How I Got Over My Running Slump


You may have noticed that this year, I haven't blogged about running very much. To be honest, I think hosting our monthly Runners Tell All linkup is the only thing that saved me from not posting about running at all.

As I've mentioned before, 2013 was an insane year of running for me. I ran over 850 miles, which included 2 full marathons, 3 half marathons, a 25k, a Warrior Dash (5k mud run), and 2 5ks. (Get all the race recaps here.) That's not a lot for some people, but by the end of the year, I was burned out.

I spent the first half of this year running without a watch and without a time or distance goal of any kind, and I won't lie: it was nice. I ran when I wanted, as long as I wanted, as fast as I wanted, and I loved it.

But around the beginning of September, I fell off the wagon. I was tired of running. I was bored and had no motivation or desire of any kind to head out for a run.

Word to the wise: When you're in the middle of a running slump, the last place you want to be is on Twitter on a Saturday morning. Saturdays, if you don't know, is when most runners do their weekly long run, and my feed is a long list of updates from people finishing 10-, 15-, 20-mile runs. It was super depressing.

This is not the first post on how to get out of a running slump, nor will it be the last. But I wanted to share some of the things that helped me get back on the running wagon. Because I am back on it and loving my runs right now. Hopefully this will be an encouragement to any of you who are in the middle of a slump of your own.

Okay, so you're in a slump. You're not a terrible person. You don't suck at life. And yes, you will be able to run again.

Once I admitted those things to myself, I was able to cut myself a break. I realized there wasn't any point in allowing myself to swim in guilt for skipping a few days (or even weeks) of runs. It is what it is, and recognizing my slump for what it was helped me to feel less guilty and more optimistic about my future return to running.

No, not literally naked. 


Running naked is a runner's way of saying running without a watch. It's easy to get caught up in numbers. How fast did I go? How far did I go? What was my overall pace? What were my mile splits? Numbers are fun, and I get way too much joy out of plugging my latest runs into dailymile. But sometimes it's necessary to just go run for the heck of it. Run because you want to, and don't care about the clock. (But, see #4)

This is not a new tip. Every runner in the history of ever has included "run in a new place" in a list of ways to get out of a slump. But that's because it works. Part of my problem was that I was so bored of my route. Whether it was running laps around my apartment complex or running through the same neighborhood streets, I was tired of it.

You might think, as I did, that there's no way you can run in a new place because of your schedule. But you just have to get creative!

I have actually started running during my lunch break, and it's been so much fun. I had always thought I couldn't do it, but Tamara's post made me reconsider. It's great to run in a new area and during a different time of day than I am usually out, and if I keep it to 3 miles or so, I actually don't get too terribly sweaty. (Unless I'm doing a tempo run or something.)

If you can't run during your lunch hour, consider bringing your running clothes with you to work and going straight to a nearby park or neighborhood. Often, my problem is that once I get home, I'm done. There's no way I'm going out. But if I have my running clothes with me, I can change and head directly to a new location and go running before I get home.

I know I said in #3 to run naked, but sometimes the opposite it needed: a training plan. Another reason for my slump was that I had been running without a watch for too long. I was doing the same route at the same(ish) pace, and I was bored out of my mind. Some people get into a slump because they've been following a training plan for too long, but it was about time for me to have some structure.

I've mentioned this book before, in part 1 of my "How to Start Running Series."

I bought Run Less Run Faster a while ago but had never used any of the training plans. To help get me out of my rut, I decided I was going to train for a 5k, which is what I'm doing right now. After running a marathon, a 5k sounds like a lame, but it's actually the base for all the other distances. One of my goals for 2015 is to run a sub 1:50 half.

The training plans in this book provide you with 3 types of runs per week: a track workout, a short tempo run, and a long run. They include all the paces for each run and include stretches and warmups to do.

This might not sound like a novel concept to many of you more experienced runners, but I had never done any real tempo or track workouts before, and it's been really fun to follow the training plan and try to hit the goal paces for each workout. I find myself actually excited to see what the plan is for that day, and even though the paces are tough and I'm dying by the end, it's fun to run, even for just a few miles at a time, in the 7s.

It's so easy to look at social media or read blog posts and be discouraged by how many people have their act together and are running and beating their goals and basically being awesome at life. But instead of being discouraged, try seeing that as motivation and encouragement. 

Having the monthly Runners Tell All linkup this year has been so much fun. YOU have made it fun by commenting and visiting other blogs and linking up and sharing your story. It's been motivating for me to read about your training runs and your favorite moments and your favorite running gear. If you're in a rut and you're frustrated about it, tell someone. Share your frustration with a fellow runner and let them be an encouragement to you. Because as awesome as we try to sound in our Saturday morning Twitter post, we've all been there. You're not alone, and this won't last forever.

Now to find a 5k to sign up for....

Have you ever been in a running slump? How did you get out of it?
Allison said...

I just finished up my cross country season and getting back to running has been challenging to say the least! I feel ya on being burned out! I'll give myself a few more days and then put these tips to the test! Thanks :)

Unknown said...

I love your tips. I've been in a kind of running slump ever since I joined the gym in august. I'd rather spend two hours taking insanely challenging but fun classes now than go for a run on my own. I still run once a week, but at Parkrun, with other runners. And you're right, running naked does feel great! No stats, no time, just you and your feet. :)

I signed up for the London 10K in may, though. I already can't wait!

Tracy said...

Great post, Amanda! Even though I'm still running a decent amount, I've definitely felt a bit aimless since I decided to back out of my fall marathon. The last half of last year and first half of this year were insane for me too and I've felt in a very weird place with running for a few months now.
I know what you mean about feeling lame training for a shorter distance. It's not as rewarding of an experience as it is training for something like a full marathon, but it's FUN! So that's where I am with running right now. Running fast as shorter distance is my idea of fun lately so that's what I'm doing. I really want to find a 5k to run where I can just go all out. And I have my sights on a 1:50 half in March (add that to my list of things I never ever thought I'd say).
These are all great tips and things I've found myself trying to work through. My last big race for a while is tomorrow, and then after that I have NO idea what I'm going to do! I think it will be good for me to not have any pressure for a little bit, and by the time I need to start training for my next half I think I'll be plenty ready to follow a training plan again.

Courtney B said...

Hahaha! Oh dear! I must admit that my eyes may have bulged out of my head a little when I saw your #2 title! I've never ran with a watch (dying to get a polar!) but I do use an app on my phone. Lately I haven't been activating it and you're right, it's so freeing!
Looooove these tips!

Jenny Fish said...

I am beyond ready to run naked! (Only 3 weeks until my marathon :0!) If you're going to use the FIRST technique to also train for your half marathon, my suggestion would be to take a break between training for the 5k and training for the half. I went straight from the 12-week 5k program into the 16-week marathon program, and like I said in my email - I'm getting bored of it. Glad you're loving the tempo runs - they're probably my favorite. They make me feel so fast!

Miss Nutralicious said...

These are all great tips! One thing that I have learned over the years is to not only embrace a slump and give myself permission to take a break from running, but to also use my break to try new exercises. I've tried different fitness classes (yoga, zumba, and aerobics), bike riding, and weight training during slumps, and they have all been really refreshing. Plus, when I'm ready to get back to running, it's not too hard because I'm already in pretty decent shape.

Kristen said...

i needed this post right now. I think I have been in a running slump for like 2 years. I used to run naked as well and I freaking loved it.. then somewhere along the line I started using apps and watches and that's how I got discouraged - I ran a race and listened to my app and it was way off, so I had no chance of reaching my goal and I just wanted to give up. I am curious about running on my lunch break, I think I could do that but I am worried about makeup / sweating etc but I love the idea of running after work - I think I could do that. I'm like you, once I get home I am completely done.

Amy said...

i'm FINALLY out of my running slump.
and i had to do some of those tips too.
i also NEEDED a new playlist. the old jams were just ticking me off haha.

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

Have I ever been in a running slump? YES!

I'm glad you got out of yours and it will be fun when you PR you get your sub 1:50 in a 1/2 marathon! Running in Burma is out of the question. There aren't really sidewalks and the streets have no organization. The roads are also super windy and barely wide enough for two cars. However, our apartment is on the 11th floor and I think my running is going to be stairs!

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

I agree with you! Sometimes variety and continued fitness keeps you on the right track!

Unknown said...

I just ran my first half marathon two weeks ago and I haven't run since. I am so disappointed with myself. I am going to try some of these suggestions to get myself back out there.

Megan said...

I'm in one right now!! :( After my triathlon this summer, I just stopped running because I didn't have anything to train for. I've been meaning to find a shortish local race to sign up for to get me going again, but I also think I'll put your run in a new place tip to the test; it seems that would work! I also downloaded a new podcast ("Serial") that is supposed to be pretty good, so that helps. :)

Ali said...

I think I'm getting into a slump. I haven't stopped running, but my motivation is incredibly low. I think it has a lot to do with our cold weather. Toughing it out on the treadmill for another winter does not sound appealing! I think I need to just cut myself some slack. I'm not a professional athlete, and it really only matters to me when, where, and how much I run.

The Jessa Olson Blog said...

This was real motivating for me. I have fallen off the running bandwagon. I thought I was the only "experienced" runner who has done this. I really hope that you continue the runners tell all for 2015 because it has really been a motivating factor for me to start running again.

The Lady Okie said...

It can be really discouraging to follow your time and the apps and all that, especially if you can't seem to hit your pace anymore. It was so nice to just run and not worry about how far or how fast I was going.

Re: Running at lunch
First of all, I haven't done that for a few weeks because it got cold and I'm a wimp about running in the cold :) But, it actually isn't too bad. I have an hour for lunch, so if I run 3-4 miles I can get back in time to cool off. I bring deodorant and a towel to kind of wash off, and it actually isn't so bad. Plus, it's really nice to get my run in without technically taking up any of my regular schedule. But it's definitely not for everyone!

Unknown said...

"Okay, so you're in a slump. You're not a terrible person. You don't suck at life. And yes, you will be able to run again."

Ha! This is me, all the time.

I am THE WORST about staying motivated and getting my runs in. I typically train on my own, which means I don't have any accountability and can easily skip it "just this once." Ha. It doesn't help that my Mister is basically the second fastest land mammal on the planet, so he finishes in record time looking fabulous, while I come panting and sweating across the finish line. But I digress.

Last week I joined a running club with a friend of mine, and we had a BLAST. I look forward to the run, stay motivated by my partner, and hear plenty of stories and tips from more seasoned runners. The whole experience makes me want to get more serious, and I'm excited about running again!

The Lady Okie said...

Ha! This comment is too funny. "Fastest land mammal on the planet." hahaha. Hopefully you can get motivated again! It is hard to have accountability when you aren't running with someone else.

Tamara said...

Totally #1. And actually, all of them. I definitely hit a slump the last half of the year and twitter is Satan for those of us feeling less-than when it comes to running on Saturdays. Honestly, I don't even get on there much on the weekends because of it.
I'm glad you're getting out of the slump! Now, if only the margaritas will just stop beckoning me away from my training runs...

Holly said...

Awesome tips! I've been in several running slumps and it's tough to get out of them. I've embraced running without a watch sometimes and that definitely helps. Otherwise I just have to get motivation for a race and start to eat healthy again too (cuz usually my running sump equates with a non-healthy eating slump haha). Hope you can find a race to run soon!