Ah, the good old dreadful running slump. If you’ve been running long enough, you know what I’m talking about. And for those of you that don’t… don’t worry, your time is coming.
Running slumps are like a mini-bout of depression for runners. You never see it coming, you never know how long it’s going to stick around, the strategy you used last time might not break you out of it this time around and you keep snapping on that coworker of yours.
The inside of your mind is like a battlefield – one part of you is shouting at the top of your lungs why you should just get your butt out there and run, while the other half skillfully lists every reason why you shouldn’t in rebuttal. Soon enough, this mental tug-of-war exhausts you more than running a mile or two would, and you give up.
I’ve climbed out of my fair share of these seasons, some lasting only a few weeks and the latest lasting an entire year. So, I like to think of myself as an encyclopedia of strategies when it comes to breaking out of running slumps. That’s why I want you to put the ones I’ve found most effective in your back pocket for the next time you find yourself in the depths of a running slump.
1. Set a Goal
Seems pretty obvious right? But, most people are quick to avoid goal setting during slumps. Why? Because they fear failing when they’re already struggling to run. And by they, I mean me. Here’s why we need to do it, though.
Setting a new goal breaks you out of your normal routine and can reignite your excitement to put one foot in front of the other. Your goal can be as big as breaking a PR at a destination race or as simple as running no less than four times a week, no matter the distance.
Even if you don’t achieve your goal, it gets you out there and one run closer to being out of that slump, which is an accomplishment in itself.
2. Try the Strategy of Pairing
One of my favorite and most effective strategies is Gretchen Rubin’s strategy of pairing. Following Gretchen’s advice, I pair running with something like a playlist of music that makes me feel good or a podcast that I love listening to. The trick here is only allowing myself to do those two things together, never separate.
If I’m struggling to find a reason to run, this strategy works wonders. I love a good playlist or podcast, so only giving myself permission to indulge in them while I’m running gives me the desire I need to lace up my running shoes.
3. Envision Your Best Self
When a running slump is strictly mental, your best bet is to step back and envision the best version of yourself. What does that look like? Does your best self take a rest day when you’d rather hang on the couch, or do you suck it up and do what needs to be done?
I’m more likely to follow through with a run when I picture all of the racing medals I want to have hanging on a rack where I write one day. Thinking about my best version reminds me that an unnecessary rest day puts me further away from achieving all of my racing goals. What’s even worse is it turns me into someone incapable of showing up for herself when things aren’t convenient.
And you know what? I’m willing to bet your best self shows up for you in those hard moments, just like mine.
4. Throw Something New in the Mix
There have been a few times where I knew that come hell or high water, there wasn’t anything on the planet that would get me out on a run. In those off-moments, it’s important physically and mentally to still move your body to so that running slump doesn’t break your habit of exercising.
A few of my favorite ways to avoid feeling the guilt from shutting down in front of Netflix is taking a spin class, lifting weights, relaxing in a yoga class or getting down on my yoga mat for a couple of blogilates videos with Cassey Ho.
Plus, moving your body in ways that it doesn’t on a run is so good for you and might even make you a better runner!
All in all…
There’s no perfect equation for breaking up with a running slump and falling back in love with running.
The key is to not give up. It doesn’t last forever, and running is our thing for a reason. We’re runners because we know that life is hard, and we can do hard things. There’s always something greater on the other side of our discomfort.
So, what strategy are you going to use to put your shoes back on and get back out there? What’s holding you back? Let’s talk about it below in the comments!