There’s no other way to put it – Sunday’s run sucked. Really, the only redeeming part was being done (although that is always a high point). It was humid, my legs felt like they weighed a thousand pounds each and I felt so slow and frustrated that I wondered why I was even out there. We all have runs like that sometimes (and probably all have more of them in the summer heat!) so I thought it would be a good time to talk about how to survive them.
*Caveat: If your run sucks because you’re having serious pain somewhere, stop and get checked out by a medical professional of some kind! We’re just talking non-injury run-suckage here.
– Remind yourself that the first mile always sucks: I’ve been running for almost 3 years now (WOW) and the first mile still sucks most, if not all of the time. Not right off the bat – running is sneaky like that. You’ll feel great for those first few steps and then a few minutes in, you realize this is HARD. It’s okay. It gets easier. On the really tough days, give yourself a longer warm up and remind yourself that it gets better as you go along.
– Chunk it up: Mentally, I tell myself that the first couple of miles will be tough while I warm up, but then the middle miles will be better and then the last miles will be those almost-done miles. Thinking about it smaller chunks of a mile or two at a time really helps. You can break it up as small as you need to. Sometimes I just think about running the next minute and then the next until things get easier. I definitely tend to think of my long runs in chunks – it isn’t 8 miles, it’s 4 miles out and back. That seems much more doable.
– Change your route: If you always run the same route and you’re having a hard time getting through it for whatever reason, make a different turn or head a new direction. Even running your usual loop in a different order can help break things up a bit!
– Remind yourself it’s about the miles on your feet: Even if they don’t feel the best or the highest quality, you’re getting something out of them just for the effort. Effort is rarely wasted. I had this particular conversation with myself A LOT on Sunday. In particular, these tough runs are great for mental strength!
– Find a mantra: I’ve talked about mantras before here, but finding something you can tell yourself over and over to get your mind out of that negative spiral can be really helpful. As I was soaked with sweat Sunday, I found myself repeating “Fall is coming, Fall is coming, Fall is coming” over and over.
– Think about a reward: I’m trying to get away from thinking of running as “earning” me food treats, but do what you have to do to get through a long run. Think about that big glass of water (or beer) or post-run snack or shower or whatever you need as a “carrot” to get you to the end. I always feel like I’ve earned an extra special reward when I find the mental strength to pull through these tough runs.
What if all of your runs are tough runs lately? First, be sure you actually want to be a runner. If running isn’t actually your thing, especially in the summer, find another way to exercise! (Unless of course you’ve got a big race coming up and actually do need to run to train.) If you really do want/need to run, you’ve got to find a way out of the funk if you’re going to stick with it. Think about whether or not you’re getting enough rest, in terms of sleep at night and in avoidance of overtraining. You may need some rest days or cross training days. Another consideration may be fueling. If you’re running a lot, be sure you’re eating enough to fuel those runs and that you’re eating things that are actually good fuel for all of the work you’re doing.
If all of your runs are feeling tough right NOW, remind yourself that it is normal to slow down in the heat and humidity. It will feel easier as fall gets here. Just this morning, I noticed that my “race pace” intervals got a me a mile that was 25 seconds faster than it did last week even though I felt SO SLOW. That is may be a little bit improvement on my part, but it is mostly a vast improvement in weather thanks to a drop in our humidity this week. If none of these things help, consider seeing a doctor to be sure there isn’t something else going on contributing to this change.
How do you get through tough runs?
PS I didn’t get to read this month’s book club reading for Wendy’s Taking the Long Way Home book club but be sure to check out her interview with the author of this month’s selection here and her review that should post in the next day or two.