How To Pull Yourself Out Of A Running Funk

How To Pull Yourself Out Of A Running Funk

Do you sometimes find yourself in a running funk?  

Do you have a deep-down desire to train, but often just feel “bleh” or like skipping workouts? 

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a frustrating cycle where you start running only to walk away from it for weeks or months at a time before getting started yet again.

In this article, I share some practical steps to help any runner in such a running funk and some tried-and-true strategies I've used to pull myself out of one.

Sarah, one of our own RunBuzz community members, has found herself in this exact situation. Frustrated with her situation, she emailed me about her (common) conundrum …

How do you continuously stay motivated and get out of a funk when you get into a funk?


I’ll go through spurts and just quit running altogether. It is usually before I have signed up for a race. I was signed up for my first half marathon in March and just up and quit running three to four weeks before the race. I finished the race at 2:59 but was miserable.  I signed up for the 15k Boilermaker that was last weekend and backed out because I was not prepared as I had quit running for months.  I signed up for my next half marathon on 10/19/14 and just started a training plan this week. So far so good…but I am only three days into the training.  What are your suggestions?

The first thing you should know about running funks, or funks of any kind (relationship, career, health, etc.) is that they’re universal.

Everyone seems to fall in a rut every now and then.  The frustration that we feel after we start fall into an exercise rut often creates a negative reinforcement cycle that is incredibly difficult to escape from.  

Today, I’ll cover why this occurs and why overcoming a funk is so hard.

Analyze Your Life Habits

 Analyze-your-daily-habits

The first step in figuring out why we lose motivation is to do a little self-analysis.

If we take an honest look at ourselves and look for things that help contribute to the situation, we can often find actionable steps that we can take to pull ourselves out of it and ultimately prevent it. 

Sometimes just a few simple changes can snap us out of a funk and get us back on track. Other times it may require a lot more work. Sometimes we need others to help pull us out.

One thing I would like to mention first is EXPECTATION.

It is impossible to feel motivated 100% of the time. Motivation comes and goes.

Some days it feels like a grind to get out the door, and other days you'll bounce right out the door!

When you lose your desire to run you need to be aware that this is a normal feeling. It's part of being human.

BUT when your lack of motivation turns into days, weeks, or months? Then we have a situation that much more chronic than just motivation itself.

Ultimately what we're trying to get to is positive momentum so we can make progress. Momentum leads to more momentum and once you see positive progress with your running, it's much easier to keep that momentum established. When we stop seeing results, or results are slower than our expectations, we often lose motivation.

So how do we get out of a running funk?

Let's start with your daily life habits.

  • What is your daily stress level? Stress can be incredibly tiring and overtime stress hormones can physically and mentally wear you down.
  • Are you going to bed at a decent hour? How's your sleep? Most of us get way too little sleep and many of us have undiagnosed sleep issues.
  • Are you eating well and keeping your blood sugar stable? Try switching smaller meals, more frequent meals, drink more water, and start eating breakfast. Get a blood test and look for nutrient deficiencies. For example, you could have vitamin D deficiency. Look for more variety in your foods and take multivitamins.

Note: Don’t take any specific supplements unless directed by a nutritionist or physician 

  • Are you stressing your liver with too much alcohol or processed foods? The more health-conscious I have become, the more I've learned about how processed food is creating a malnutrition problem in our country and around the world. Our bodies are literally starving and craving nutrient-rich food. Food processing, in combination with GMOs is leaching out all the nutrients in our food, and introducing toxins into our diet. Is it possible that poor food quality is affecting your health?  Poor nutrition leads to a lack of mental clarity, focus and energy.
  • Are you dieting or not eating enough calories? Dieting or being too restrictive with your calories can really mess with your mood. If you cut out too much, the lack of calories can really start to impact your energy levels.
  • Could it be early signs of depression or seasonal mood disorder?  This is something that only a physician can diagnose, but most adults go through some sort of depression phase at least once if not more than once in their lifetime.  For some it can be very frequent. 

Key Takeaway: Any of the things mentioned above can make us feel fatigued, worn out and leave us with no fight left to get us out the door to run.

Most of us focus so much on the training aspects that we don't realize that the other factors are sneaking in and robbing us of our ability to have our head and body in the game. Remember, to have true wellness, we have to keep our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual life nourished and balanced. 


If we could address some of these things I think it'll make a huge difference not just on our running but in our quality of life. 

Forgive Yourself

 Forgive-yourself

Dealing with the issues at hand, first, if you find yourself in a funk, forgive yourself

Falling into a rut can lead us to be overly hard on ourselves. Blaming ourselves gives us redemption for whatever guilt or let-down we feel that goes along with it. For example, if you drop out of a race you know whatever the reason is we often feel let down and if we do it enough we become adapted to that feeling of let-down, and every subsequent time we do something like that it becomes easier.

But if you find yourself being particularly hard on yourself just realize that you're only human and this is 100% normal. Today is not just another day it's a new start. Past is the past, and if you’re going through this right now, I encourage you to pledge a new start and start down a new path today not tomorrow but right now. 

If it’s night, start by just setting out your running clothes, and let's get you back on track.

But what if you just had a bad day, what if you're not totally in the funk? Well that's okay to just realize that it was just today, and tomorrow is a new day, so we can't dwell on it, we just have to start over. We just do the best we can with what we're given. 

Deal With the Root Cause

 Identify-and-tackle-triggers

Another thing is to deal with the root cause. Spend some quiet time looking back at the times you quit. Be honest with yourself and see if you can see a trend or maybe a trigger. For some people, it might be a lack of time, and I think lack of time is a symptom. To be honest I use that one on occasion and I catch myself sometimes using it even though I know that it's more of a symptom. Even with all that I have going on I am pretty much convinced that for me it's an excuse, I could have found time, but I just chose to do something else. I just needed to decide you know what is more important to me and realize that not everything just gets done you know sometimes. The garage is gonna have to stay messy or grocery shopping will have to wait until after my run, even if it means going at 8:00 PM at night. 

Identify Trigger Behaviors and Take Action

It's one thing to recognize the root cause and what is contributing to being in a funk but it is much more difficult to actually do anything about it. When I've fallen into a funk I knew deep down what the issue was, I simply did not have the energy or the willingness to do anything about it. When I get stressed, tired or fatigued, busy and whatnot, I start leaning on comfort foods to deal with it. In other words, I break out the sodas, pop, soft drinks whatever you call them in your local area, and I start sipping them all day long, and I'd also start eating more unhealthy food like chips and crackers, and fast food. 

And all these behaviors just lead to this ongoing cycle of eating, feeling guilty. I knew it was wrong and guilt is a natural reaction but then I get over the disappointment of eating junk food and repeat this vicious cycle over and over again. When I honestly looked at what was causing my funk I realized that I needed to deal with the stress and fatigue so that I can control my eating habits. 

In your case, it may be running but in my case, it was more about the diet. And looking back, it was a lack of sleep and poor eating that was leading me to feel so crappy that I just wouldn't feel like running. 

So I knew what the triggers were but it took me a long time to figure out what to do about my triggers and break the cycle. A funk is nothing more than just a cycle of falling outside of the behaviors you wish you were doing and if you know what your triggers, it gives you starting point to make the correction.

Knowing your triggers helps you identify when you're at most risk of falling back into that pattern of negative behavior, so you can start to make a shift in direction before you get there. Almost a month or so ago, I caught myself falling off my healthy eating bandwagon again, I found myself extremely busy at work and turning to soda and unhealthy food as a way of dealing with the stress and lack of time to grab a real lunch, but this time I saw the cycle forming. I knew what my trigger was. It wasn't that I was hungry, it was just my stomach wanted to keep me busy, distract me by giving me these little sugary boards. As a result, I decided to cut soda completely out of my diet.

I've gone about 29 days or so without soda and I got this little streak going, so my competitive nature started actually working to my advantage by keeping me out of the coke machine at work.

Learn to Overcome Your Fear and Self-Consciousness

Steps-to-overcome-self-consciousness

For some runners feeling fear and self-consciousness is a root cause that can lead to giving up working out and ultimately lead to quitting running altogether. 

If you’re struggling with self-consciousness or fear or worrying about how you look or what others may think of you when they see you, check out episode 8 where I go into a lot more detail on how to overcome the feeling of being self-conscious about your running

Analyze Your Training Schedule

Analyze-your-running-schedule-and-workout-routines

Let's switch gears a little bit, let's focus on the training aspects of health.

So another tip is to analyze your training and your approach to running.

We've looked at issues we think may contribute to funk but what about your training? Are you doing too much? Some people get involved in exercise and when they do they go all in all at once and they try to do everything.

I am one of these people and I don't know how many times I've started an exercise program through all the junk food in my fridge and pantry and exercise only to fizzle out a few weeks later. 

In fact, in my twenties and thirties, I probably joined at least 10 times various health clubs and started weight training or running in one form or another, and I haven’t been able to make any of those last any longer than 2 months before quitting. But with running, in and my late mid to late thirties, I was finally able to change that.

Looking back at times, I went into health and fitness and weight training in particular so headstrong and at such a breakneck speed that it just wasn't sustainable. I burnt myself out. I did too much too soon and I didn't allow enough flexibility with myself to rest, recover, or just be well-rounded in my life. My body or maybe more accurately my mind you know just simply started resisting. 

I see people going through a funk or being burned out all the time. Many people work ridiculous hours to get stuff done and delivered, and it's almost expected of us in the corporate world nowadays. 

We can't let the client down but after a few weeks you see people start to break down physically and mentally and you see the quality of the work start to suffer. The same thing with running, I see runners all the time especially beginners who just jump in so hard so fast that they simply just burn out.

But if you introduce yourself slowly into the sport, set some realistic goals, this will allow you to balance running with other activities you enjoy as well. 

So start slow, easy, and in manageable chunks.

If you're starting back up after a long layoff for not being unable to sustain a running program for very long, start slow, easy, into manageable chunks as well.

Make sure to have other things you enjoy doing outside of running. For instance, I love running but I also like watching college football, being involved with the kid’s activities, and running a business.

  • What about if you don't feel like running at the moment?

You can at least try to take a walk, so the more you get out and get the blood flowing, bringing oxygen to your brain cells, the more you can change your mood, and who knows maybe you'll feel like running after you start to feel better.

  • Have you been running for a long time and are falling into a funk?

What you can do is simply try taking a few weeks off, just give your body a chance to replenish, and mentally take a break. The biggest resistance that I see that I hear from people is that they feel like it's taking a step back. They don't want to lose what they've gained. If they take days off, weeks off they feel like they're going backward but what really happens is that taking time off drastically helps you get your head back in the game - you don't really reduce your fitness level that much. 

After a few days off, you most likely will come back rested healed, and mentally stronger. I try to take a week or 2 off every 6 months or so usually after a marathon or half marathon. In the last several years, I have even taken off the last 2 weeks of the year mainly because of Christmas, and New Year. I also take a couple of weeks off after every marathon and after the half marathon.

Sometimes I will take several days off, and maybe have a fun run with my running club or just do some really easy runs.

5 Ways to Break Out of a Running Funk

Create A Running Blog

Create-your-running-blog

Write about running or start your own running blog. I actually became a better runner after I started a blog.

You may be thinking "Yes, seriously, I have no time for that, I'm not a coder". 

Well, creating a blog is simple in fact. All you need to put up a website is to go out to a web host like A2 Hosting and literally you can be up and running in 5 minutes, which includes your domain name and your hosting, which is where your files and images and things are stored. Most introductory plans are as little as $5/month depending on the options you choose.  (Note: I may receive a small referral commission should you choose to use A2 Hosting at no additional cost to you). I do personally recommend them though. 

Setting up a WordPress blog is as simple as signing up for web hosting and going through a one-click install process. You do not even have to be somebody who codes web pages. Almost everyone with a website out there is using pre-designed templates, and doing some basic changes, like adding a logo, some photos and then starting to write articles and content.

What this gives you is an awesome audit trail that puts you out there, forces accountability on you. People will eventually come to your blog and expect out of you new stories, and running tips.

So I created a blog and shared my first journey to my first marathon. Blogging motivated me to keep running and led me to start coaching. I wanted to share what I was learning with others and then it led me to form a running club and podcasting. 

I'm not saying you need to do all these things but you might be surprised where it takes you and. My own journey started with a simple running blog and it drew me in so much, I got into run coaching.

Seriously, consider starting your own running blog!  A2 hosting makes setting up yoru own website so easy!
 

  • Writing has this incredible way to keep me motivated and helps me immerse myself in running and coaching. It forces me to become a student of the sport and I love this.

Surround Yourself With Positive People 

Surround-yourself-with-positive-people.

Running can be a solo sport but it does not have to be all the time solo. The whole reason for creating the RunBuzz private Facebook community was to surround myself with other runners, people going through the same thing as me. 

Yes, I coach, I study running but I am a runner first, and I struggle with the same things all of you do. I need the same type of support system that you do. The running community keeps me involved, keeps me running when I don't necessarily feel like doing it. Also, by joining a running club, you can make friends with people that have similar running goals, and reduce your chances of getting into a funk again. It’s good to surround yourself with people who inspire and motivate you.

Train with Family

Figure out how to make running a family occasion. I often hear that being busy with family is a barrier to getting exercise, but I’m sure there are ways to incorporate family into your training. I knew a lady who took her kids to soccer practice and was running around the field in order to get her miles in. 

Getting your family involved not only gets them on board but it leads to a stronger support system. Moreover, your family is going to be healthier because of it, which is a good thing, especially now when we witness a significant rise in childhood obesity.  

Try New Routes and Cross-Training Activities

Try-new-routes-and-cross-training-activities

To help you get out of the funk try something new. This can be a new trail, new-cross training routine, or new shoes, new outfit, anything that's going to break up your normal routine.

Sometimes being in the same routine week after week leads to boredom, we simply get tired of doing the same thing all the time and we just lose that excitement, and that is often a very big cause of falling into a funk. 

Develop Positive Mindset

 7-tips-to-build-a-positive-mindset

Be a positive person. Create a positive environment and surround yourself with people who have a positive mental attitude.

I used to hate running. When I started running I was so out of shape, It sucked bad. because  I was not used to being uncomfortable. How did that period of time influence my thoughts? 

It took me time to replace my negative thoughts with positive, and learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Even for an experienced runner like me, running can be uncomfortable.

Here is an example: I ran 14 miles this weekend for a training run and the last mile was pretty uncomfortable, my thighs were burning, my calves were tight, my feet were hurting, and it was hot and sweaty. 

  • So my Previous Self would say: “That sucks”.
  • But Myself This Weekend didn't have the same negative thoughts. Being uncomfortable is now my way of challenging myself. All my runs are awesome but some runs are still challenging and they should be if you're doing things correctly. 

Over a period of several years, I have not only changed how I think but how I live. I pulled myself out of this negative thinking and I continued running by changing my thought process. I found and surrounded myself with positive people. I chose very carefully what I was reading and what I was listening to when it came to books and music. I read running books and I read stories of people who are successful and not all of them were runners, some of them were successful in business.

I'm not the same person anymore. I am less self-centered, I find a lot more joy in helping others.

Bottomline

You have to be honest with yourself. Getting out of a funk is extremely hard and it takes time. Start with an analysis of your lifestyle and training habits. Try to identify the root cause of how you got there and surround yourself with the support of people that motivate and inspire you.

Happy Running!

Additional Running Resources

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You will learn how to build, customize and modify your own personalized training plans for any race distance between 5k and 50k. You will learn how to match your short and long terms goals to a training plan that can realistically achieve what you set out to achieve. And, you will walk away with a plan you actually built, plus mentoring to make sure the plan will work for you. Come learn the exact process I have used to build thousands of training plans for my clients of all experience levels.

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About the Author Steve Carmichael

Steve is a RRCA / USA Track and Field Certified Running Coach who has helped thousands of runners since 2010. He coaches online as well as locally in the Columbus, Ohio area. He is host of RunBuzz Running a top rated running podcast with 150+ episodes available for free on all major podcast apps. Steve resides in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife, kids, and dog.

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