Here’s the thing.
I’ve lost my love for running momentarily.
Ask any runner who inst a premier athlete, and they will likely tell you that at some point or another, they will get to a wall with running where every long run is a struggle, the times are crap, nothing goes right, and there are just more interesting things to do with your time than go out for a #LSR – even if that is just sitting on the sofa watching a movie. You make excuses to skip runs, and before you know it, its been months since you last went out. Your trainers are discarded in a pile of shoes in a cupboard, and your running gear hasn’t left a drawer for weeks.
If you are reading this thinking “shit, that’s me”, your girl is here for you.
My deal is this – we are moving house this month and have a load of things going on. Packing, unpacking, moving jobs, adjusting to a new routine, it’s all getting in the way of my running schedule, which has been up until about February this year three times a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. I haven’t been for as many long Sunday runs for weeks (apart from the half marathon in Southampton on the 23rd April) and since I started my new job I haven’t done as many runs throughout the week either. It’s slowly getting harder to get up out of bed on a Sunday and go for a 14 mile run – something I used to do weekly – the routes I used to love are now boring to me and it feels more like effort than something I enjoy. It’s not being lazy, it’s just trying to adjust to new surroundings. ITS HARD adjusting sometimes and running has just taken a back seat. Life happens. Plans change, and priorities change.
Sometimes I wonder if I should just stop. I’ve run over 20 races in 5 years, I’ve done marathons, ultras and half marathons in some of the best parts of the UK. My first marathon was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, in stark comparison to my last marathon which felt like hell.
I’ve made amazing friends, and have enough medals to make an impressive and functional wind chime. But now when I turn up to a race under prepared trying to kid myself that I’ve got running in my legs and they’ll just do the work (muscle memory is a thing right?) and I set off and try to run with as much effort as I used to, I get a slower time. Its hard work. I feel tired as fuck afterwards. I tell myself “I will get back to it next week” and then something else crops up, and I don’t.
So how do I get past this? How to I get back to a place where running is a fun and fulfilling experience and not just about getting a PB?
Maybe that is just it. Maybe I need to stop expecting to be “The Best” and just get back to doing it for me with no real goal in mind. I need to get back to a place where running isn’t just about setting records and trying to be the fastest, because I’ve never really been that fast. I need to get back to a place where I look at the time and distance I’ve been out and go – “whoa, did I really just do that?”
So how does one fall back in love with running? I’ve put together a list, curated from asking many of my running friends and articles I’ve read up on the subject. I am going to try to stick to my three times a week routine, in the hope that once I move and we are settled in, it will be easier to get back to. I’m also not going to run any long distance races until September in the hopes that having a goal that far away (4 months isn’t really that long) will give me enough time to get back into it and be able to run a race without feeling like giving up.
Don’t force yourself to run if you really don’t want to.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but forcing yourself out the door when you really, really don’t want to go wont help you fall back in love with running. If you wake up on a Sunday with the idea of going out for a run, you’ll probably just get on with it, but if you wake up and you’re tired, you don’t feel right, or the weather is shitty (and you hate running in the rain like I do) and you just don’t want to – don’t do it! If you feel like going out later on in the day – go then instead. I’m pretty sure this is why I’ve started to loathe Sunday runs, because I would drag myself out regardless of the weather or how I felt. Sometimes a rest day is just as good.
Don’t expect to be able to go back to your old routine straight away.
At my best I was running consistent 8.30 minute miles, sometimes quicker than that. My best ever PB was 1.56 for a half marathon and I want to get back to that. But it also took me two and a half years of consistent running to get to that point from scratch. Depending on the length of time you’ve been out you will notice a drop in your fitness and speed levels. Someone who has been running for 5 years and then has a 6 month break will find it easier to get back into than someone who has been running for 2 years and has the same break from the sport. You will have a lower level of mitochondria (the power plants in your cells) and your lactate threshold lowers, so it will take a little while to get back into – though not as much as someone who has never exercised. You will also have lower muscle conditioning than you used to, and your aerobic fitness levels will be lower. So you need to go back to it gently, and build back up again. Dont try to pick up where you left off. Try using a plan which starts at a level you know you can comfortable run at – for me I know I can do three miles, so I’m going to do two three mile runs in the week and then up my Sunday runs, starting at 5 miles and working back up to 13. Slow and steady is key, don’t run before you can walk and all that.
Accept that you probably wont be as fit or as fast as you used to be
Continuing the theme from the last point, I cant expect to be running 8 minute miles straight away. You’re going to be slower than you used to be for a while. It took me almost three years to get a sub 2 hour marathon, it was hard work for me, so it’s not something I’m expecting to get again until 2018 now. I’m averaging at around 2.15-2.20 for a half at the moment which is the slowest I’ve been for a while, but that’s fine. I’ll get back to a sub 2 on my own terms. Also where distance is concerned, stick to the 10% rule. Increase your miles by 10% each week or less if you need to.
If you’re off… Start here…..
1 week or less Pick up where you left off
up to 10 days Start at 70% of previous weekly mileage
up to 30 days Start at 60% of previous weekly mileage
30 days – 3 months Start at 50% of previous weekly mileage
3 months – year Start from Scratch
Give yourself a realistic goal and work towards it
So my goal is to get down to 2.05 by September’s half marathon. Can I realistically knock of 15 minutes from my current time in 4 months? I think so. But its going to take some time to get back into doing the longer runs, so I’m going to make a plan and try to stick to it. There are loads of apps these days that can offer you training plans – I’m going to use the Map My Run MVP half Marathon plan and tailor it to my schedule, adding in some Saturday runs where I can.
The important thing with this point is don’t go out too fast and try to rein it in a little. You are not a complete newbie, you know how to look after your body when it comes to injuries, so dont throw all that out the window by trying to run too hard, too fast, too soon, because it will just be ugly and you’ll hate it.
pick a goal that gets you excited to start running again. Maybe it’s a marathon or ultra, or maybe it’s just running a 5k.
Whatever it is, set the goal from the very beginning and keep it in mind after your first few runs when you start questioning your decision to get back into it.
Switch up your routes and routines
This is going to be pretty easy for us with moving. Finding new routes is always fun and its a great way to explore, especially if you are moving house to a new area. Utilizing running map services like MMR’s route genius will help you find your way around. Or, join a running club. They will help you find routes of varying distances and degrees of difficulty, and running with others regularly will help you get to a routine again. I always find that running a new route helps me get out a bit more, and you find yourself concentrating more on where you are going and what is around you than your time.
Get some new running threads.
Nothing says “I’m going for a run” like going to a sports shop and investing in new shoes and shorts. It makes you feel good and the purchase guilt will mean you have to go out and try out the new kit, and besides, you don’t want to injure yourself. Check your gear still fits and is fit for purpose – I’m talking no holes in socks, no over worn t-shirts, and ladies, make sure your bras fit well. Wearing over worn shoes can also compromise your running form from the ground up, making running way more difficult than it needs to be and increasing your risk of running injuries like IT-band syndrome, shin splints, and even stress fractures. Running shoes are generally ready to be retired after 300 to 500 miles, so if you’ve been wearing your running shoes just because they’re cute AF for the last several months, chances are you’ve surpassed that benchmark. You should really track your shoes monthly mileage to make sure you aren’t running on shoes that have passed their expiration date. MMR allows you to add your shoes to your workouts and will alert you when you need to think about getting new ones. Plus, nothing motivates you to get after it like a fresh pair of kicks.
Ditch the running watch for the first few runs
Yes. I went there. Step. Away. From. The. Garmin.
Sometimes tracking your runs is great. I love it. But sometimes it can make you feel slower than a heard of tortoises stampeding through peanut butter, so every now and again maybe don’t wear the watch. Just run naked (not literally though). Be free from segments. Don’t stress over split pace. You’ll feel less stressed out about not getting a good min/mile pace and your brain will be free to take in the world around you. I run without a watch but use MMR on my phone and turn off the voice feedback so I don’t know how far or fast I’ve gone, and you know what? It feels great.
Take some time out to appreciate why you love running in the first place.
Look, I get it, sometimes life does get in the way and we have to take a step back. Things change, we change as people, our circumstances change and that’s OK. But that shouldn’t stop doing something that once bought you so much joy, or helped you through a difficult time in your life as it did for me. Take some time out if you need to, because forcing yourself to do something that isn’t much fun will likely make it less fun. Take a break, and when you are ready, pop those trainers back on and hit the trails. You’ll probably enjoy it, and you might just end up falling back in love with the one thing that bought you so much joy.
So now I’ve just got to stick to it right? Its Wednesday 3rd May. I ran 3 miles yesterday and tomorrow I’ll do another three. I don’t know if I will run on Sunday as we are moving this weekend, but I’ll try to do 5 miles if I have time between unpacking – It’ll be a welcome distraction from all the boxes. Please let me know if you have any tips to share about how you get over the running wall or how you came back from a stint out of your sport, any advice is appreciated – I’m going to need it.
Until next week, have a good one!