No matter how much you love running, how hard you train, or how often you race, there comes a time, for nearly every runner, where you fall into a rut. It’s that place, where for a while, running feels like a bit of a task: you’re a bit less motivated to jump out of bed in the morning and hit the road running, and there’s actually thoughts entering your head of maybe not running today, or at the very least why you don’t have to run today and can justify taking a day off. You get a little negative and down on yourself for how you’ve been performing (or not performing lately), and every run becomes a series of wishing it was over already instead of happy to push on. If you’re there, if you’ve been there, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone, and it happens to us all! Even elites have their time when they fall out of love with running for a bit and need a reset. Listen to your body and cues and know that that may be you as well. Don’t worry – give your body the time it needs and you’ll be able to break out of the rut! Here’s how you can help make it happen:
- Give yourself a break from running – Maybe you just need to stop running for a bit and mix up your routine with something else. As runners, we get into this numbers and facts mindset, governed by the number of miles we run and the number of days we do it, and the number of times a day, week, month etc. Sometimes we get so involved in the logistics of running that we stop running for running’s sake and just do it for the numbers. Break out of that mindset by taking a week and replacing your running (or most of it) with something like spinning or swimming, and let your mind have a bit of a reset so you can go back to running because you love it not because you need to complete a certain number of miles each week.
- Take some time off – I mean time off of everything. No fitness or exercise or workout whatsoever. Your waning running motivation may just be because your body is plain exhausted. A good indicator of this can be the signs I talked about in overtraining, but it may also be just plain emotional exhaustion, where every run feels like a task and is just leaving you feeling frustrated and discouraged. If this is where you are, taking time off is TOTALLY OKAY! Even if you are in the middle of a training cycle, a break for 5-7 days is not going to make or break your training success, and in fact, may even be just the refresh you need to come back stronger with your head in the game and with a reduced risk of injury.
- Get inspired – If you are just having a hard time to get motivated to run on any single day, I find it helps me to seek out motivation, like going through rave run photos, reading Runner’s World, or just reading about running things online. Usually when I see other people running or talking about running, I get jealous and nostalgic and decide I need to go myself!
- Change your run – Without even realizing, there may be parts of your running routine that have been the same for (literally) years. And while for some things that can be good (like wearing the same shoes that you know don’t hurt your feet), for other things, it can make our running go stale, and we lose our little spark. This is things like the route you run, the time of day you run, the terrain and locations of your run, the clothes you wear, and even the people you run with. For me, taking up trail running really helped to light the running spark again for me and gave me a new challenge and something different to look forward to. Not to mention, it meant I tried a new running route, something I’m guilty of not doing that often!
- Take a look at your diet – It may not be the first thing you think of, but your diet and your running performance are directly related. If you are not fuelling yourself adequately, resulting in decreased energy levels, you probably aren’t going to be jumping up and down to go running. Likewise, you may be consuming enough calories, but just not the right foods, eating foods that make you feel sluggish, tired and worse yet in the cycle of a high followed by a crash, characteristic of refined sugar and carbohydrates. Start looking at your food as run fuel – the thing that is going to get you going and keep you going on your run. If it’s not something you know will help you with that, try to minimize your consumption. Think whole foods, lots of plants, minimal refined carbs and adequate lean protein! And don’t forget healthy snacks of course!
- Where’s your head at? Running is a big mental game. A game of mind over matter, forcing our brains to stop telling our feet to stop and to make that little voice inside that says quit to quiet down. It’s no wonder than, that if you are mentally not in the game, it is going to be hard to find your running motivation and run like you’d like to. Instead, give yourself a bit of a mental reset, taking time for things like yoga and meditation, getting lots of quality sleep and reseting your mental stamina. And then when you return, let go of any of the negative thoughts of “I’m not fast enough”, “I’m not good at this”, “I’m not good enough”, and just run. One of the greatest parts about running is you don’t have to compare to anybody – there’s just you. Run your run!