The Mental Side of Ultra Training

Written by DBR Ambassador Mike Coutu It was 93 degrees out and I was at mile 23 of a 32-mile training run on my ranch….


Written by DBR Ambassador Mike Coutu

It was 93 degrees out and I was at mile 23 of a 32-mile training run on my ranch. When I say ranch I really mean ranchito because it’s not a vast piece of land, just five beautiful acres on the outskirts of hill country outside of Granbury, TX.

I needed to get a good long training run in before my trip to Alaska since I wasn’t sure how much running I would get in while I was there. This trip was celebrating ten years of marriage to my awesome wife Emily and I promised I wouldn’t spend our entire two weeks out on the trails.

My ranchito trail is roughly a half mile, so 32 miles of training meant 65 loops. I chose this run even though there are three state parks within 40 minutes of my cabin. Why? Well, it sounded like it would definitely suck pretty bad. I wanted it to suck and I wanted temptation to be high, a temptation of stopping in favor of air conditioning and cold beer with the cabin so close by.

These are the types of situations that I “like” to put myself in. It’s physically tough but mentally, it is a real beating. A lot of people spend so much time focusing on their shoes, vest, watch, and other gear but what really matters is the tool they should be most worried about, the mind.

Just like training the body to undertake a big task like running 100 miles, we can do the same with the mental side of things.

How do we do this? The answer is simple. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations and do things that you DO NOT want to do. This can be anything from getting up early on the weekends instead of sleeping into running 32 miles on a half mile loop.

Look at everyday situations that you typically don’t enjoy and think of them as mental training. For example, at the brewery, we do zone cleaning. Each week is a different zone and we do everything from dusting to scrubbing floors and so on. It’s not my favorite thing to do but I look at it as mental training and I get it done.

By undertaking tasks that put you in uncomfortable situations repeatedly, you are training your mind to push through periods of time where you want to quit but you persevere and get the task done. It may not seem like much at first but little things like this add up and eventually, you will find that the day-to-day things that you don’t like doing become easier. The same will apply to aspects of your training.

It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. There will always be days where you might find it hard to get out the door for your long run or you don’t want to get out of bed. It is pivotal on these days that you force yourself to do those things anyway. This is where you will make the most progress and I can guarantee you from experience that those days where you don’t want to train or get up, but still do, will be the most rewarding.

This may all seem like common sense and you might be reading this and saying to yourself that you have heard this all before. Chances are, you have. I want you to take a minute though and be honest with yourself: are you really pushing yourself beyond your limits? Are you testing yourself daily? Are you putting yourself in uncomfortable situations where the only way out is to become comfortable?

I know for me that this is a constant battle and something that I am always working on. It’s like a sword, you have to keep it sharp so it’s always ready for battle.

Start small by getting up on time, get in all your meals, stretch or do yoga after your long run, pick up that empty gel packet off the trail, etc. Start small and it will translate into something bigger, especially when the time comes where you are facing big challenges.

When I toe the line at any race the one thing I always think to myself is that NO MATTER WHAT I will finish. It might be pretty, it might be ugly, but we will get it done either way.

Keep a positive outlook on things, even when things suck and you feel like you want to quit. Smile. Laugh. Know that it sucks but it’s not going to last forever. Sometimes what you really need to ask yourself is “How bad do I want it?” If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen.

So take some time today and do something you don’t want to do. Find something this weekend that you can add into your training that will suck. Put yourself in some uncomfortable situations and find a way to be comfortable.

I can promise that doing these things consistently will yield large gains in your personal and athletic endeavors. Keep a positive outlook even when things suck and your life will be that much richer!