It happens to the best of us. One minute, running gives us all the great things we could ever hope for: a sense of peace, happiness, the runner's high, the finish line glory, the I love to run feeling that makes us want to lace up and head out the door every day. You see the knowing look on other runner's faces when you are out running -- as you give each other a wave or nod, that, yes, this running stuff is good business.
But then one day you find yourself in this odd little slump. Running feels like a chore-maybe you just can't get yourself out the door-feeling like it's too hot, too cold, too anything to be running.
How can something you profess to love so much suddenly become something you start to find excuses to avoid?
It happens to the best of us. I tend to think most of us will pull out of the slump naturally, in our own due time. But is there anything we can do to get back to happy running feet faster? Definitely! Here are my top 10 tips to get yourself running out of funky town.
Get out of Funky town: 10 Tips to Get Out of a Running Slump:
1. Change of scenery. Sometimes this one is hard to do-especially if you are juggling your running schedule with your significant others, work schedules, in addition to household duties and childcare. I am in a running group but have yet to meet up with them because their runs are early morning (I'm taking care of my kids/getting ready for school) or what they call the happy hour run (happy what? those are few and far between and call me crazy but I'm not going to use that time for running). Every once in a while I get a bit envious of all their fun locations -- but most of them are single and childless.
So what to do? Get creative! I typically run the streets in my neighborhood. But I knew I needed a change one day when I just couldn't talk myself into doing my usual loop. So I hopped off the pavement and into a nearby park that is filled with trails. It was just what I needed; I started looking forward to my runs and exploring new parts -- even if just for a mile or two of a four to five mile run.
2. Run with a friend. The great thing about running is it is perfect for introverts or extroverts! I tend to love running alone -- it's my me time -- but whenever I fall myself falling into a slump I'll ask someone to join me on my run. Turning off the music and having a chance to chat with someone even if you are running the usual route will help the time go by faster.
3. Run solo. If you usually run in groups, try running solo for a change. You'll find that it can be a great time to think/pray/reflect without the distraction of constant chatter. You might find that running becomes therapeutic for you -- almost yoga-like in the sense that you become more in tune with your body and emotions when you learn to appreciate being by yourself.
4. Leave the watch at home. It gets so easy for runners to get fixated on our pace. And when we don't meet the paces or constantly feel like we are racing the watch and pushing too hard all the time, running can become a chore. Leave your watch at home, even if for just one run a week. It can be uncomfortable at first, but it has become my favorite way to run, just enjoying running in it's most basic form, without any gadgets or pressure of time ticking away on my wrist.
5. Sign up for a race. In the running community, you'll see there are lots of chronic racers. Runners who seem to have a race planned every other weekend. And then there are runners like me, who rarely sign up for races-we just love to run. Nothing is wrong with either approach, but if you tend to be like me and shy away from races, it might be a good idea to put one on the calendar. Working towards a goal is motivating. And it's even better when the race is a destination race -- a new location -- which will really get you excited to get out the door and running for your upcoming adventure in a new city.
6. Ditch the training plan. If you are one of those chronic racers I mentioned above, this tip is for you. I trained almost a year for my two ultra-marathons, followed up by four more months of training for my next marathon. After that last race I still had a training plan I was following. But I was burned out. I dreaded opening up my calendar to see what the plan was for the upcoming week. I decided I better ditch the plan and run just to run. It's what I call my space between, and it's one of my favorite places to be as a runner. Sometimes I run short distances, sometimes longer, but I put no pressure on myself to follow a plan. It pulled me right out of my slump and this runner is ready to race again!
7. Change up the type of running you do. Add in some hill work, intervals and fartleks. Doing the same kind of running day in and day out can get boring for anyone! Try adding a little variety into your running. Instead of doing a regular three to four mile 'easy' run, find a place to do some hill repeats. I'll often run the 3.5 miles to a steep hill in a park in my neighborhood and sprint up the hill, and walk down-repeating that 10 times before heading back home.
Fartleks literally mean 'speed play' -- and it really is a fun way to make the same ol' same ol' time of run more fun. There is really no rule to it other than have fun. Sometimes on my four mile loop, I'll choose different points-the next stop sign, the upcoming parked car-to run faster to than the pace I started at. Then, after I reach that point, I recover with a slower pace before picking another point to sprint to. There is no set rhyme or reason to the distance between points or when I decide to do it, other than to mix it up.
8. Take the day off and go for a walk/bike ride. If you are really feeling like you just don't want to run, don't. Sometimes our body is telling us we need a break. I get ansty on days like that, so I'll just go for a walk so that I'm doing something. Before I know it, I'm itching to run again.
9. Find your second love. It may not be the same kind of love you have for running, but I guarantee there is something else out there that will get your heart racing. Maybe it's Zumba, spinning, kick-boxing, yoga, pilates, cycling, weight lifting or hiking. You won't know until you start exploring other options. And though nothing will ever replace running or that feeling it gives you, it's nice to have a Plan B for when you aren't in the mood to run.
10. Run with your kids. This by far, is my favorite way to pull out of a running slump. My kids love running with me... and though they usually tire out after a quarter mile or so because they insist on taking off too fast, I love using that time to show them how to build the love of running. It doesn't happen over night-so we make a game of running to the next tree or the red parked car. They usually chat the whole way and I have a smile from beginning to end.
Another option is to have them 'pace' you-they ride their bikes while you run along side them. It's a win-win because it helps you look forward to your run and gets everyone moving!
Nicole Scott is a RRCA certified running coach and mom of four who writes about faith, family, and fitness at MyFitFamily.com.