Ruth Field: Where has the magic gone?
Your body has become used to regular runs, so you need to up the ante if you want to relive those ‘highs’
To start getting real kicks out of it all again, you are going to have to stretch yourself. Photograph: Thinkstock
Q I have been feeling completely uninspired by my runs. I am doing them but feel as though I am getting nothing out of them. I don’t have that high feeling afterwards that, according to your book, is a guarantee. I do the same route, three times a week. It’s a three-mile loop back to my house and I just don’t feel great afterwards anymore. Where has the magic gone, Grit Doctor?
A Every regular runner will identify with your letter, myself included. Sometimes I can go for weeks when every single run fails to satisfy me, or take me anywhere near a running “high”. But still I keep on lacing up and going. Again and again. Why? Because running regularly is just part of who I am.
Each run is a chance to begin again for me, I take all my upsets and worries to the start of every run and I run them out. Even when I want to stop, because I am tired, bored or just not “in it”, I keep on going until the job is done.
Persisting with all those regular runs is keeping you strong mentally, no question. Even if you are not “feeling” it; you’d soon feel it without them. You’d be grumpier, tetchier, have less energy and less motivation for starters.
Regular running is keeping your body strong too, your muscles toned, your lungs and heart healthy, just a few good reasons to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it, in fact.
It is exactly the same thing in life, isn’t it? Every day we begin again, start afresh, try not to shout at the kids, try to be a better wife, parent, son, daughter, sibling, colleague, not because of any anticipated and immediate reward from having made that effort, but just because we do. Run because you run.
What you loseThe truth is that as a regular committed runner, it becomes less about what you get out of each run sometimes and more about what you lose if you don’t run. Your body and soul have come to expect those thrice-weekly jaunts. And this is a very good thing indeed.
It means that you have reached a new comfort zone. Comfort for you has become fit and healthy and running regularly.
Remember that it wasn’t long ago when your comfort zone was the warm arse-shaped dent in your sofa, so acknowledge the huge strides you have already made and be glad.
To start getting real kicks out of it all again, you are going to have to stretch yourself.
Now I quite enjoy cruising along in my comfort zone sometimes, injury free, things ticking along nicely and I don’t mind that my runs rarely take me into that other dimension.
In fact, I find it hard to shake things up in my running routine unless I have a reason to: a race or event for which I have set myself a time challenge. This provides the perfect framework in which to up the ante on your runs. So do it.
Mix of paceWhy not try mixing up the pace in your runs? If you do short sprints and recovery jogs (fartlek/interval training), you may find that feeling of elation afterwards returns. It always works for me.
If that seems like too much, just introducing one sprint at the end of my regular run leaves me feeling quite delirious with joy afterwards, so give that a whirl. Also, there is no harm in mixing up your route a little, or the time of day that you go or changing some other variable, providing you feel confident that it is not going to sap your motivation.
This may inspire you, give you a fresh perspective and help break you out of this running funk.
A longer run can have the same effect as mixing up the pace, but it can be hard to motivate yourself to go for longer runs unless you have to extend yourself: in training for a marathon, for example.
Adding in a hill is another great way to shift gears. Pushing yourself up it will have your heart in your throat and give you a huge buzz afterwards.
The Grit Doctor saysThere is a reason it is called a comfort zone. Discomfort yourself by grittifying those outings and enjoy the return of your runner’s high.
But remember too that those thrice-weekly “easy” runs are not to be sniffed at. They are the reason you are now in a position to shift up a gear.
Plus, making a persistent effort without the expectation of a reward is a fantastic habit to cultivate, because it is the very DNA of #grit.
Ruth Field is author of Run, Fat B!tch, Run and Get Your Sh!t Together