No matter how much we love running, there are times when running, quite frankly, is hard.
Those times that our bodies don’t seem to want to move, muscles ache, and it takes everything we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Face it, not every run can be a good run.
As great as pushing through those challenges is for improving our mental toughness, I have discovered a few things over the years that help me get past that misery and actually turn my bad run into a good run (or at least a better one). They may help you, too.
A big training mistake that many runners make is thinking that they must always run hard. Remember that your easy days are actually supposed to be easy. Pushing too hard on recovery days can not only undermine your training and potentially lead to injury, but it can also turn what should be a light and easy run into a sufferfest. Turn it into a better run by slowing down!
I’ve mentioned it here before, but one of the tips I learned was that if you find yourself in the middle of a bad run or race, instead of doing what comes naturally and slowing down (or even walking), try a burst of speed. Somehow, the act of pushing yourself to run faster helps lift your spirits and improves your run. Try picking up the pace for 100 meters or so.
LEAVE YOUR WATCH AT HOME
We can become very focused on our pace, our cadence, our laps, even when running what is supposed to be an easy run. Go old school for a day and leave your watch at home. Enjoy running for running’s sake.
Try something different on your run! If you usually run on the roads, try heading to the trails. Take an unfamiliar route. Find a stranger and tag along. Hopefully a nice stranger.
TRY RUN/WALK INTERVALS
When my friend was having challenges with her rheumatoid arthritis and began to question her running endurance, she decided to try using run/walk intervals to see if that could help. She states, “I’d have to say that in light of my loss of endurance with my RA, the run/walk intervals have become a game-changer, allowing me to finish races with times I can be proud of!” Wendy adds that she does want to get back to regular running though!
TUNE IN (TO YOUR RUN)
During a bad run, our pace will slow, our form can disintegrate, our brains may give up, and bad can quickly go to worse. Instead of letting it all fall apart, turn your focus to your form, your stride, your breathing. Run tall with great posture, try to feel light on your feet, and pay mental attention to each step.
I have written many a blog post and letters to the editor in my head while running. Letting your mind wander can not only help you solve problems, but it can also keep you from focusing on every tough step. Not every run needs strict attention. Turn on your music or tune into nature, and just let your body move through space.
Sometimes a bad run is a signal that you need some extra rest and recovery. Those are the times that it is perfectly okay to skip your run. Take a walk, ride your bike, or just take the day off. No one will call you out, you won’t mess up all of your training. No, instead you will be giving your body a little extra time, which will probably help make your next run a good run.
Yes, sometimes running is hard and some runs suck. Try some of these tips to see if they help turn that bad run into a good one. And relax. Chances are your next run will be better! Funny how it turns out that way!