Marathon Training: How to Build Mental Strength

Personal trainer Maddison Rowles shares her tips on how she prepares for a marathon.

You’ve registered for the race. You’ve chosen a marathon training plan. You’ve picked up all of your marathon essentials. There’s only one thing left to do: build the mental strength needed to push you through.

The mental side of race training is often overlooked but can make a big difference. Personal trainer Maddison Rowles explains how she stays focused ahead of a marathon.


Training for a marathon can be a marathon of its own. Although it can often be grueling, ensuring that you get your daily run in can help you get race-day ready. However, that may not always be the most appealing task, especially when the weather is less than ideal. Rowles says her approach to overcoming training in inclement weather is all about preparation.

“Approaching training in inclement weather, I always make sure I grab all the things that I’ll need, including my gloves and my hat,” she notes.

PRO TIP: Wondering how to train in the winter? Your gear is going to be key. Learn what to look for in running gloves with this Pro Tips guide.

Beyond gearing up, Rowles also says it is important to mentally prepare for the cold.

“I also make sure that I have the right mindset, so making sure that I’m ready to take on the snow, the rain and the wind,” she says.


While getting your workout in is important, it’s equally important to get proper rest. Resting can help both your mind and body have the time off needed to help you perform your best.

“Rest days during training are really important; you need the right time to recover,” Rowles says. “If you don’t recover, your workout won’t be the best it could be.”

She also adds that it isn’t just taking days off that help you recover – sleep is crucial, too.

“You need to sleep to make sure that when you wake up your workout is going to be the best it can be,” she explains.


The mental strength needed to train for a race doesn’t stop until you reach the finish line. Your race motivation can begin with how you start the day. A morning routine can help you get in the right headspace to take on those 26.2 miles.

Rowles approaches race morning with a few steps.

“I wake up, I have a cup of coffee and I stretch out, use a foam roller, talk to family and then head to the start line,” she says.

Once Rowles arrives at the starting line, she focuses on one simple question to push her through: “Why?”

“Why did I sign up in the first place? Why have I committed so many hours to training? Why did I sign up for a race?” she explains.

Rowles also uses her fellow racers as motivation – and hopes to do the same for them.

“It’s important when you see those people slow down that they become your team and you try to be stronger for them,” Rowles says. “If they see you working harder, maybe that means that they’ll pick it back up, they’ll try to keep pushing for themselves.” 

Marathon training looks a little different for everyone. But training in different conditions, getting proper rest and staying motivated on race day can help you mentally prepare. Need more marathon training tips? Check out this must-read on marathon advice you need to know before your next big race.