Let's face it, even for the most seasoned runner, sometimes lacing up can feel like a real drag. And once you've made it out the door, you're slogging through your miles and there's no end in sight.
How did the sport you loved so much turn into the bane of your existence? We tapped psychotherapist Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, LCSW-R, CEDS-S and Lanoa Curry, running coach at Mile High Run Club and group fitness instructor at Crunch Fitness for their tips on how to enjoy running again.
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1. Identify the Cause of Burnout
The likely culprit: You need a rest day, according to Roth-Goldberg.
"Overdoing it is the number one cause of running fatigue," Roth-Goldberg tells LIVESTRONG.com. "The avoidance of taking a rest day makes each run feel worse."
Think back on the last time you took a true rest day. Are you ignoring all of the cues your body is giving you that it's time for a break? Not to mention, if left ignored, those signs of fatigue from your body might lead to injury, causing further setbacks.
If this is an ongoing negativity that rest doesn't fix, Curry recommends tweaking your training. You may want to change the time of day you run, you may want to scale back on the amount of runs you go on per week, you may want to slow down your pace or you may want to log miles with others (or conversely, you may want to log more solo miles if you regularly run with a group).
If you're really struggling, take a break and allow yourself to miss running, as it may help to reignite your interest in the activity.
2. Find What Feels Fun
There are many different ways you can make running more fun. First, to take the pressure off, you can run without a watch or without logging your run in your training log. Or, break it up by listening to a rotation of a podcast, then switch to music or an audiobook halfway through.
You can try running to a fun playlist and can even find one that will help you keep a certain pace. Or, try doing a Peloton outdoor running class that gives guidance on your run, which can help it feel less monotonous.
Additionally, try running with people — either a friend or a local running group. If that isn't enjoyable, try running alone to figure out what feels fun for you.
"Be real with yourself and know who you are. Just because everyone seemingly races and does marathons doesn't mean you have to," Curry tells LIVESTRONG.com.
If you're inspired and actually want to race, go for it! But if you don't, focus on the running experiences that actually speak to you. Otherwise, you'll end up putting your body through things it won't enjoy for an experience you won't truly value.
It's easier to be positive when you're being true to yourself and customizing your running experience (training, races, goals), Curry says.
"It's really important to go back and find your 'why,'" Roth-Goldberg adds.
"Focus on the running experiences that actually speak to you. Otherwise, you'll end up putting your body through things it won't enjoy for an experience you won't truly value."
3. Create Positivity Through Mindfulness
"I think mindfulness is really important. It can help bring your mind back to that 'why' [you run]," Roth-Goldberg says.
One way to do this is by setting an intention before you leave to help you remember your goal for that run. It can be a goal based on distance, but it can also be a mental goal.
For example, you could use your run to work through a project at work or home, which turns your run into something both mental and physical and helps to keep your mind from wandering too much.
You can also strip running down to the bare-bones experience you started out with, Curry says. If you've never tried this strategy, it's a perfect time to "go back to basics" so when you wane in motivation, you have this plan to turn to. What "rules" can you forgo when the going gets tough?
"We can all be attached to our own and heaped expectations about running, especially if we were meeting them once upon a time. But again, you can do whatever you want. You don't have to do what you've been doing if it's not working," Curry says.
4. Set Yourself Up for Success
When you feel successful, you enjoy that thing you're successful at — and you keep showing up.
"I like to try getting people to customize their running to themselves versus contorting themselves to meet some ideal or expectation about running," Curry says.
This means letting your running take the form of walking when it has to. It means running at a speed that feels good on your body. And it means being patient when it comes to distance or time spent running.
5. Evaluate Your Process
Curry suggests taking a look at what is and isn't working in your running routine as you reassess and reset. Here are some of questions she recommends asking yourself:
- How fast are you going on your runs? Sometimes people like to go fast because they feel it will get them to their goals faster, but it can make for a rather miserable experience in real time. Plus, it's not the greatest on your body, especially if you're doing that all the time.
- How far/long are you going? What happens if you reduce the mileage/time? Just because you can go a certain distance, doesn't mean you have to all the time.
- How often are you running? See if this can be scaled back.
- Can you mix up the places you're used to running?
- Check in on your energy levels. Are you running at a time where your energy isn't the best or it takes too much to show up.
- What if you walk instead? You'll get the same fresh air and scenery and you still moved your body that day.
6. Set a Realistic Goal
Be sure that your running goals are actually attainable and not arbitrary or out of reach.
"A lot of times when people are bummed about their running, it's because they've set goals that are a little too far out of reach," Roth-Goldberg says.
Once you start reaching your new, more reachable goals, you may find running to be more enjoyable.
7. Work With a Running Coach
A good running coach should be a cheerleader. They can also help you figure out when something isn't going right, why that is and what you need to do to make things better.
Working with a run coach will provide a plan that is monitored, individualized and realistic. Roth-Goldberg always recommends working with a coach for these reasons.
8. Give It Another Try
If you've never run before, or you gave it a try but didn't stick with it and want to try it again, easing into it will help you ramp up your running gradually, making it enjoyable (and helping you to avoid injury).
Depending on where your fitness is at, you may feel good about sprinkling in runs to your walk. These can be brief, such as running 1 minute for every 3 minutes you walk. This is all about setting the foundation for your miles and doing so will also help you make it a habit to just show up. After you build the habit, you can begin adding more time or mileage.
"Let go of any expectations of what a pace would be," Roth-Goldberg says. "Sticking with a pace that feels easy is a great way to feel good."
At the end of the day, if you truly don't start liking running, that's OK. Not everyone has to be a runner — you can find another way to move your body that feels good and is enjoyable.