If you run long enough, you will experience the “running blahs.” Symptoms include tiredness, irritability, under-motivation, an exaggerated need to find other things to do instead of running, and a general feeling of “no, not this again” every time you think about putting on your running shoes. If this sounds like you, you’re in a running rut and your task this week is to figure out how to climb out of it.
There might be several reasons that you are just not feeling it. Perhaps you have just finished up a training cycle culminating in a big goal race. Now you’re having trouble setting a new goal. It could be that you have been doing more intense training, upping your mileage or lifting more weights, taking you closer to the edge of your personal limits of time and effort. Perhaps you are “in the groove” (literally) –– running the same routes or doing the same treadmill workout over and over. Maybe you have just gotten over a summer cold or are suffering allergies. Sometimes everything just feels off and you want to avoid that struggling sensation as your body acts like it’s never run before. Whatever the cause, the running blahs can severely diminish your enjoyment of the sport. Running becomes a chore, rather than a joy. Luckily, there are some straightforward ways to escape the running blahs.
The way out of the rut depends on what got you there in the first place. To cure post-goal race burnout, set another goal for a different kind of event. If you have been running 5K and 10Ks exclusively, it might make sense to shake things up by setting yourself a longer challenge. If your last race was a half-marathon, shake up your training by giving yourself a new shorter challenge that will require some different workouts. Hit the track for some speedwork and see how fast you can run the mile. Every Tuesday night at 6 pm, now through August 4, there is an all-comers track meet at Colonie High School track (1 Raider Boulevard, off of Sand Creek Road). The atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming, and family-friendly, with runners of all ages and ability levels hanging out and racing various distances in ability-graded heats. This is a great opportunity to hone your speed, whatever your speed is, and do something different.
Sometimes, it’s good to set a goal that explicitly busts the habits that have led to running boredom. For example, you might decide that you will go three weeks without running the same route twice. Such a personal challenge will force you to be a little more creative, explore different places in your community, or find new and interesting trails. I, for instance, recently started running trails at Thacher Park. While running someplace new, I found out that I like trail running and being able to escape the cars and overly familiar landmarks of my usual routes
There are plenty of other ways to break stale routines. You might try upping your weekly mileage (mindfully checking in with your body to see how you feel when running more) or upping the distance of your typical run. Take some water and fuel with you, leave your limits behind, and see how far you can go. The accomplishment of running longer than you have run before can be a motivator in and of itself.
Some people break out of their rut by going streaking…no, not that kind of streaking! I mean, they swear by the motivational benefits of running every day, no matter the conditions or the obstacles. Legendary British Olympian and Boston Marathon winner Ron Hill recently marked a fifty-year running streak. (http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/ron-hills-running-streak-hits-50-years) Just be careful that what you gain in motivation, you don’t lose in making bad decisions regarding rest.
Changing your relationship to technology can also provide a way to escape running burnout. If you usually run with a GPS watch and find yourself constantly looking at it to determine “how well” you are running, try taking off the watch. Removing your watch will allow you gradually to be better at recognizing your personal relationship between effort, fatigue, and speed.
If you just can’t let go of the tech, however, make better use of the data. If your GPS watch has an accelerometer, think about working on your cadence. If you have a smart phone, have someone take a slow-motion video of you running for a DIY gait analysis. Seeing what you look like while running can make you realize that there is a significant difference between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing. Your analysis will probably lead to some form adjustments.
Another thing to do to get out of a running funk: take a break from running, but don’t take a break from fitness. Play some ultimate Frisbee. This will help with your sprint speed and coordination and is a lot of fun. It’s summer, so try swimming. We often associate the pool with rehab, but it can be enjoyable even if you are not injured. Swimming for an hour will work some different muscle groups and limit impact forces on your body. Strength training, which is an important but often-neglected aspect of running fitness, also can provide a good boost. Lastly, go for a walk. Really! It turns out that long walks can work well with a running program. Walking can reduce stress on the body while improving endurance. Japanese endurance runners, for example, often use walking to increase mileage and endurance without adding additional stress on their bodies (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/walk-on).
Finally, conquer the “running blahs” by finding a running partner or a running group. If you have been training by yourself, it can be invigorating to get out with a group. You can overcome under-motivation if you know that other group members expect you to show up and are looking forward to seeing you. Talking with other people can also make the miles go by more quickly. I also find that running quickly is easier when done in a group –- it’s easier to push the pace with the support of other runners. Most importantly, it’s just satisfying to run with other people. If you are looking to beat the “running blahs” by joining a group, look no further than The Fleet Feet Running Club, which is open to runners of all abilities and meets in a variety of locations around the Capital Region on Saturday mornings at 8:00 AM and Wednesday evenings at 6:00 PM –– all are welcome (Fleet Feet Running Club).
Busting the “running blahs” is just part of running. Remember, we’re all in this together. Have you ever suffered from a lack of motivation regarding your running? We would really like to hear about how you escaped the “running blahs.” Please give us some more ideas in the comments below.