How to Get Out of a Running Slump

I’m an open book on this blog. I try to keep my posts very honest, and I have always believed that it’s important to share when things are going well and also when they’re not in order to paint a true picture of my life. Running, and life in general, is a roller coaster. If all we ever had was good runs we would never learn those important lessons about how to overcome, how to reflect and how to get stronger. We need the bad runs to put our successes and achievements into perspective.


I mentioned in my last post about the running slump I’ve been in lately, which really is nothing new to me. I usually experience one of these in every training cycle. During these times I feel more tired, unmotivated, heavy, and just burnt out. It can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Along the way I have learned some tips for how to deal with this type of issue, and come out of it happy, healthy, and stronger because of it.

Here’s how to get back in your running groove!


1. Reflect. The first step is to do some reflecting to figure out why you might be having a hard time. Are you overtraining? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you stressed out at home or work? Have you recently been sick or are you coming down with something? Has the weather changed to be warmer or colder? How is your diet? Are you eating too much? Too little? If you are a female, is it your time of the month? The answers to these questions are very important and can provide clues into why you are feeling the way that you are. Once you figure out the cause(s), you can start taking the steps necessary to fix them.


2. Remember that every run teaches you something. When things get tough, I try to remind myself that every run, good or bad, has something to teach me. Keeping this in mind gives me a different perspective on the ups and downs of running and training. Even after 10 years of running I still learn lessons from each run. Lately I have learned that I absolutely cannot eat dairy the night before a race or important training run- especially not a ton of pizza. I have learned that for me, running 3 miles with a stroller takes the same effort as running 6 without. I have learned that there is a difference between pushing yourself and pushing your body past it’s physical limits. Recently I have relearned how important it is to let your body acclimate to running in warmer temperatures before expecting a lot out of it. Whether the lesson is big or small, they all help us grow and improve as runners.


3. Focus on the positive. Sometimes I have runs that are so bad they make me question why I do this. Sometimes I feel like the slowest, worst runner out there. To battle these thoughts, I try to focus on the positive and remember what I have accomplished.  I think about past races and happy memories of running with friends and family. I think about the people I’ve helped get into running and progress as runners. I think about the runs I’ve had that make me feel like I am on top of the world. I think about all the new PRs I have gotten recently, and how I continue to get stronger and faster even after having a baby. This helps me realize how far I’ve come, and that what I am experiencing is just a little bump in the journey.


4. Mix things up. In order to get out of a running slump, try doing the opposite of what you are currently doing. If you are feeling burnt out and overtrained, take it easy for a while. Some people will argue that a running slump during training is the time to push yourself harder in order to get out of it and learn to run on tired legs. I disagree. Running is a hobby that should be enjoyed. Do we have runs that we don’t like very much? Yes, but at the end of the day, most runners do what they do for the endorphins, the stress relief, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end. If you are finding yourself struggling through your training runs, unable to hit your paces, and feeling unmotivated, it might be time to take a step back and give your body a break. This is what I did last week. I took it easy for about a week until I felt like my body was ready to jump in again, and it worked like a charm. On the flip side, maybe you are in a running slump because you are bored and need a new challenge. In that case, switch things up and try something new. You could register for a race that is a new distance to give your runs more purpose and something different to train for. You could try running with someone new, do a little speedwork at the track or try fartleks, step out of your comfort zone and take a new class at the gym, try yoga- the possibilities are endless!

5. Look for Runspiration. One of my favorite things to do when I am feeling down or defeated is to look for some motivational “runspiration.” It is everywhere- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, books, blogs, etc. You can find inspirational quotes, movies, blog posts and more! I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to runspiration, and I also get daily running quotes emailed to me from Runners World. These types of things really help to inspire me and remind me why I love running so much.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.11.41 PM

6. Run naked. While I was pregnant and my pace began to steadily climb, I decided to ditch my Garmin and “run naked.” I am the first to admit that I can be pretty Garmin obsessed at times. I love numbers, data and analyzing it all, but sometimes I get so caught up in all of that that I forget to enjoy myself. If you are finding yourself feeling frustrated with your pace or burnt out, try running without a watch sometime. It is unbelievably freeing, and I have found it allows me to connect better with my surroundings and also with how my body is feeling. This is something I plan to do more when the temperatures start to rise this summer, because I know I will need to inevitable slow my pace and there’s no need to upset myself over that.

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7. Try a new route. This is one of my favorite tricks. Besides a good running buddy, nothing excites me more before a run than trying a new route. I am a Map My Run junkie, and I am always trying to figure out new places to run to keep things interesting. I like routes that stimulate my mind and my body at the same time, and I am not opposed to driving to another town or area for a long run if it makes me feel excited or motivated. Map My Run has a searchable database of running routes that people have created too. Check it out!

I searched "Washington, D.C." and got more than 32,000 routes!

I searched “Washington, D.C.” and got more than 32,000 routes!

8. Make a new music playlist. I don’t listen to music much anymore when I run, but we all know how motivating it can be- especially if you are in a running slump. New or inspirational music can put a pep in your step for sure! RRCA certified coaches are not supposed to endorse running with headphones, but I think if done safely (not in the dark or while running on busy roads, etc.) and used in moderation, music can be a great tool to help you through the “bumps” in our running journeys. I say use in moderation because I was formerly addicted to running with music and literally would not run if my phone or iPod was dead. Running without music strengthens your mind and allows you to be more in tune with your body, so it’s good to practice running without it too!

This used to be me.

This used to be me.

What are some of your favorite tricks to help you get back in your running groove? I’m always looking for new ones! Have you tried any of these and did they work? Share in the comments!


One response to “How to Get Out of a Running Slump

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on Speedwork | Run Inspired

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