Like dating, not all runs are winners, but when they are, you walk away feeling like a million bucks. Any runner knows what we’re talking about here; that run where you push hard and love it, smile as sweat drips into your eyes, and finish harder than you started. That feeling is why runners push through those many difficult runs and still get up with the sun and lace their shoes up the next day; you never know when you’re going to have an amazing run.
However, sometimes it seems a bit too long between those satisfying runs. Sometimes it feels like you’ve been just grinding away for weeks or even months with nothing to show for it. In other words, you’re stuck in a running rut. The thing about a rut, though, is that sometimes you fall into it so gradually, or you’ve been in it for so long that you don’t even realize you’re in one. If you think this may be you, read on for some sure-fire signs that your running has hit ‘rut’ status.
Do you only have two or three routes to chose from? Many runners fall prey to this–they find a route that works well and they stick with it. Sure, it gets a point for convenience, but it loses overall for being boring as hell. No wonder you’re in a rut! Think how you’d feel if you only ate one or two foods day in and day out. Check with local running stores, clubs, sites, or friends for some new route suggestions. Needing ‘a change of scenery’ isn’t just an expression, when taken literally, it really can put a whole new perspective on things.
Plateau In Fitness
Perhaps you started running to lose weight, firm up, or improve at another sport you love. Whatever your reason was, you likely saw some big changes those first few months; changes that may have slowed down or even stalled by now. If that is the case, it’s easy to get discouraged and start losing faith or interest in running. Often times, however, all that’s needed to start seeing improvements and changes again are a few tweaks to your workout: throw in a hill day; add an interval workout once a week; change up the type of terrain you’re running on; or even recruit a partner.
Dreading Your Run
Is it getting harder and harder to drag yourself out the door, but you’re not sure why? No one is forcing you to run now, just as no one forced you to start running in the first place. If you’re in a rut, that’s a good place to start–remind yourself why you started running in the first place. Maybe things have changed in your life and that reason is no longer enough, or perhaps you’ve accomplished that original motivating goal. Sometimes, all it takes is you taking the time to stop and realize that, pat yourself on the back for moving forward in life, and find your new motivation to continue.
While wallowing in the depths of a running rut, it’s easier than ever to talk yourself into skipping runs for reasons you normally would not. For instance, if you’re telling yourself you had a really stressful day at the office, so you deserve to take the evening off and just veg out on the couch to clear you mind, it’s time to stop and think. Isn’t a stressful day at the office all the more reason to get out there and run? What clears the mind and lowers stress more than exercise?
Perhaps you’re still able to get out the door regularly, but has it been weeks or months since you felt any desire to go longer, farther, or sign up for a new race? If you’re not smiling when you’re talking about why you run these days, chances are your passion has dwindled. But fear not–it’s not lost forever! Give yourself permission to take a whole week off, and then spend that week either remembering why you started and getting excited about it again, or find new goals and motivations to stoke those coals under your ass.
If you do the same workout every day, your body (and mind) is bound to get tired, worn, and possibly injured. The silver lining of injury is that it opens up some time you didn’t previously have; why not use this time to develop some new routes, research new stretches to try, and look into some cross-training activities to try–anything to mix up your routine a bit?
Ruts are a normal pit stop in a runner’s long career, but there’s no reason to hang out in one. Identify that you’ve been stuck and do what it takes to keep moving forward.