Friday, September 19, 2014

4 Fixes to Get Out of a Running Rut

When we moved to Denver last year I knew it was going to take me a bit of time to get used to running at altitude. A mile above sea level – 5,280 feet higher than NYC – I struggled to catch my breath on many runs those first few months we lived here. And with a lack of oxygen, came a lack of motivation. When each run is a struggle, it can be hard to lace up.

This summer I was struggling a bit too. After I got used to running the path in the beautiful park near our new house, I started getting bored. But before I realized it was boredom, I was just cutting my runs short because I thought my legs were too tired, or I couldn’t breath. And sometimes it was that, but looking back I know I was just bored. I was in a rut.

Until this past Sunday when I got to the end of my 7 mile run and felt like I could easily go another few! That’s when it finally sank in that my runs were clicking again. I’m feeling better now than I have in a long time, and it feels great!

Running In Bend

I know I can’t go all crazy though; I have to be careful about my mileage. When I’m running well I want to run long but I’ve learned that it’s not good for my body. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you likely know that I went through a stretch when I pretty much had one stress fracture after another. My last was October 2011 – almost 3 years ago! What changed is that I drastically reduced my mileage and haven’t run a race longer than a 10k, even though I’d love to run a half marathon.

Bird Camp last month was hugely motivating for me. It gave me that first taste of really feeling good on the run, and wanting to run as much as I could. There was a bit of a letdown right after, when I struggled (again) to get out there – partly because after running trails in Bend, Wash Park was boring, and because Woody was traveling for work and I have definitely grown to rely on my workout buddy.

Thankfully though, that’s behind me now and I’m back on track!

Cheeseman Park

While I’ve been struggling, I’ve also been running some of my fastest times in years this summer – a 24:48 5K in July (although back near sea level), 26:09 in August (at Bird Camp) and 25:31 back at altitude this past Saturday. And when I felt great after 7 miles on Sunday, it was such a fantastic feeling to know that I could keep going (but I was smart and finished there).

After this weekend, I’m feeling pretty confident. So what else should we do but sign up for a 10K in October and a 4 mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving!


Here’s a rundown of 4 key strategies that have been working for me lately. I hope some of these tricks might help you out of a rut or just refresh your running a little:

  • The Problem: Lack of motivation. The Fix: Even though my regular route was beautiful and car-free, I was getting bored & my runs were suffering. So, I  found a new route with similar attributes – a park with gravel paths – but I’m am able to easily change up the route to/from the park each time to keep it fresh. Also, traveling a bit for some real trail running every few weeks really pushes my mind and body. New places to explore!
  • The Problem: That first tough mile of every run is tough on my legs and my mind. The Fix: I’ve incorporated a few activation exercises into my warm-up (which I’ll admit is usually shorter than it should be) and also into my gym workouts to keep my legs and hips light and limber!
  • The Problem: Not enough energy. The Fix: I’m convinced this is somewhat associated to boredom, but also fueling. With 5am weekday workouts, eating beforehand is difficult. I know we’re supposed to eat something before a workout so I’m making a point to do that. Even just a little. So I cut a Picky Bar into quarters and have it on my dresser so I can grab a piece when I’m getting ready to head out for the gym. It’s not much, but it’s more than I was getting before. 
  • The Problem: Tired legs. The Fix: Legs up the wall! Bird Camp made me a believer. After my weekend runs and almost every night before bed, I pull my yoga mat up to the wall, grab a pillow for my head and put my legs up the wall for 5 – 10 minutes. My legs feel fresh and light after each session!

    And as always, having a goal, or some event to look forward to, is hugely important! Pick a race, make plans with a friend to try out an awesome trail you’ve heard of that’s a drive from home or explore a nearby city. Lots of people don’t run races, but there are still great ways to stay motivated, inspired and happy on the run!



    Have you ever been stuck in a rut with your running? * How do you keep your runs exciting and fun? * What goals are you working towards?

    Oh hey, my friend Grace was chosen to participate in the Asics Editors Challenge and will be running the TCS New York City Marathon for the 3rd time this November! Read about it here!


    Lisa said...

    I love these tips! I definitely have been stuck in a rut with running and have found that setting goals and signing up for races have helped. Also, when I'm in a workout rut in general I tell myself to go to the gym (or a run) for 20 minutes. If after 20 minutes I'm bored or don't feel like continuing, I allow myself to go home without guilt. What usually happens is that I end up having fun and want to continue.

    (and thank you for the link up!)

    Lisa said...

    I've been in a funk since mid July when my hip started getting wonky. It just isn't that motivating knowing that it isn't going to feel good! Luckily that is starting to get better AND the humidity is lower. I do love fall running! Hopefully my mojo is on its way back :)