1. Take a Break
Us runners are a different breed. We will run with shin splints, bruised toenails, hip pain, and more. If we can tape it, roll it, and/or ice it, then we're good to go! But every now and then, even with all our efforts, our bodies will tell us enough is enough. There is only so much we can take. Even if it's not a glaringly obvious injury, when we are over trained enough, our bodies will not allow us to push as hard as we want to go. This can become very frustrating and discouraging, especially if you are working hard towards a specific goal. But taking a day or two off from running may your best bet to break out of your running rut. Don't worry, a day or two here and there will not cause any major set backs, in fact it will most likely do you more good than harm. If you're feeling good just having a hard time with running, replace your runs with some cross training like swimming or even some yoga. If you're feeling very run down and any activity seems tiring, go ahead and take a full rest day or two. And of course if there is an obvious injury or illness, be sure to see a medical professional before fully returning to running or exercise. Always listen to your body!
2. Check Your Diet
Food is fuel, you wouldn't fill your high performance, fancy sports car with unleaded, you want to put premium in that baby. Your body is no different. As a runner, you too are a performance machine and you need proper nutrition to keep you running efficiently. Many runners make the mistake of overindulging after a nice long run. Just because you're burning a significant amount of calories during your workouts, doesn't mean you can eat anything and everything in sight. On the flip side, some are hoping to lose weight and end up not eating enough to fuel their workouts. Having an unhealthy or inadequate diet will soon affect your physical and emotional health which will of course affect your performance. Be sure you are not only eating the appropriate amount of calories, but also you are getting a variety of food and getting enough of your macro-nutrients (protein, carbs and fat).
If you're completely clueless when it comes to diet, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor about getting a physical to make sure you are in good health and ask to speak to a registered dietician or nutritionist to devise a nutritional plan that is right for you and your active lifestyle. Keep in mind no one "diet" or program is right for everyone so be sure to do your research and seek professional help.
I am a big fan of the MyFitnessPal app I have on my phone. It helps keep my calories and more specifically my macros in check that that I am properly fueling for my runs, cross training and even off days.
3. Cross Train
I cannot stress enough the importance of cross training for runners. It is a vital component to any runner's programming. Do not wait until you're already in a rut to engage in cross training, rather use it to help prevent you from getting too deep in one in the first place. Swimming and biking are great, but strength training and stretching are tremendously important. Building a solid foundation through strength training and building long, lean muscles with stretching/yoga, will help with performance, improve recovery time and prevent injury. It will also add variety to your fitness, helping you from getting mentally burnt out too!
For more information on the importance of cross training for runners, be sure to check out my past blog posts "Strength Training for Runners" and "Yoga for Athletic Performance." Also, be sure to continue to check back as I will continue to post on cross training.
4. Set New or Different Goals
Whether you are someone who just runs for the fun of it or are someone who runs several races a year, eventually running can lose it's luster. For those of you who are not training for any particular event and are finding it difficult to lace up and pound the pavement, consider signing up and training for a specific event. Having a specific goal with a definitive date, will keep you accountable and give you that push you've been needing to bring you out of your rut. And of course you will feel so excited and accomplished once you've reached your goal, you'll be ready for new ones!
Of course another reason people get into running slumps is that they are just running way too much. Feeling the need to run in every single event your town has to offer may be fun at first, but soon you may find yourself less excited to race and not to mentioned exhausted! This is common in new runners who are enjoying the thrill of the race, the cool bling and of course all the PR's. This has actually happened to me several times, including when I first started running, returning to run after having children and when I've started running new distances. I felt like I HAD to do every event. The "runners high," however will only last for so long and eventually your body and mind will get burnt out. Consider focusing on a couple of core events each year. Try to run a variety of distances and maybe even consider trying something new like a longer or shorter distance race or even a biking event or triathlon. Spreading out and varying your events will keep things fresh and exciting. You will be less likely to get overwhelmed with all the training and/or even bored with repetitiveness that is running race after race after race.
5. Hire a Coach
Websites, books, blogs, social media, articles and podcasts are all great resources to improve anything from running form to strength, but your best defense against running ruts and staying a healthy happy runner is hiring a professional. A coach can help devise a plan specifically to you, your goals and your capabilities. Just like nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all program for any runner. A coach will help you make the appropriate modifications, including regressions and progressions, needed to help you reach your goals. With a coach you will have not only have effective progressive programming to follow, but you will also have the accountability, motivation and support needed for success. Be sure to do your research when hiring a professional and make sure they have the appropriate credentials and experience to help you with your specific running goals.
To learn more Coach Christina and her training services at CWSC Performance, visit her website and Facebook page. Also, be sure to follow Coach Christina's fitness journey on Instagram.