I love running. And yet there are times when I truly, sincerely hate it. It can feel like such a burden, like such an obligation, and at times I find myself weary of the whole sport. Ugh, another run today. Didn’t I just do one, like, two days ago??? Why am I putting myself through this? Ultimately, of course, I know exactly why, but it can be hard to break through that feeling of burn out. Sometimes, I just want to hang up my running shoes and pick up a new sport altogether. But I never do.
Every runner feels this at some point, and not just once or twice, but often on a semi-regular basis. It’s a given, it goes with the sport. So how do we push through and keep going? Here are a few little tips and tricks I thought of to keep you motivated and keep you moving. Not just in the here and now, but for the future. Because if you haven’t suffered runner’s burn out yet, you will. And if you already have suffered and conquered it, you will likely suffer it again. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your running career. Not by a long shot!
Change It Up – if you are a creature of habit, chances are you often run the same route or routes over and over again, at the same time of day, with the same music playing on your iPod. I personally crave a lot of variation and get bored easily. I have to constantly change things up to keep myself motivated.
- Map a New Route – even if you have to drive to another town for some variation, do it. A change of scenery, new houses and neighbourhoods, can really help pass the time and mileage in a much more interesting fashion.
- Hit the Trails – get off the beaten path, the road, or the treadmill. Find some local hiking trails and go for what I call a hike/run combo. Being among the trees and the little critters can really be refreshing. Just be careful on loose gravel and uneven paths. Make sure to watch where you put your feet and take it slow if you have to. You don’t want to get injured!
- Speed Up/Slow Down – if you are a new runner, you may not feel like you are ready for any sort of speedwork. But consider changing your tempo up a bit when you run. Run a little faster than your normal pace for a few minutes, then slow down, even walk, to recover. Do that 3 or 4 times during your run. Just a little variation like that can keep things interesting. Additionally, working your heart, lungs and legs just a little harder for a few brief minutes at a time can make you stronger for your next run.
- Change Your Music…or turn it off altogether. It’s amazing how rejuvenating listening to a few new songs can be. But it’s also amazing how nice it can be to turn off the tunes and just listen to the birds sing and the crickets chirp. Turning off the music can mean you connect with your surroundings a little more.
Sometimes, Less Really is More - Many people think that to become a strong runner, you need to run every day. However, a wise woman, who has trained many competitive runners in her day, told me that you should only run every other day and no more than that. And that only one run per week should be a long one. The rest are either speed training (if you are up for that), hills, or bread-and-butter runs (basic 3 to 4 milers just to keep your legs moving). And most training plans follow that same general pattern. Too much running or too frequent long runs can wear you out faster and actually make you slower. Rest is critical, make sure you build it into your plan.
Run with a Friend – running can be a lonely sport and running alone can lead to boredom. If you are a new runner, you might think you can’t talk while you run…but you probably can. And it can be a wonderfully social experience. I’ve gotten some of my best parenting advice while running! Just make sure you both agree to go at the slower person’s pace and just enjoy each others’ company.
Solve a Problem While You Run – have an issue that’s been bothering you? Mull it over while you are out on that run, and you might just find the mileage has passed before you know it. I’ve written whole articles and blog posts in my head while running (this one included!), and written them down the moment I got home. Exercise can get your creative juices flowing and you may come up with answers to your problem that you wouldn’t have thought of when you were sitting still.
Go For a Walk…In Your Running Gear – this is a little trick I’ve used on myself more than a few times when I really, REALLY don’t want to go running. I just tell myself I am getting out there to walk, I don’t need to run at all. Almost without fail, once I get moving I find I want to run after all. There’s just something about getting the blood flowing a little that helps me overcome that feeling of burnout.
Skip a Day or Two – Not every runner would agree with me, but I think sometimes skipping a run or two can rejuvenate my love for it. As a general rule, I try never to go more than three days without a run. But sometimes life conspires against me and I miss a few runs. As long as it’s no more than about 5 days, I often find that I feel stronger and faster when I get out there again. The rest has done wonders for both body and mind.
Ignore your Training Plan - If you are following a training plan, you can feel a great sense of obligation to stick to it. But remember, it’s a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. If you really need a break from it, take the break. Then move things around a bit in the plan and make up the time another day. Sometimes it is the sense of obligation that makes us resent running, not the actual running itself. So don’t get too caught up in the requirements of the plan…it’s flexible, and you need to make it work for you.
Consider Your Health – One of the things that keeps me getting out there, even when I’m not loving it, is knowing just how good running is for me. Granted, I have diabetes and running is one of the ways I control my glucose levels so that is a big source of motivation. But I’ve seen amazing changes in both my body and my mind over the past few years and much of that is attributable to running. At almost 40, I am stronger and and more fit than I’ve ever been in my life. I am also more up for new experiences and trying new things, because I feel more athletic. If you are a new runner, you may not feel you are there yet…but you will be.
As one Red-Faced Runner sagely pointed out, you want to look at how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go. The path before you can be daunting, but the ground you’ve already covered is paved with your success. Savor that success, you’ve earned it.