How to change your PERCEPTION of effort! + A DATE!

Andrew and I got out for date night last night!

We decided to try somewhere new to us.  If the restaurant brings out hot chips and the most amazing fresh salsa, you already know that you made a good decision (Utah people… this was at Maria Bonita).

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The chicken fajitas that I ordered took it to the next level.  Many years ago I worked at a Mexican restaurant and I can’t tell you how many times I would get burned from those lame fajita pans… luckily that didn’t happen yesterday.

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After we ate we decided to go to an arcade.  Usually we go to arcades with the kids which means we don’t have the opportunity to let out our competitive side with each other.  He beat me big time on basketball so I think instead of running today I need to make it out to the courts to practice instead.

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He also somehow managed to win from one of those claw machine things (where they make it impossible to win).

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He couldn’t leave with just one for the kids so he went again and won another?!?  We have uncovered a hidden talent of his.

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Brooke was thrilled with his hard work and determination to bring this home for her.

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We got back to our house and watched a little bit of Trolls and then put Brooke to bed.

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PS Andrew and I have both agreed that this is the best smelling lotion ever.

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Our perceptions, or the way we view the world, is really an interesting thing.  Our past experiences help to shape our perceptions and so do things like our opinions, our environments, how people around us think, our beliefs/values and so much more.  I think that is something that makes life fun… we can all look at the same exact thing and see it differently and then try to understand how others see it and explain how we see it.  It makes life interesting.  As runners we all experience pain, discomfort and the desire to quit many times throughout those hard workouts and races.  It’s part of the sport but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what things I can do to change my perception when I am really struggling.

We might be giving the same amount of effort throughout the course of a marathon (or whatever race you do) BUT our perception of the effort we are giving may increase with each few miles along the way.  Or sometimes throughout the course of the marathon (when I experience every emotion ever made) my perception of effort is highest at miles 11-12,15-19 and 23-26.2.  The highs and lows that come along during the miles of a race are REAL.  It’s inevitable that over the course of time/distance along a race/long run/speed workout that the same pace is going to feel more and more difficult but what are some things along the way that help our brains to perceive the effort as LESS?

Here are some things for me during those tough miles that take away the pain for a minute or that give me that needed boost of energy.  A few things that help me to realize that my legs are not actually going to fall off (in the below picture I could have really used some of these things because I WAS HURTING).

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*Specific songs.  My pace isn’t changing and I’m still putting in the work but there are certain songs that come on that have so much meaning to me or provide the perfect beat that all of the sudden my perception of effort is—>  ‘this is fun, it isn’t that bad.’   I think the number one song for me that does this is “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows’ by Brand New.  It’s a weird song from 2003 but it just means a lot to me and each time it comes on it gives me that boost and I usually include it on my marathon playlists a few times for the fact that I want my perception of effort to feel easier because I’m too busy thinking about the song.  I have come to the conclusion that I will never get sick of this song because over the last 14 years I have listened to it thousands of times.

*A smile.  I do this during the really painful parts when my brain is trying it’s best to convince me to quit.  It’s not a full smile, maybe more of a grin (because let’s be honest… energy conservation is needed) but my brain perceives that as meaning I must feel good and it helps me anywhere from 30 seconds to a mile.

*A quick drink, especially if the drink includes sugar/energy/anything.  I am sure you have noticed this during a marathon but a quick drink of gatorade, Vega Clean Energy (what I started using during the marathon now for my sensitive stomach) or whatever works for you offers quite the relief.  The sugars/electrolytes/hydration gives you that boost.  Fuel along the miles always gives me the boost I need (once I eat it… too bad eating while running isn’t more fun for me:).

*Seeing your people or any spectators that make you happy (especially when it is a cute little kid holding up a funny sign and cheering for you like crazy).  Your effort level does not actually change, you are still working crazy hard but you see that and BOOM… it’s like your legs are fresh again for a minute or a mile and your brain tells you that you can in fact keep doing this.

*Pouring water on myself.  It cools me down quickly in those hot miles and all of the sudden my brain is perceiving my effort levels like I could keep going like this forever… rather than the constant argument in my head leading up to the water dump only moments before the water hits my head.

*I repeat things to myself.  Whether it’s everyone in my family’s name or mantras like, ‘I can do hard things’ ‘I am comfortable’ ‘Pain is temporary.’   Over the last few miles of a really tough race I like to count steps too because then my focus is on something else and my brain doesn’t tell me to quit as often.

Running is going to be hard.  It just is and especially during races for me when I am really shooting for a specific time.  We can’t change the fact that it is hard BUT we can change the fact that we can include things along the way when the miles are really hard to help us to perceive the pain/discomfort as not so bad.

Whether it is a mantra, a gu, a memory, dedicating each mile to someone else or certain songs… store those up in your brain leading up to a race or hard run so that you can use those things when the going gets really tough.


A portion of this post was brought to you by Brooke sitting behind me making all sorts of funny faces.

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What sort of things help you during the tough miles to get that boost you need?  Something that helps you to feel like your effort isn’t as hard?

WHAT IS YOUR TUESDAY RUN!?  I want the details please!

Have a favorite dish that you usually order at Mexican Restaurants?

I’d love to hear any mantras that work for you in the comments today!  We are all always looking for new ones!

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That is the best lotion!!! When the holidays roll around, you need to get some of their Vanilla Bean Noel. Also wonderful!


It’s pouring today and I have no run planned. But tomorrow I’ll shoot for a few easy miles.

Seeing family and friends in the later miles always gives me energy to pick up the pace.

I repeat stuff to myself too: “you are stronger than you think” “just keep going” “only x miles to go” or only “x songs left to listen to before you cross the finish!”


I 100% agree about the smiling during tough runs/races. The races that I’ve put a smile on my face (especially when it gets HARD) have been the good ones. During my last race I just kept telling my brain to, pardon my French, “Eff off—that my legs are STRONG!” This is a little emotional, too, and maybe corny, but my dad passed away a few years ago, and when it gets tough, sometimes I imagine that he’s behind me, giving me that extra push that I need.

Tuesday run—15 min warm up, 4 X 2 min at 7:20 pace with 60 sec recoveries, 4 x 1 min at 7:20 pace with 60 sec recoveries, 15 min cool down. It shouldn’t be too bad; I just hope it’s not too hot after school. I’m a teacher, and it’s the end of the year……..I’m tired. Ready to catch up on sleep and be a MORNING runner (what I love) over the summer!


Whenever you post food pictures from restaurants, you make me want to visit Utah because it looks so good!


Fajitas all the way. I usually order those too OR a big salad with fajita chicken (i LOVE the sauteed onions and peppers)!


Ahhh thanks for posting your little tactics for getting through hard runs! This came at the perfect time because I am officially training for my FIRST half and I see a lot of hard runs in the next 16 weeks! I wrote all about how I got here today on my blog!

I actually use one of your mantras when I need a boost: I can do hard things. That always seems to help, but I’m definitely going to be adding more to my repertoire here soon. It’s gonna be a long, sweaty summer!

No run for me today. My plan calls for Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday runs, plus I’ve got a 5K (the second of 3 in 10 days!) tomorrow evening. I got three miles in last night for my first OFFICIAL training run and I’m beyond excited!


I’ve been super sick for the past week, so it’s been a hot minute since my last run. I’m finally going to try (slowly) to run today. I put all my favorite songs on a playlist, because I’m pretty sure this run is going to crush my spirit, lol. My go-to song during hard times is Break it Down Again by Tears for Fears. Yes, it is old. So am I.


Great tips for keeping going when the pain sets in on a long run. Good to read that you repeat things to yourself as I do that too and thought I was a bit loopy! Also like the idea of trying to smile too :)


During the tough miles of a race I really try to stay as positive as humanly possible and just really appreciate and give thanks for being alive, having the ability to run and being healthy enough to do so at that moment. There have definitely been times that I have gone to a negative place, asking myself, “why am I even doing this?” and that is a terrible way to race!
I was supposed to do a track workout this morning (12 X 400), but it was storming so I think I’ll try again tomorrow and run easy this evening instead.
I usually go with the chicken poblano if we eat Mexican, which doesn’t happen a whole lot.
I wish I had a better mantra to share … I definitely talk to myself, but it’s always just things like “C’mon Sam” or “you can do this” and I tend to repeat those over and over. Nothing too fancy, but it gets the job done I guess!


HEY SAM!!! I totally agree with you, I’ve had those races too where I ask questions like that and it is MISERABLE! I love that you give thanks for being alive… I like that a lot. Good luck on your track workout tomorrow (you’ve got this!!) and have a great run tonight!


I’m skipping my run today! way too tired from celebrating my birthday last night :)


HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEREDITH (yesterday:)! I hope you had the most perfect day! Bangs Friend always has a piece of cake for breakfast the morning after her birthday! You should try it!


We finally have a rain-free day today and I’m planning to do a quick four mile run. I’d like to work on getting some speed and since I have to teach a yoga class at nght, I’ll get in some awesome stretching in afterwards!


My brother is the same way with the claw machine! I would tell him which stuffed animal I wanted and he’d get it for me. I totally get what you mean about perception. I feel ALL THE FEELS during races but I say my little mantra and keep pushing through!


HAHAH I love it… how are they so good at the claw machine?! I do not understand! I hope you have an amazing day Virjinia!


Y’all’s date nights look so fun! :) Love that he won both of those stuffed animals!! Please never stop dating each other. I’m not married, so I may have no clue what I’m talking about when it comes to relationships, but I do think it’s something that’s so important for marriages.

Smiling definitely always gives me a little extra boost when I’m hurting during a run. I also like to remind myself that it’s such a short fraction of life that I have to feel that pain–if I can just survive and fight until the end, I will be glad I did.


I’m taking a psychology of exercise class right now and it’s interesting to learn about all the mental techniques athletes use to perform better. I never really gave it much thought before, but how you look at a situation and your perspective makes such a huge difference.

My favorite Mexican food is definitely guacamole. When you find a restaurant that has good guacamole I’m hooked! Tamales are a close second.


Today’s run was a four mile stroller run, with one of us (not me) still rocking our pajamas ;)

Mexican food for life! I always enjoy a good fish taco! Mm…


Seeing people I know is always motivating to me during races. I feel more confident! Also seeing other runners in an out and back course always makes me feel good too.


I love this post b/c it’s SO SO true! Perception is everything – and I really believe it is the difference between kicking ass and giving up!
I have been blessed with an amazing husband who comes to all of my races and cheers me on at different points along the course! During marathons he always make sure to come meet me toward the end when it gets really tough – and that makes all the difference in the world. Seeing his face and hearing his voice carries me through to the end. I also have a couple of mantras for hard workouts, but one that always helps at the end of the tough ones is “finish this!” I say it out loud to myself and it helps a ton!
Quick injury update: Yesterday, I ran 25 mins on the AlterG at 81% with no pain… this is HUGE! When I get to 90% I get the green light to run outside – I am almost there!! :-)


“I am so lucky!”. That is what I keep reminding myself during a race: I am lucky to be healthy enough to run this race! I also did my Pb on 10k and half marathon during races that were supposed to be just for fun. It seems that my brain tricked my body into thinking it wasn’t working as hard as it was. I guess not putting too much pressure on myself helps :-)


Please, please tell me you’ve been to joe Vera’s in Provo. It is my favorite Mexican restaurant! I usually go with the enchiladas, and their chips and salsa are the best.


WAIT WHAT!?!? I haven’t… I guess we need to go there ASAP!!!


I definetely have certain songs that I go back to when I run. Anything by Beyonce and disney soundtracks are my favorite:) And I have a few mantras that I go over and over as well: I also love “I can do hard things,” and I also love “Strong, focused, worthy.” Once I get really tired, I usually fall back on the simple “I can do this!”
Tuesday is when I usually do some speed work or hit up my local treadmill studio for some interval training group classes. Right now I’m taking it easy before marathon training revs up next month, so I’l probably just do 45 minutes on the elliptical and a little bit of weight training!
I love tacos more than anything, so if possible I get tacos when I’m out for Mexican. I’ve got a gluten allergy, so corn tortillas are my best friend! I also love nachos with literally any kind of topping or dip.


Kerri, I love the strong focused worthy mantra that you use. That is a really good one and I’m going to have to copy you:) I’m excited for your marathon training to start! Have an awesome day!


Music is definitely a game changer when it comes to dealing with tough miles. Some runners have told me in the past that I shouldn’t run with music so that I could focus on my pace. But I really can’t imagine myself running a race or a speed/ tempo run without music.

I love tacos and quesadillas and will usually order either one at Mexican restaurants.


Those fajitas look freaking amazing! I usually get carne asada cause #guaranteedguac But if the restaurant has street tacos? That is a game changer. You guys still need to try El Mexiquense.

Warm vanilla sugar reminds me of my mom. That is what she always uses.


My favorite is probably grilled fish tacos. (In San Francisco there’s a place by the Wharf where you can just get one as a snack. I need someone around my house to do that). I do enjoy fajitas and I ask them to double down on the veggies and forget the rice.

I did an easy 3 miles before my mat Pilates class today.

Everlong by the Foo Fighters picks me right up.

My mantra is a simple, “I can, I have, and I will.” I give myself little pep talks and play let’s make a deal: If it gets that bad walk. For whatever reason knowing walking is an option keeps me running.


I was supposed to run 4 miles today with repeats at race pace, but it was storming outside and I don’t mess around when it’s lightening. So I’ll try to do that run on Thursday instead (hopefully it’s not storming then…stupid Florida). When my run is tough I break it down into small segments. So I’ll think of a 10 mile run as 4 2.5 mile runs and get super excited whenever I pass the 2.5 mile mark. Then at 5 miles, I’m over halfway done! And when I hit 7.5 and I’m getting tired, I only have 1 segment left!

The mind games we runners play are insane!!


Anytime we’re at a Mexican restaurant, honestly the only thing I want is chips with salsa and guac….and a hoppy beer to wash it down :)


A running friend of mine actually gave me her mantra which was “scary feet” whenever we encountered hills. This was years ago but I still use it to this day.

Whenever the going gets tough, I remind myself that nothing worth having ever came easy, but also that at least with running it is a choice! Usually I don’t have anyone to blame but me for whatever race suffering I am going through haha.

Tuesday run 10 miles by the beach before it got too hot (but 7 am is already getting warm here!) The weather for today at least is amazing.

Favourite dish at a mexican restaurant – guac salsa and chips. And the over sized drinks we usually end up ordering.:)


Can we take a minute to appreciate how much food you got with your fajitas?! OMG! That is amazing.

My run today is the first post-half run so I’m taking an easy 5 today. I PRd my half on Sunday – 2:43 last year >2:26 this year! It’s not an all-time PR but it’s the best running shape I’ve been in in a while!!

I like to repeat to myself “the faster you run, the faster you’re done!” – not always the best mantra, especially for the runs you’re supposed to take slow and easy!! But still helpful.


AHHHH ERIN!!! Huge huge congrats on your PR this last weekend!!! That is so so awesome!


I went into my recent marathon more undertrained than I ever have been because of injuries during my training cycle, so I was pretty nervous about how painful it might be. Whenever a negative thought entered my head, I started repeating “inhale courage, exhale fear” and coordinating it with my breathing. I’ve never really been a mantra runner and usually just zone out, but this was so helpful in keeping me calm and focused. I ended up with about a 20 second PR at 11 months postpartum, so maybe it worked!


Mexican is pretty much my favorite kind of food in the world. I always get some kind of veggie burrito or quesadilla and I never pass up a restaurant’s homemade guac if they offer it!


I love mantra ‘i can do hard things’, will try that one. I use, ‘i am strong’, ‘aggressive is nothing, it’s all in the mind’, and my personal favourite, ‘i bloody gave birth so I can run this (insert race) for sure!’. I also try and crack a smile and relax the shoulders, give my arms a shakeout. Today I did an easy 7 miler on the mill of doom because it was too miserable to run with the buggy outside. I’ve just been to the physio and he’s murdered my calf so I may never run again!


My mantra is – Victory! I have no idea why but it helps sooooooo much!!!


When things feel really hard I’ll start counting steps, I figure I can do anything for 100 steps. Or I’ll pick a spot in the distance and just concentrate on getting to that point, then pick a new spot. It breaks it into smaller chunks that don’t seem so overwhelming.

I will also pick a runner in front of me that’s going the pace I want and try to not let them out of my sight. It lets me turn my brain off and just follow them. Doesn’t hurt if it’s a cute guy ;)


Currently obsessed with carne asada tacos! Soft shell all the way.

Casually ran/jogged/played a marathon this weekend. Since I was incredibly undertrained, I just kept telling myself that I could make it ONE more mile. All the way to 26! Worked like a charm ;)


Great post!! I’ve been reading for years, and this may be my all-time favorite. That part with Brooke’s faces at the end made me laugh, and I love all of your tips.

One of my favorite mottos for life is, “Do your best and forget the rest.” It reminds me of something your mom once shared here about setting ourselves up for the day and then focusing on what we can give to others, rather than our own perceived weaknesses.

I’m a new runner, and today was a run/walk combo on the treadmill that felt really good!

Favorite Mexican dish is anything with pico de gallo. ;)


During tough miles I actually have to not think about running. I try to remember a fun family thing, or a vacation or what I’m doing the next day…whatever it is…next thing you know a mile or two has passed without me realizing it and almost always I didn’t notice any pain or extra push as much either. But a mantra would probably be ‘you won’t die’, ‘I will love the feeling at the end’, ‘you wanted this, you can do it’. Tues. run was an early one. My husband’s schedule changed for the week, so I had to get up at 4 a.m. if I wanted a run at all. Ugh, it ended up being a nice leisurely 3.5 miles, but I overdressed and was too hot. At Mexican restaurants, I always get the combo plates. So I can try a little bit of 3-4 different things.


First, thank you for all the tips on effort. I actually sometimes speed up the pace, if only for a few seconds. It actually works!

On another note, remember when you posted about falling? What a crazy premonition my comment was. I actually tripped over a speed bump during my 10K in Paris, hurt myself and had to drop out, LOL! (My recap is on my blog…Ugh. I would much ratehr write about happier races but c’est la vie;)


Those fajitas looks so good! I’m usually a quesadilla girl, but I may have to convert. My mantra is “Be tenacious.” And, I agree with you on using a sip of a drink and some tunes to fire me up. I can’t pour water on my head, though. There is something about it that freaks me out. I have done the “ice in the sports bra” trick, though. Now, that’s a pick-me-up!!

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