Long Run Games to Stay Positive and Avoid Burnout While Running

Are you an avid runner seeking ways to conquer mental fatigue and beat boredom during long runs? Look no further! In this blog post, we’ll share 13 engaging mind games that will keep your brain stimulated and your spirits high as you tackle those extra miles. Whether you’re training for a marathon or simply enjoying your daily jog, these thought exercises will add an exciting twist to your running routine while improving your mental fitness. Remember, safety should always be a priority while running. It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and not get too absorbed in your thoughts or games.

1.   Mental Math: Challenge Your Brain on the Go 

Turn your run into a mental workout by engaging in some mental math. Calculate distances covered, estimate your pace, or even challenge yourself to solve multiplication problems on the fly. Not only does this keep your mind occupied, but it also enhances your ability to make quick calculations, which can be beneficial in various aspects of daily life.

2. The Alphabet Game: From A to Z, Name It!

Stimulate your creativity with the classic Alphabet Game. Pick a category—such as animals, countries, or sports—and take turns naming items in alphabetical order. Push your brain to come up with names that fit the letter while you keep your legs moving. The Alphabet Game is an excellent way to improve memory recall and mental flexibility. Example: Your category is RUNNING. A = athlete, B = breathing, C = carbs!

3.  Storytelling: Let Your Imagination Run Wild

Transform your run into an epic adventure with storytelling. Invent captivating narratives, weave in fascinating characters, and visualize engaging plotlines. This exercise not only distracts you from physical exhaustion but also enhances your cognitive skills, including imagination and empathy. Let your imagination take you on an adventure while your feet carry you forward.

4.  Word Association: Linking Thoughts and Ideas

Word Association is an enjoyable way to connect words and ideas. Choose a starting word and let your mind wander as you think of related words. For example, if you start with “sun,” your chain might go like this: “sun – bright – stars – night – moon,” and so on. This activity sharpens your cognitive connections and strengthens associative thinking. Another example: if the word is “tree,” think of words like “branch,” “leaves,” or “forest.”

5.  Name Game: Name that dog!

Give every dog you see a name or guess it’s real name & ask. Bonus points if the names you make up are funny.

6.  Visualize Races: Manifest Your Running Goals

Use your long run as an opportunity to visualize your dream race. Imagine yourself crossing the finish line with the cheering crowd, visualize the race route, and embrace the euphoria of achieving your running goals. This exercise enhances mental resilience and helps you stay focused on your aspirations. Picture yourself running your goal race, imagine running past the mile markers and feeling strong and capable, see yourself crossing the finish line. How will you feel when you hit your goal?

7.  Riddles and Brain Teasers: Puzzling Fun on the Run

Challenge your mind with brain teasers and riddles during your run. Stimulate your problem-solving abilities as you decipher these tricky puzzles. Not only are brain teasers entertaining, but they also boost your cognitive flexibility and creative thinking skills.

8.  List It: Test Your Rapid Thinking

Keep your brain on its toes with this list game. Choose a category like actresses, animals or countries. List as many as you can. (I did this with ‘birds’ and listed close to 30. Later in the day I remembered TURKEY. I’d forgotten about turkey!!)

Make it harder if you’re running with a buddy. Select a category, like famous personalities, a type of animal or cities, and take turns mentioning names that start with the last letter of the previous name. This game challenges your speed of thought and memory recall as you race to come up with the next name.

9.  Body Scan: Head to Toe Check-in with your Body

Starting with your toes and working up to your head – check in with each part of your body. Say ‘Hi’ or give it a lil pep talk. This is a great time to assess overall fatigue, soreness and effort level. Take note of anything that feels ‘off’, sore or extra fatigued and put it in your running log.

10.  Memory Challenge: How good is your memory? 

Recall and mentally organize details from your life. For example: List the last 10 movies you saw in a theater. List your fave Halloween costumes in order. Name your elementary school teachers.

11.  Countdowns: A simple counting game that doesn’t require creativity, but does help keep your mind busy.

Count backward from a large number, such as 1000 or 100, by a specific interval (e.g., 7). Challenge yourself to keep track of the count accurately as you run.

12. Mindful Observation: Focus on your surroundings instead of your body. 

Pay attention to your surroundings and challenge yourself to notice specific details, such as colors, textures, or sounds. Engaging your senses can help distract you from the challenge of running or the tough mile your currently running. Start here: Name 5 things you see. Name 5 things you smell. Name 5 things you hear. Name 5 things you can touch. Name 5 things you can taste.

13.  Gratitude List: Have an attitude of gratitude when running gets tough. 

Make a list of 26 things you’re thankful for today. They can be running related or not, but thinking about everything you have to be grateful for helps keep your mind in a positive place. And having an overall positive mindset helps you stay positive on your run.

Running is not just about physical endurance; it’s also an excellent opportunity to boost your mental agility. Incorporate these mind games into your long runs to banish boredom and fatigue while nurturing your cognitive abilities. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting your journey, these thought exercises will keep you mentally engaged and uplifted throughout your running adventures. So, lace up your shoes, hit the road, and let the games begin! Happy running and happy thinking!


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