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Overcoming Psychological Obstacles

Overcoming Psychological Obstacles

Here is a concerned future military member who is having a tough time with what we all have to conquer when exceeding perceived limits - our own doubts!

"I have a problem - mentally, I think. I am fitter than any time before in my life which my brain knows, but my mind constantly speaks to me that I cannot run, my legs are tired after 50 meters, no joke. Now my question to you is: can you give me advice on how SEALs deal with psychologically tough situations? I seem to have some sort of competition blockade. Do you have any ideas besides sports hypnosis? I mean tricks that I can do myself."

I do not have any "special way" to think yourself through running faster BUT I do recommend three things for starters:
ONE - Breathing Control

I take 3 steps inhale / 2-3 step exhale - this slows the heart rate to be able to run longer / faster. Most people come close to hyperventilating when running causing higher heart rates than normal.  Breath slowly as if you were yawning or taking "cleansing breaths" if you have even given birth.

TWO - Learn the Pace

If your goal is to run a 9:00 1.5 mile run: 

- Run 1/2 mile at 1:30
- 1/2 mile at 3:00
- 1 mile at 6:00

and so on...see related articles below for more running info.

This is called learning a six minute mile pace.  It has nothing to do with mental toughness, just practice. After a few months of learning the pace, your confidence will grow as well the roots to mental and physical toughness.

THREE - Get Better and Tougher by Doing

Soon your mind will start to know you can do it when you realize how easy a 1:30 - 1/4 mile run is BUT you have to do it at a shorter distance at goal pace before you can believe it. In my opinion, you get better and tougher by doing not reading and researching "tricks" to make difficult things easier. 

Here is one thing I tell my 10-13 year old Track Team:  Think of your running workouts like penmanship class. You know HOW to run and write the alphabet.  What running workouts and penmanship classes enable you to do is learn HOW to run and write better, more quickly, neater, and more efficiently. It takes DOING.  So focus on breathing first and learning muscle memory of the pace you are seeking to set for your fitness test and the toughness will follow. On a side note, there is a reason why a majority of SEAL training drop outs are under the age of 20 years old. They need more time of hard training under their belts and maturity.

Good luck - it takes years or a lifetime to get tougher, sometimes it clicks with one major event. We are all different but toughness is within us all. You just have to tap into it and not listen to yourself when the mind is saying "STOP".

Related Articles:

   PFT Anxiety   |    PFT Transition   |   Drop Mile Pace  |   Running Breathing

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

Related Topics

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