If you’ve been in a long-term relationship with running, you understand this occasional recurring feeling: Runs just aren’t as fun anymore.
Sure, you get out four times a week and do your usual 5-mile loop, but it just doesn’t spark joy anymore. Before you panic, know this is common, whether you’re someone who just finished a big bucket-list race like a marathon, or someone who started running to get fit and enjoyed the initial buzz of seeing changes, but now feel like you’re stuck in a rut. Here are a few steps you can take to get that spark back:
TAKE TIME OFF
Counterintuitive, but sometimes, you’re just a tiny bit overtrained and that’s sapping your motivation. “I’m really trying to get everyone to rest more,” says sports psychologist Kristin Keim. She’s a fan of taking a week light or off entirely after 2–3 weeks of steady training, not just so athletes can recover physically, but to give them the mental and emotional break they need. You may not be a professional athlete who trains like it’s a full-time job, but sometimes, running regularly without letting your body pause and recover can lead to that feeling of burnout even if mileage isn’t high. Start by giving yourself at least a couple of days away from running, and give yourself a chance to miss it.
On the flip side, if you’re feeling completely fresh after a day or two off, it might be time to actually add a bit of challenge. Your running may feel stale because you’re not feeling stimulated enough. Don’t go wild and literally double your long run, but consider adding a mile, or even adding some swimming or cycling afterward to increase your overall training time. Add an interval workout if you don’t regularly do them, or jump into an open track workout at your local high school track if a run club in town offers one. The extra dose of training might get you excited about running again.
FIND A NEW TRAIL, ROUTE OR PARTNER
For certain types of runners, getting into a routine is optimal at first, but quickly feels like a grind. You run the same route every day, run with the same person or hit the same type of surface every time you lace up. Switch it up and try trail running if you’re always on the road; skip your normal route for a point-to-point one that brings you to your favorite cafe or ask a new friend to join you for your weekend long run. Making these small changes may be enough to bust you out of your rut. Even a new playlist can make a huge difference.
Bribery is a slightly underhanded way of convincing yourself to get back out the door, whether it means buying a new pair of sneakers or tights, going out to a nice dinner post-run,booking a massage or even just treating yourself to a run with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. You can’t do this forever, but it may be the boost you need to get over this current slump. (Try it once, and if it doesn’t work, move on to the next tip — for some people, the ‘reward’ is simply not enough of a benefit to convince you to keep putting in the effort.)
FIND A RACE
If you’re someone who has a lot of races on the calendar in the summer, you may just be feeling a little bit of ennui because you haven’t raced in months. Look for a local 5K or 10K that you can jump into in the next couple of weeks to bring that competitive spirit back. Even if it’s not a PR-worthy effort, being around a competitive crowd and on a startline should remind you why you run and what you’re working toward with your A race this summer.
DO A RANDOM WORKOUT CLASS
Sometimes we get trapped in the idea that as runners we can’t possibly do anything but run or train specifically in a way that boosts our running skills. But sometimes, it’s important to simply have fun with fitness. Whether it’s spin, barre, hot yoga, burlesque, aqua-jogging — look at your local gym’s fitness class listings to see if anything jumps out at you. You don’t need to sign up for a 10-week program and hang up your running shoes, but sometimes a sweaty spin class with a group of excited, energized people is the boost you need to get excited about fitness again. And you may just discover a new form of cross-training you love!
WRITE A GRATITUDE LIST
What has running helped you do? Has it helped you lower your blood pressure, keep up with your kids at the park, feel comfortable in your own skin, take you to places you never thought you could go or even just served as a benchmark for being ‘healthy’ in your life? Start a list of reasons to be grateful for your ability to run — the act of writing it should spark some joy for you, and when you’re done, frame it or hang it somewhere near your running shoes so you can see it regularly and be reminded.
Sometimes running can be a grind, especially if you’re new to the sport, just passed a big goal or have been doing the same training routine for years. Consider asking a coach to tweak your training to make it as efficient and effective as possible, but don’t give up your run habit. You will get through this and come out stronger and happier than ever on the other side.