When you are training for a race, do you remember to strengthen your mental muscle? Do you have a mantra? How do you keep your head in the game during the tough workouts or the really, really long ones?

Chrissie Wellington, a four-time World Ironman champion, wrote a great article for CNN last week on this exact topic. In the article, “Ironman champ: Train your brain, then your body,” Wellington shares that some of her success can be attributed to her mental toughness. She mentions how, despite a bad bike crash two weeks before the World Ironman Championships, she managed to win the race. She won, she says in the article, “…not on physical prowess, but on grit, willpower, determination and mental strength.”

Wellington gives some really great advice in the article. She suggests getting a mantra, keeping a bank of positive mental images, visualizing beforehand, breaking up a race into smaller segments to make it more manageable, to remember training is about learning to hurt, getting support from your family and friends, and thinking about inspirational people. She also suggests racing for a cause bigger than yourself.

I, inadvertently, used one of her tips during my first 20-miler last May, which I ran alone. I broke it into two out-and-backs: five out, five back, then five out, and five back. It helped a lot. It felt a lot more manageable that way.

Right now, I’m training for a 5K. It may be a much shorter distance, but the workouts almost feel harder than marathon training. But that’s because I’m training to run it fast, so some of the workouts on my Run Less Run Faster plan are brutal. In fact, I have some seriously painful-sounding track repeats to get through this week. And I have been slowly getting over a cold. So I’m going to use some of Wellington’s advice.

“Push your physical limits and overcome them in training sessions, so that when you race you know that you have successfully endured pain and discomfort,” Wellington says in the article under the section: “Remember that training is about learning to hurt.”

Maybe I should just make that one my mantra, too.

How do you use your brain to overcome tough training sessions or difficult races?