by Jennifer Hallberg

So, you’ve been a regular runner for a while now. And at first, everything was great. You loved running. You couldn’t get enough of that runner’s high, and the thought of training for your next goal was exhilarating. For the most part, you looked forward to your planned runs, and you typically came home from those runs feeling happy and satisfied. You were proud of and pleased with your progress. Life was good.

Then, something changed. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but for some reason, the magic is gone. Running has gone from an activity you once loved to something that feels like a chore that you now dread. What happened?! Why did it happen? And why does it seem like you’re the only one in your group of running pals who is feeling this way?

Does this sound familiar? If you’re running consistently and haven’t yet experienced these types of feelings, it’s quite possible that you will at some point during your running journey. Sometimes the negativity will only last a few days, but other times, it can linger for weeks or even months! And when something that used to bring you so much joy transforms into something that, well, doesn’t, it can be devastating to your psyche. So what do you do when this happens?

Well, for starters, don’t panic! Running slumps happen to everyone – even the elites – and there is no shame in admitting that your relationship with running isn’t the same as it used to be. There is also no shame in acknowledging that you’re sad/frustrated/anxious about that. But the good news is that running slumps rarely last forever, and there are some things you can do to get back to normal faster.

If you find yourself in a funk, the first thing to do is identify how you got there. Disenchantment with running can be triggered by a whole host of things. Here are a few common culprits:

  • The weather – It’s been brutally hot and humid in Frederick lately. Conditions like that make your runs – even easy ones – seem significantly more challenging than they do in temperate weather. It can be very discouraging to see your pace get slower when you feel like you’re exerting more effort. Similarly, if the weather is exceptionally cold and you hate running in the cold, you can lose your mojo faster than you can say, “is it spring yet?”
  • Post-race blues – Perhaps you spent several months training hard for a particular race, and now that race is over. Maybe it went well, and you achieved a goal, or maybe it went poorly and you’re still struggling to figure out what you could have done differently. Either way, you put a lot of time and effort into preparing for the race, and in a matter of a few hours, it was done. It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of loss or like something is missing after a big life event – even if it went well.
  • Overtraining – Running is a very physically demanding activity. Too much of it without adequate rest time will break even the toughest of runners.
  • Comparing yourself to others – Nothing will get you down quite like looking at so-and-so’s training and beating yourself up for not running as fast as him/her.
  • Big life events outside of running – External stressors impact your running in a big way. If life is hectic and stressful right now, don’t be hard on yourself if your body is struggling to keep up.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and sometimes there might not be a clear reason why! Regardless of how you got there, there are still several things you can try to get back your joy of running:

  • Take a break – It’s okay to take a few days off (or longer!) if you’re not feeling it – especially if your body is overly fatigued or if life outside of running has been extra stressful lately. A bit of time off won’t impact your fitness much, but sometimes a break from running can be exactly what you need to get excited about it again.
  • Slow down – If you don’t want to stop running altogether, try nixing the hard workouts from your routine. Remember, you became a runner because you like running. Try a few easy days along some of your favorite routes with no purpose other than to enjoy the freedom, bliss, and beauty that comes with the territory of the sport. Getting yourself to remember what you like about running itself – without worrying about distance, pace, or what “the training plan says” – will help you reignite your fire faster than trudging miserably through your workouts while hating every minute of them.
  • Find someone to run with – There is nothing like a good running buddy to make the miles fly by. A running partner or group provides accountability, support, encouragement, conversation, and friendship. Plus, they make running, especially long distances, a whole lot more fun! The Steeplechasers hold numerous organized group runs of various distances throughout the week. If none of the group runs work for your schedule, try posting a run on the FSRC Group Runs Facebook page and see if you can get a few others to join you.
  • Switch it up! – Sometimes, runners can get in the habit of running the same routes over and over. There are plenty of beautiful roads and trails in and around Frederick County. If you find your passion fading because you’re bored by your normal routine, ask around for suggestions for some new places to explore. Better yet, find a group that’s running somewhere you’ve never run and tag along with them!

Running slumps aren’t fun, but they do happen. Try some of the tips above to help you get back your love of running faster!