Ten Strategies for Surviving Running Workouts When Nothing is Going Right
It happens to all of us at some point. An uninspired workout – a grueling, excruciating, inexplicably terrible workout. There’s no good reason for it – just no go-juice.
This happened to me on Sunday morning. The longest 45 minute run of my life. Ten times longer than Friday’s 80 minute scorch-fest. Seriously. Bad.
As I suffered, I wrote this post, taking notes on all of the various things that I was doing to keep myself moving forward. The main goal is to remove your focus from the reality of Your Infinite Human Suffering and redirect it onto something more productive. Check out my ten agony-inspired strategies after the jump…
Distractions. Smart distractions in some cases, but distractions nonetheless.
- Promise yourself stuff. This is as base and low-down as it sounds. Just tell yourself about all the amazing crap you are going to give yourself as a reward for getting through this hell. Monster tacos, plates of pasta, chocolate shakes… whatever it takes. Shit, I was promising myself Zipp 808′s, Kreitler rollers, a Rapha jacket, and a Sicilian vacation at one point. Am I actually going to get any of that stuff? Probably not. But that’s not the point. I’m gullible when I’m suffering and so are you. Tell yourself stories, asap.
- Re-route. One of the simplest ways to immediately divert your attention is to change your planned route. Now you’re thinking about where you’re running, how you’ll still measure this, and whether re-routing was a good idea. Either way, you’re not thinking about suffering anymore. There are some variations on the re-route technique that count as the next few strategies:
- Run Towards Home. I did this three times yesterday. Running towards home does not mean you’re going to stop there, but it does mean you can if you want to. Chances are, you won’t.
- Run uphill. I did this yesterday, too. I re-routed so that the course started turning up. Running uphill demands a special kind of effort. Instead of focusing on how crappy you feel, you tend to focus on just. getting. up. this. damn. hill. A lot of times by the top, you actually will feel a little better.
- Run to where there are people or other runners. As runners, we are a lonely lot. We suffer in a desolate vacuum of pain. We rise from our beds with the weight of our assigned lot heavy on our hearts. Not really… but that’s kind of what it feels like sometimes, huh? If you’re running alone, think about re-routing to a road or path where there are more of your kind to bolster you. I did also did this yesterday, detouring into Laurelhurst Park to soak up the easy smiles of some Sunday joggers. They made me feel better. A little. Seeing other runners can be hugely motivating. The fast ones steel your resolve and the slow ones inspire you with their determination.
- Force yourself to smile. Sound cheesy? It is. But it works for me sometimes. Smiling has a noticeable and very real effect on your mood. It will help. I swear.
- Run faster. What!? No, really. Increase your pace if you’re not already going fast (you’re probably not if you’re really suffering so much). This is similar to turning uphill. Funnel and focus the pain, instead of letting it become all-encompassing and completely unwieldy. Wrangle it. Gather it. Focus it at something. It may not diminish in size or intensity, but at least you are putting it to work.
- Stop. Have a coffee (or water, or whatever). Go. This isn’t ideal. The point is to keep running. But if taking a 15 minute break in the middle is enough to let you gather your wits about you and pull your shit together so you can bang out the rest, then do it. Stop, stretch, go into a cafe and get water or a shot of espresso (if you’re into that kind of thing and can stomach it), relax for ten minutes, then get back out there. This is akin to the "mini-set-break" in weight-lifting.
- Focus on what’s going right and remind yourself about your accomplishments. Now is not the time for modesty. Let your mind fill with memories of your glory moments, shards of past victory, fractals of triumph. Go to the ego. Draw from it generously. And if you can find anything – anything – that is going well right at this moment, remind yourself about that, too.
- Change your workout. This is a last resort – because we all like to finish what we set out to do – but consider altering your intended workout. If it’s intervals, decrease the number a bit. If it’s a long, moderate run, consider splitting it in half and coming back to finish it later in the day. Be creative. Sometimes being flexible enough to reconsider your workout is going to get you better results at the end of the day. If you can come back to it later with renewed energy and 4-6 hours of positive visualization under your belt, you might be able to deliver much better effort and intensity and reap increased benefits.
Getting through a running workout that isn’t going well can be challenging and frustrating. Sounds like a lot of stuff in life, huh?
As in life, be strategic, be positive, and be pro-active. Don’t let the workout run you over. Take control and get it done.