Mental fatigue can negatively impact physical performance, according to a study out of Bangor University's School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Sciences. Researchers split athletes of similar capabilities into two groups prior to an exhaustive cycling exercise. One group performed a tough 90-minute cognitive task, and the other watched documentaries. Once on the bikes, the mentally tasked riders displayed significantly less stamina than the movie watchers, and felt the exercise was more difficult. Their physical performance suffered because their brains were tired.
The challenge, then, is to find ways to change your thought process and realize that your body can handle a workout. Refocus, acknowledge that you'd rather crash on the couch, but put on your running shoes anyway, says Marshall Mintz, Psy.D., a clinical and sports psychologist.
"Once you get going, even if it's for an easy three-miler, it almost always feels good to be running," he says.
Restate Your Goals
Deciding between the remote control and your running shoes? It isn't easy to get out the door without a clear reason to run. "If you can't answer, Why am I doing this?, you won't last long," says Rick Lovett, a running coach and coauthor of Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing. He suggests keeping a training log that includes your goals and the reasons you run, whether that's to reduce stress, or for friendship or better health.
Energy solution When you feel the urge to call it quits at the end of a tough day, pull out your log and review your lists. Staring at your plans in black-and-white will make it tougher to lounge. Rice, for example, keeps the dates of several shorter races leading up to her goal marathon prominently marked in her log. "It energizes me to see that I have those little races ahead of me," she says.
"You have to be organized in order to be good at several things," says Rice. By penciling in your run for a certain time, you arm yourself with the necessary energy to get through it. That said, adds Mintz, be prepared with a backup workout plan if something unexpected comes up.
Energy solution If work demands that you stay later than planned, go for a shorter run. If a sick child leaves you homebound, work on your stretching and strength training while they sleep and save your run for tomorrow. "It's okay for that daily structure to be flexible from one day to the next," says Mintz.