There’s no better feeling than the runner's high: that euphoric sense of peace and happiness that typically comes from more miles and more endorphins. And there’s no worse feeling than the running slump: the dreaded loss of motivation that affects mental and physical stamina.
Running can quickly go from feeling like a necessary release to a full-blown chore. What gives?
What exactly is a running slump?
These dips in motivation are common and normal for new and veteran runners alike. But it's important to know the difference between a slump and just a bad day. “The silver lining to a bad day is that it comes to an end," says Aaptiv trainer . “If it persists for days on end, that’s a slump—and it’s time to make some changes.”
A number of external forces can trigger running slumps, such as prolonged bad weather and stressful personal circumstances. But sometimes they are caused by a general lack of focus and even boredom. “Training should be equal parts physically and mentally stimulating," says Emmons. "And we need clear goals to achieve and get the gratification to stay motivated and keep coming back.”
OK, so how do I get out of one?
1. Change it up.
When you’re feeling bogged down by your usual , scenery, or running style, try something new. It sounds simple because it is. Variety is the spice of life and maybe the kick in the pants you need to lace your shoes back up. “As humans, we’re designed to adapt,” says Emmons. “Varying run types will stimulate muscular growth and increase speed and endurance, depending on the type of workout.”
Beyond the physical benefits of changing things up, trying new styles of running and workouts can beat boredom in a big way, which can foster that motivation you’ve been missing. Try adding intervals to your routine and set goals around them. Add into your weekly workouts. Try tempo running to test your pace. Work on incline intervals to build lower-body strength and improve endurance overall.
“You never know what you’ll like or what you can do unless you try,” Emmons says. “Lace up and try something new!” After all, logging your usual miles at your usual pace for the fifth day in a row would get old to anyone.
2. Reset actively.
We love a good rest day. In fact, they’re necessary for recovery and progress. But if you’re worried your rest days are a little too chill, try something a bit more active. “In some cases, rest days may enable a slump,” Emmons says. “Runners should implement active rest workouts to keep things interesting and moving.”
On your next , try a new, lower-intensity workout. Or opt for Pilates or yoga to relax and strengthen muscles. You can even set out to find new running routes with a relaxing outdoor walk. Staying in motion will help you stay motivated, and that can help you get back to achieving those goals faster, says Emmons.
3. Don’t beat yourself up.
No matter what, remember that running slumps are a part of the process and happen to everyone. Don’t get down on yourself if you need to take a few days to try a different workout or simply reset mentally. “Every great athlete starts from somewhere,” Emmons says. “Focus on progress, not perfection—a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing.”
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