If you’ve been running for any length of time, particularly if you have been training for an event (or two or three) over a period of months, it has probably happened to you. All of a sudden, instead of hopping out of bed and into your running attire, you hit the snooze, roll over, and go back to sleep. Or maybe you head out for your long run, but feel so tired, slow, or just blah, that you cut it short.
What happened? Have you lost your running mojo?
As I wrote the other day, I have been training for most of the year, first for the La Jolla Half Marathon, now for the Costume Party Run. I’ve been working hard and I’m less than two weeks from my goal race. And I just want it all to be over.
How can this happen? I mean, we love running, right?
4 Reasons You May Burn Out on Running
- Nutrition: For those who want to, losing weight can be one of the advantages of training for an event, particularly a longer distance race like a marathon or a half marathon. However, if you are not getting enough calories (fuel) to sustain your running, it can lead to a loss of muscle, and leave you feeling tired and lethargic. Make sure that you are eating a variety of whole foods, including whole grain carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. The days that runners would refuel on burgers and fries should be long over. And if weight loss is one of your goals, aim for a loss of 1-2 pounds a week. Anything more than that and you are cheating your body out of healthful nutrition.
- Sleep: Are you getting enough sleep? Many adults find it difficult enough to balance a life of work, family, chores, and recreation. Add running, especially long distance running, to the mix and you may find the only way to find the time is to take away from your sack time. Most adults need 7-8 hours a night to get their full amount of sleep. Are you getting enough? Try a few days without the alarm clock to see what your body is telling you. Then, if necessary, make changes to get the sleep that you need. It may mean turning off that television a half hour earlier, but if you feel more awake and energetic, it is worth it.
- Overtraining: If you have been training seriously, really pushing yourself, and not taking enough time to rest, Overtraining Syndrome may be the cause of your running burn out. Hard training takes a toll on your body, breaking the muscles down. It is during the rest period after maximal effort that your muscles recover and become stronger. This is a very simplified version, but the point is, if you are not getting enough rest you may be setting yourself up for Overtraining Syndrome. Fatigue is one of the first symptoms, plus you may feel moody, depressed, anxious, have altered sleep patterns, and lose your competitive desire. Physical symptoms may include an increased resting heart rate, ongoing muscle soreness, increased incidence of viral illnesses, and increased incidence of injuries. You may also notice a decrease in performance. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, take a step back and analyze your training program. Are you getting enough rest?
- External Pressures: For me, it is the heat. Something as simple as an increase in the temperature in the desert takes a toll on performance and makes recovery more challenging. Other external pressures can be caused by work, family, or general stress. If your workload has increased, or if you are facing a deadline, this may cause your running to suffer. Family issues, from joyous occasions like a wedding or the birth of a child, to serious problems like divorce, can also impact your running. Yes, running can be a solace and a stress reducer, but training has its own inherent pressures, and the combination can cause you to feel tired and burned out.
Now that you know some of the reasons you may feel burned out with your training, what can you do to get back on track? First, take a look at the above causes, and make any changes that may be necessary. Beyond that, here are a few ideas to put the spark back in your training.
5 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back
- Variation: Like anything else, if you do the same thing over and over, running can become boring. The same route, the same workout, the same time of day, they can all become routine, and can lead to boredom and lack of motivation. If you tend to run the same route, try changing it up. Even reversing your loop can feel different. If you usually run on the flats, try some hills. If you run on asphalt, find some trails. If you haven’t done speedwork, perhaps this is the time to try. Or if you’re doing speedwork, try a different workout. Try running at a different time of day. Variation is the spice of life and of running.
- Go Watch-less (and GPS-less): Runners, especially when training for an event, can get very hung up on the time/distance factor. You may feel pressured, especially if your run the same route (see above), to hit the same targets every run. You are always timing, measuring, pushing, and frankly, that can start to wear on you. Try leaving the electronics at home and just go out and run. Don’t worry about your speed, your distance, or anything that usually presses you. Enjoy the feeling of the ground under your feet, the wind through your hair, sun on your face. It will help you remember why you love running in the first place.
- Try the 5 Minute Rule: Say you are scheduled to run and you don’t feel like it. You really, really don’t feel like it. You are tired, stressed, too busy and you just don’t want to run. Try the 5 minute rule. Promise yourself that once you get out on the road, if, after 5 minutes you still feel the same way, you can stop. As simple as that. You can stop running after 5 minutes if you want to. Chances are, once you’re there, you will want to go on, but if you don’t, that’s okay, go on home knowing you gave it your best shot.
- Crosstrain: We have limited training time in our days, so it’s possible that if you are training for an event, you may have put your time and focus on running, to the exclusion of every other kind of training. Cross training can be beneficial in many ways. Strength training can balance your muscle development and strengthen your core, which can help prevent injuries. Swimming is a great non-impact activity that complements running and works your upper body. Cycling is also non-impact, and can help you build your endurance while giving your body a break. Many runners have started using Crossfit to develop functional strength. There are many ways to stay fit and healthy, and give your training a change of pace.
- Rest: If you are feeling tired and unmotivated, it may be your body trying to tell you something. Taking an extra day (or even two) off can re-energize you. When you push your limits day after day, you need the time to recover both mentally and physically from your efforts. As mentioned above, increases in strength and speed actually happen during your recovery time, as your body repairs itself from its efforts. That, along with the mental stress of working out day after day, getting up early, always having a training “agenda” can wear you down. Don’t be afraid to take a weekend, sleep in, don’t work out at all, or do something completely different like a hike with the family. You won’t lose your fitness. In fact, you may improve it by getting the rest that you need.
By taking the time to analyze your lack of motivation, you can make some changes and put the oomph back in your running.
Have you ever felt like you lost your running mojo? How did you get it back? What would you add to the list?