Coach Sandi Nypaver was once asked how she has built mental fortitude over the years and how she has stayed mentally strong to keep pushing when needed, as well as knowing when to stop to prevent possible injury.

How I Built Mental Fortitude 🏰:

For the first part, regarding how I built mental fortitude over the years, I want to begin by acknowledging that it started from a very dark place. I was diagnosed with depression, which I probably had since childhood. I struggled with a lot of self-hate and found myself on the opposite end of everything I believed in.

However, there’s a quote that resonates with me: “Sometimes you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve really been planted.” That became a choice I made. Over the years, I dedicated a significant amount of time to working on my mind. I delved deep into various books on neuroplasticity and sports psychology, listened to numerous podcasts on the subject, and even took a high-performance mindset course by a sports psychologist, which was incredibly beneficial. Many of the strategies that work best for me are now part of my routines outlined in the Higher Running ALL IN Training Plan series (more on that below).

I pursued learning vigorously, absorbing everything I could, but it also involved the realization that this was a priority for me, so I committed to daily practice. While I’m still growing and sometimes struggle with it, there’s a sense of pride in knowing I’ve worked hard to reach this point and am content because of that. What brings me joy is not just where I am now but also the understanding that I still have room to grow, and this mindset work will be a lifelong journey for me.

Staying Strong and Pushing Myself 💪:

In addressing the other parts of your question about staying mentally strong and pushing myself, here’s my perspective:

Staying mentally strong, especially in the context of a race, is something I prioritize and practice daily. It’s not just about running; it’s a mindset I cultivate throughout the day. I often tell my athletes that maintaining positivity is crucial, even in challenging moments. For example, say you get a flat tire on your car. If you can’t stay positive in such situations, it becomes much harder to handle other race-related challenges. Therefore, I make it a point to practice positivity consistently, which helps me during races.

Before a race begins, I already have a mental script prepared for various scenarios. This self-talk strategy is incredibly helpful because it sets the tone for how I handle difficult moments during the race. For instance, if I encounter a tough stretch but know my body is fine, I have specific phrases I use to motivate myself or redirect my focus. Sometimes, it’s as simple as telling myself to stop overthinking and just focus on running or enjoying the scenery around me. Having these mental tools ready beforehand makes them more accessible during intense race moments.

Knowing When To Stop 🛑:

This final part of this questions was knowing when to stop. Knowing when to stop is crucial, and for me, it involves having a candid conversation with myself before the race begins. I ask questions like, “If things from my training cycle are going wrong, what would I tell my best friend or a loved one in this situation?” This pre-race dialogue helps me set boundaries for when I shouldn’t push myself beyond a certain point.

During this reflection, I consider whether racing to my full potential might actually harm me more than help. Every race is different, so my approach varies based on the circumstances. For instance, before the Black Canyon race, I sensed that my motor patterns were off, which posed a risk of reinforcing bad habits. In such cases, I’d rather take a step back than jeopardize the progress I’ve made through hard work.

It’s about recognizing when pushing through might lead to setbacks rather than progress, especially when I’ve put in significant effort to reach a level where running feels great.

In wrapping up, the journey of developing mental fortitude and learning when to push or pull back is one that many athletes and individuals navigate. By sharing my experiences and strategies, I hope it offers insights that could resonate with you and help in your own pursuits. Cultivating self-awareness, preparing mentally, and having open dialogues with yourself can be transformative tools, not just in sports but in various aspects of life. Remember, it’s a continual process of growth and adaptation, and finding your own balance between pushing forward and knowing when to step back can lead to more sustainable progress and fulfillment.

Happy running!

Coach Sandi Nypaver