally, I used two strategies with the way I approached this 6 mile tempo run. [I’m just using 6 miles as an example because that’s the distance I happened to be doing, a tempo run can pretty much be any distance.]
My First Strategy
First, I kept in mind that the run is only 6 miles, and only 3 of the miles is at the tempo/threshold pace (the daunting part). Everything else is easy effort/pace. 3 miles or 6 miles, however you think about it is extremely doable and is possibly half of a drop of water in your bucket of all your training runs.
My Second Strategy
Secondly, sometimes I like to tell myself that I have less distance to do, than what I actually have left. Let’s say that I’m in mile 2.5 and approaching mile 3, only 1 mile left in the tempo portion, but my mental game is struggling a little. The tempo part will end at mile 4, then a 2 mile cooldown. At mile 3, I’ll tell myself that I only have half a mile left of feeling uncomfortable.
I can definitely make it another half mile feeling uncomfortable, on a treadmill. Once I reach mile 3.5, I know I accomplished half a mile and can do another half a mile, and feel motivated that I can crush it because it’s almost over. Reaching mile 4 feels so satisfying and you can mentally celebrate the cooldown portion of the run.
Using these two mental strategies of breaking down the tempo run is helpful. Remember, you need to practice it over and over (and over) again to master it.
Let me know if you have questions.