Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What to do when you've lost your running mojo..

The days are getting shorter. The mercury is dropping. The weather gods don’t seem terribly friendly anymore. Looming on the not too distant horizon are holiday parties, shopping, and more time with the family than you might like.

Getting up in the morning without hitting the snooze button several times before putting on your running shoes has become quite challenging. Hitting the road to log a few easy miles has oddly begun to feel like drudgery.

I’ve got some bad news. You’ve lost your running mojo. Don’t panic. Don’t run to the doctor’s office. Take a few deep breaths and slowly exhale. This is not a death sentence. It’s not terminal. But, make no mistake about it. You need to take action in order to get better and reclaim your mojo.

If you are to find your mojo again, changes are required. Some of these changes you may not like initially. Change isn’t easy. However, if what you’ve been doing historically is no longer working for you, change is the only viable option.

Below are a few suggested treatments that may be just what the doctor ordered. Try one or try a few of them. Sometimes it takes time and patience to find what works best for you. But, if you’re serious about reclaiming your running mojo, some of the below will likely get you out of your rut.

Get a change of scenery.

I completely endorse a vacation, but recognize this might not be a viable option. Don’t abandon all hope. You can still get a therapeutic change of scenery without skipping town to the tropics.

Many runners get into a routine that devolves into a rut. Maybe you run the same five-mile loop several times a week. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this utilitarian approach.

But, familiarity ‘may’ breed contempt after awhile. It may be comfortable, easy, and convenient to get your mileage via the same route over and over again, but the same thing over and over again can become monotonous.

It may not be convenient, but get away from what’s familiar. If you have never gone for a trail run, give it a shot. The change of scenery alone may be enough to help you get out of your funk.

If getting off road isn’t a viable option, try running with a club or program. Running is inherently a solitary activity and many get their mileage in on their own. But, we are generally social animals and crave community. Explore opportunities to get your run in and connect with others.

Perhaps you’ve never actually participated in a race. Given the explosion of events over the years, there are a plethora of opportunities to participate in a race of just about every distance fathomable.

You don’t have to run the fastest time of your life. Simply enjoying the experience of being around several hundred (or thousand) people who love to run may be enough to help you rediscover your mojo.

Try a different time of day.

It’s tough to run during the winter. The weather generally isn’t as inviting and the days are markedly shorter. If you’re the kind of runner who tends to be an early riser, this can make things markedly challenging.

If you typically set your alarm clock for 5AM, it’s no walk in the park getting out of bed to begin with, but if your run starts and ends in the dark, getting your miles in can be that much more challenging. During the summer and fall, you may catch some daylight before your run concludes, but in the winter, not so much.

Conversely, if you’re more of a night runner accustomed to getting your miles in after you’ve completed a full day at work, you might have been able to catch some daylight during your run in the summer or fall. But, the arrival of winter all but eliminates this. Winter spells complete darkness for every mile logged in the evening.

Given the general lack of daylight in the morning and evening during the winter, the only option left is to try to get some mileage in during the lunch hour. If you’ve never tried hitting the road in the middle of the day, the winter months provide an excellent opportunity to give it a shot.

Running in the afternoon provides a nice way to break up a busy workday and stave off the late afternoon urge to nap. Admittedly, a midday sojourn may require some additional planning and logistical challenges. But, if it means more mileage logged during the challenging winter months and more Vitamin D, it’s worth giving it a shot.

Mix it up.

Perhaps your current state of ennui is more about a performance plateau. If you’ve put in the mileage and the quality work required to post a personal best, but just haven’t seen the results, it may be time to mix things up.

If your performances are not matching up with the work you’re putting in, it might be time to overhaul your approach to training. The best in the world change coaches (or simply go coachless) when they aren’t happy with their running. Follow their lead and mix things up.

What approach is best? Great question. There are a million different ways to train. Why are there so many different ways to train? There is infinite variety from person to person. What works for me is not necessarily going to be the answer for you. Likewise, your approach may work swimmingly for you, but be a disastrous approach for someone else.

Be open minded and flexible. Do a little research and explore a few different avenues. It may entail logging more miles, fewer miles, or trying some activities you never would have contemplated.

Treat mixing things up as a grand new adventure and an opportunity to discover a way to uncover even better performances down the road.

Just take a break.

It may sound completely counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your running is not running. If you find yourself in a space where seemingly every mile you log feels like drudgery, stop running.

It may be the case that your body simply needs a break. Maybe you’re experiencing mental fatigue. If you’ve been training and racing all year long, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if physical or mental fatigue were afflicting you. Whether the issue is physical or mental, there is no shame in taking a break.

Don’t put any hard and fast rules on what this break looks like. Maybe it’s a day. Maybe it’s a couple days. Maybe it’s a week. Maybe it’s longer. Listen to the messages your body is sending you and don’t hit the road again until you feel like you’re ready for it and have genuine enthusiasm for the act of running.

At the end of the day, running should be fun most of the time. If it’s not feeling that way, don’t force yourself to go out and log miles in misery. Give yourself a break. Chances are, you’ve earned it.

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