The sensation of adrenaline, endorphins and lactic acid surging through your body and muscles during a run is one of the best feelings. Most runners thrive on the powerful emotions of feeling liberated, unleashed, being focused and strong as they pound the pavement. Commonly known as “runner’s high,” the chemicals fusing through us when we reach the peak of physical endurance is what motivates us to go farther, faster and stick to our goals more frequently. Of course, exhaustion can be satisfying on many levels too!
What about those times when you fall into a lull or a running “low?” What do you do when laying on the couch or coming home and doing nothing seems more attractive than lacing up and putting some miles on your feet?
Some runners are naturally motivated to keep a routine and stick to it every day or they fall “out of the loop” and slack off on their training. Other runners can slip into phases of feeling unmotivated, tired from work, school and other obligations that impede their plans to achieve the running high they strive to accomplish. Another factor that can contribute to runners “low” could be a health setback. Maybe you’ve caught a cold that’s hard to shake or perhaps you’ve had an accident that prevents you from getting back into your running routine as fast as you’d like.
Here are a few ways you can rise from the “low” and slowly pick up where you left off – both mentally and physically – so you can return to your state of running elation.
Identify Your Funk!
It may seem like an obvious place to start, but acknowledging why you’ve stopped or taken a break from running during this “low” is a good way to account for how serious the obstacle truly is.
Is your “low” due to mental or physical stress? Running unleashes chemicals in the brain that often improve our performance and well-being after a long trek. That proverbial “rush” that almost makes us feel like we’re flying takes us away from reality. Unfortunately, there may be others factors – in reality – that you can’t control or plow through in order to get out of the funk.
Professional and educational hurdles, like having to work or go to class long days/nights or weekends can negatively impact your running schedule and throw you off, resulting in withdrawal from the athletic highs. Identifying if these hurdles are merely temporary setbacks can give you a boost in the right direction. Marking on your calendar when your schedule will open up again – and when you can head out on that next long run – can be motivation to get through that “low” period.
Emotional obstacles, from wherever they derive, can also be considered temporary hurdles. Running often serves as an escape and savior from many of the mental and emotional battles we face – and some runners are better able to cope with stress when they head out on the trail and use running as a “healing” tool. If you just don’t have it in you, it’s okay to admit that you need to give yourself time to get through the rough patch. Depending on how long the rough patch lasts, set a date that you will attempt to move on from the obstacle and use it as a learning tool for taking breaks in the future.
One thing experts say you shouldn’t challenge during your funk is your health. A virus, infection, or debilitating cold/flu that affects your whole body can put you out of commission for longer than you expect and pushing yourself could yield negative results. Assess the seriousness of your illness and physical limitations. Listening to your body, when it’s ready to progress back into a running schedule, is a healthy step forward
Location, Location, Location: Rediscover Your Happy Place!
Do you miss your stomping grounds? Where did your running journey begin? Sometimes, taking a simple walk along the paths that you usually run can rejuvenate your desire for that “high.” Take a casual walk in the park along the same route you trek during a run. Not only is it great exercise, but you may find yourself missing the speed and sensations associated with those very trails.
Another way to spice up your routine, especially if you’ve hit a “low” because you’re uninspired, is heading out to a new path/park or trail. Discovering a new place in your community that you’ve never conquered before can reignite your running passion. Finding new scenic trails – even if you have to travel just outside of your neighborhood – may also stir excitement to get back into running. In your quest for a new place to trek, you may come across hilly/mountainous terrains and other challenging infrastructure that makes your running experience more diverse. Venturing along different inclines, waterways, bridges, wildlife paths and even city streets are not just visually refreshing, they also force the body to use different muscles than you did along with your routine path.
Sign Up And Get Out There!
Everyone’s definition of “It’s been a long time since I’ve run” is different. One week? A few weeks? A month? When you’ve fallen into a runner’s “low” where you can’t even remember the last time you trekked a few miles, it could be time to force yourself into “training mode” by signing up for a race.
Whether you love running and competing in 5ks or 10ks (or maybe even half marathons), acknowledging that a race is coming up could catapult you back into your power zone. If you’ve signed up for a race that’s one month away, for example, you’ll know that you have to push yourself to be prepared.
. If you love having company while hitting the pavement – and are inspired with a little push from the running community – some organizations sponsor and host free “open runs” at local parks or recreational sites. Signing up to join fellow runners just for fun, without the competitive aspect, could be socially and mentally beneficial. Connecting with others who share the same passion – and who may also find themselves hitting a roadblock – could offer a new perspective on why you stopped running in the first place and slingshot your energy back into place.
Strength Training When You’re Sidelined
Being thrown off track due to weather – unless you love running in extreme heat or cold/blizzard conditions – is a factor you can’t control and could offset “runner’s low.” Climate challenges can sideline your routine for weeks and months at a time, depending on where you live. When the elements get you down, because they’re too extreme or hazardous to leave the house, stay motivated with indoor/gym workouts, stretching, and calisthenics.
The times that you would typically head out the door for a run, plan on allocating the same time and energy to strength training. Subsequently, your body will continue to produce many of those “runner’s high” enzymes and you’ll be less inclined to fall into “lazy mode.”
Whatever method works for you, it’s all about hauling yourself out of the “low” funk and getting back to a place where you can achieve that runner’s high. Some journeys back into running life are tedious, but the rewards are plentiful!