As runners, it can be hard to stick to your training plan. Life, kids, work, motivation. For sure, staying committed to running on days you just don’t feel like running can be difficult.
In this article, I share practical tips to help you stick to your training plan, including some tried-and-true strategies I’ve used myself to pull myself out of a running funk or get out the door running. It isn’t always easy, but consistency with training is one of the most important training tips I can offer.
Sarah, one of our RunBuzz community members, found herself in this exact situation. Frustrated, 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 falling into a running funk or falling off the bandwagon is that this is one of the most common struggles I see as a running coach. It is completely normal, however, it should be temporary. When it becomes frequent, we have problems.
Let’s dig into this more.
Analyze Your Life Habits
The first step in figuring out why we lose motivation to run or exercise 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 get our training consistency back.
Here is one of my latest podcast episodes digging into this in a lot more detail with a great friend and guest speaker, Irene Bosco, who is a running coach and licensed counselor:
Being motivated all the time is impossible
It is impossible to feel motivated 100% of the time. Motivation comes and goes.
Some days it will feel like a grind to get out the door. On 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 is much more chronic than motivation itself.
Move towards positive momentum
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.
Dig into the details of your daily routine.
- What is your daily stress level?
Stress can be incredibly tiring and over time 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 to smaller, more frequent meals, drinking more water, and 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 worldwide.
Our bodies are starving and craving nutrient-rich food. Processed foods in combination with GMOs are 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 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, and worn out. They can leave us with no fight left to get out the door and 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 heads and body in the game.
Remember, to have true wellness, we have to keep our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life nourished and balanced.
Addressing as many of these things, as possible will make a huge difference not just in our running but in our quality of life.
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.
But what if you just had a bad day? What if you’re not totally in a workout funk? Well, that’s okay. Just realize that tomorrow is a new day, so we can’t dwell on it. We simply just start over. We do the best we can with what we’re given.
Deal With the Root Cause
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 needed to decide what was more, important to me and realize that not everything gets done. The garage will have to stay messy, or grocery shopping will have to wait until after my run.
Identify Trigger Behaviors and Take Action
It’s one thing to recognize the root cause and what is contributing to missing workouts, but it is much more difficult actually to do anything about it.
When I get stressed, tired, busy, and whatnot, I start leaning on comfort foods to deal with it.
And all these behaviors just lead to this ongoing cycle of eating and 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 diet. And looking back, it was a lack of sleep and poor eating that led 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.
Knowing your triggers helps you identify when you’re at the 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 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 reforming.
As a result, I was able to turn it around much faster.
Identify your triggers and be hyper-aware during those times.
Learn to Overcome Your Fear and Self-Consciousness
For some runners feeling fear and self-consciousness is a root cause that can lead to giving up working out and ultimately leading 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, then check out the following podcast episode on how to overcome the feeling of being self-conscious about your running.
Analyze Your Training Schedule
Let’s switch gears a little bit; let’s focus on the training aspects of health.
So my tip here is to analyze your training and your approach to running.
Are you doing too much? Some people get involved in running for the first time and then go all in all at once. They try to do too much, too soon.
The first thing to check is your exercise routine expectations. Are they realistic? If not, fix that first. Most runners need an average of 3-5 days, depending on their goals. You DO NOT NEED to run 6-7 days per week. I have trained people to qualify for the Boston marathon with just a four-day training cycle plus strength training.
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
Write about running or start a running blog. I 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
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
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
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.
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.