If you are just having a day — or even a week or month — when running just isn’t doing it for you, don’t panic. Whether you’re only in your first week of running or you’re in the middle of training for a goal race or you’re dreading coming off of a break, running slumps are no reason to fret; in fact, they are completely normal. It’s so normal that even professional runners and coaches have those days they just don’t want to get out the door and go for a run.
“Every pro runner I know has days where they don’t want to run,” says Rachel Schneider, a professional middle-distance runner sponsored by Under Armour. “On days when motivation is running low, I often have a perspective shift and moment of gratitude.”
Schneider reveals that she takes a few minutes to think of times she was injured and longed to run or remembers that becoming the best version of herself requires her to run on days she does and doesn’t want to. Of course, what works for one runner may not work for another, so doing some experimenting is key.
“Everyone is unique, so figuring out what works best for yourself is what’s important,” encourages Schneider. “Sometimes it’s prepping ahead of time, sometimes it’s routine, sometimes it’s a mantra, sometimes it’s rewards, etc. Find what motivates you and helps you stay accountable!”
To help you find out what works for you, we talked to the pros and rounded up five things you can try to get you out the door the next time you are in a training slump.
FIND AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER
This tip is continually mentioned by experts; if someone is counting on you to work out with them, you are more likely to show up. Additionally, an accountability partner can help the miles fly by, even if you spend the whole time commiserating about how you really wish you were under the covers sleeping instead of outside on a chilly morning. If you don’t have anyone in your neighborhood to join you, signing up for a running group at a local running store is a great way to find your tribe. Virtual partners count, too.
“Committing to group runs can be a nice motivator,” confirms running coach Kyle Kranz. “Whether this is with two other people in an informal setting or actually attending a 20-person weekly run put on by a club, knowing there’s a group and you’ve told another attendee that you’re going to make it will drastically improve the odds that you get out the door for that run.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE
It’s easy to overcomplicate running. Sometimes if you find yourself in a training slump it’s because you’re getting in your own way. Maybe you’re worried you’ve bit off more than you can chew and your slump is coming from a place of fear. Or it’s winter and you’d rather hibernate than pile on all of the gear necessary to battle freezing temperatures. Whatever the case, changing your expectations for a run can be a great way to take the pressure off and simplify things. Decide you are just going to run for 5 minutes. If you still aren’t feeling it after your time is up, stop. You can still count the workout as a win because you did some serious mental training.
“Remember, something is always better than nothing.”
“Let the run be short, even 5–10 minutes worth,” suggests Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, coach at I Run Tons. “If you’re of the thinking ‘I can’t even run that far, it’s not even worth it,’ then you’re stalling your progress before it can even get started. Remember, something is always better than nothing.”
GET SOME NEW GEAR
Whether you use the chance to splurge on those new shoes you have been eyeing or you stock up on a few things that will make your next run more comfortable, getting new gear can be a great way to get out of a slump.
“If the cold weather is putting a lot of resistance to running inside your head, one of the best things I can recommend is to get some absurdly warm gear,” shares Kranz. “We have some tough winter days here in South Dakota, but I know I’m not going to be cold inside my super warm tights, mittens, huge jacket, Buff, etc. Just knowing that my gear is going to keep me warm is helpful for those cold days.”
MAKE A ‘RUNNING-ONLY’ PLAYLIST
“Create a new music playlist or find a new podcast,” advises Gallagher-Mohler. “The trick though? Don’t give yourself the option to listen to it unless you’re running.”
If you like to run with music, audiobooks or podcasts, you may already be frequently updating your library for each run. If a simple refresh of your playlist doesn’t work, setting aside something to only listen to when you run may help motivate you. If you are in the middle of listening to a thriller, you won’t be able to get your shoes laced up fast enough to find out what twist comes next.
THINK OF YOUR FUTURE SELF
If you’re a mindful runner, you’re all about recognizing how you feel in the moment (and honoring that). However, it can be helpful to look ahead and think about what going for a run will do for your future self. This advice means you may have to struggle a little bit in the present moment to avoid future disappointment. In the end, you’ll be stronger for it.
“[This is] the absolute best advice I have for when motivation is lacking,” shares Kranz. “Consider how you’ll feel once you start the run and once you finish the run. Ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll be absolutely glad you started and proud of yourself for overcoming the doubt. If you need to tell yourself how you’ll feel if you skip the run to get out the door, do that! Just know that you can make a choice to be proud or be a bit disappointed; it’s your call.”
WHAT TO DO IF THESE DON’T WORK
If you have exhausted this entire list and still don’t want to run? Well, it may be time to take a break. Whether this is a week or two or a month is up to you — and you will lose fitness if you take a break from all exercise — but time off may be a helpful reset for your body and brain.
“Remind yourself of your reasons for running and if you feel like you’ve lost that, it’s OK to take a little reset,” shares Schneider. “At the end of every track season, I always take a little break to reset myself both physically and mentally. Sometimes I think pushing it too much or beating yourself up about not having motivation can just make it worse and completely take the enjoyment out of [the sport].”
Taking time to focus on the parts of running that we often overlook, such as a solid nutrition plan or cross-training can be a way to ignite a spark and get you excited to see how focusing on these other components may improve your running.