How can I get my running mojo back?
Every relationship has its ups and downs. Your relationship with running is no exception
A natural high: Ruth Lillis and Caitríona Doran from Wexford and Clare, after the 2016 Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Q I get nothing out of running anymore. Why am I running at all? It doesn’t give me any of the benefits you always talk about and I want to give it up. I am resenting all my runs and all I can think about during them is how I don’t want to be running and I want it to be over. Why am I feeling like this? Is it possible to suffer from running burnout? Georgie
A I can relate to this Georgie. I go through phases when I question why I run at all. I feel sluggish during some runs, never relax into them and suspect the “zone” must be in another galaxy it seems so far away. And I get grumpy about my commitment to the sport.
That is until I am unable to run at all for any extended period of time, and then I know why I do it. After a week (or less) of not running, my energy levels flag, my eating habits deteriorate and my sleeping patterns change. I am less creative, less efficient and less productive at work, and infinitely moodier.
It definitely happens to me more when other things in my life aren’t right. Your loss of mojo might be due to a build-up of stress, a lack of sleep, or a poor diet. Or a combination of factors, which are making everything feel a bit “off”. Acknowledge that it’s happening, that it is normal and this will help take the pressure off.
Remember that every relationship has its ups and downs and your relationship with running is no exception. But that is no reason to give up on it, to abandon it just because you are going through a rough patch and your mojo is in need of a reboot. Here are a few suggestions to help you get it back:
1 Mix it up
Change your route. If, like me, you stick to the same old route, this may be making your runs feel boring and stale. A change of scenery and focus on the new route will provide a welcome distraction from how awful you feel during the run. Change your speed too, introduce some fartlek (interval training) if you fancy it.
If you listen to music, why not create a new playlist and make it mega motivating. Be thankful that you have this option – to change your run – which is not an option available to you in your other relationships.
2 Enter a race
I hadn’t raced for a couple of years but I did a charity 10km with my kids (who ran a mile – their first) a few weekends back and that made me fall in love with the sport all over again. There is something about running in a huge group, about getting up early on a Sunday morning and doing something worthwhile with the kids, something about pounding the pavements for much longer than usual.
I had a proper runner’s “high” afterwards, which I have not experienced in years. And I have entered another race as a result.
I’m not running to beat the clock though, just relishing the challenge and embracing the community spirit.
3 Lose the Garmin
If you have been running a long time – and it sounds as though you have – then you know what your average running pace is and don’t need to be strapped to a gadget that tells you.
The problem is that if you hold yourself to a certain standard, your Garmin can become like the devil on your shoulder telling you that you’ve fallen short – again. So, just leave it at home.
In freeing yourself from the chains of timed runs, you can run at any pace you like, liberated and free to fall in love all over again.
4 Buy some new kit
I was sent some bottoms and a top by Zakti Active recently and, honestly, I couldn’t wait to try them out. Or how about a new pair of trainers? A running-related treat that will make you feel excited to get out there and road test. Look at it as marking a new phase in your relationship with running.
5 Join a club
This is not my thing, but I hear only positive things about running clubs. It’s great to harness the support of running enthusiasts when you are in a running funk and desperately need a boost. Plus, the conversations, trying out different routes and distances, and making plans with others will all help you get back on track.
And if running with others is not for you, then get supported remotely (Editor’s note: It’s time to check out The Irish Times Get Running programmes and get support from running coach Mary Jennings. and all at the touch of a button – see irishtimes.com/GetRunning or find us on Facebook at Irish Times Running).
Like all commitments that require discipline and hard work, running is not always easy and certainly not always fun. When I feel like quitting, I remember what brought me to running in the first place. I remember what I fell in love with and the passion I felt.
I remember the rush, the exhilaration at having discovered this bullet of brilliance that I could use to fire up my life – every single day. It is still firing it up but sometimes it is hard to see where or how . . . until I’m fresh out of bullets again.
Much like eating healthily, it may be boring and we may not feel like doing it, but stuff our faces with junk for a couple of weeks and we soon start to feel awful and remember why we bothered in the first place.
So, trust in your running, Georgie. It once gave you so much and will do so again. Be thankful that you can run. That you have strong healthy legs, a full heart and lungs that make it possible for you to embrace this privilege. It is a privilege denied to many.
The Grit Doctor says . . .
Run free again, Georgie, at whatever pace feels good for you today. Ruth Field is author of Run Fat B!tch Run, Get Your Sh!t Together and Cut the Crap.