Summer running is coming to a close but many runners are right in the midst of training for a fall race. Runners are preparing for Chicago, Marine Corps, New York City, Steamtown and several other large races. Right around this time of the summer I start getting desperate calls, e-mails, and text messages. So many athletes are concerned because their legs feel heavy, their miles seem to be slowing down, and they’ve lost the motivation to get out of the door.
The good news is that this is absolutely normal. I know it can feel quite frustrating to get this far into your training and suddenly find yourself running slower than several weeks before. Those heavy legs seem to be a cause for alarm. But don’t hit the panic button yet.
Training cycles for races are created in a way to build you up, break you down, and then put you back together just in time for your big day.
Your long runs are meant to exhaust your body, teach your muscles how to use glycogen more efficiently, and prepare your legs for several hours of pounding on the road. The truth is that the only real way to truly prepare for that is to bring your body to the brink of exhaustion. Your race will certainly require that of you!
It can feel extremely frustrating to start to lose your love for the game along the way. But this is totally normal. Don’t worry, it won’t last forever. When you start your training cycle you are excited. The idea of your big race is motivating and you hold that plan in your hands ready to take on the world. But as the weeks go on, the mileage piles up, and your body becomes exhausted, it can be mentally draining to head out the door each morning. The love will come back, I promise!
So what can you do to pull through those running blues? First of all, take a deep breath and allow yourself to feel this way. Don’t get down on yourself for feeling tired or bored with your training. Acknowledge why you are feeling the blues.
Then reassess. What do you need? While it is best to stick to your plan, a few strategically chosen days off can be very helpful. Perhaps you find yourself with a bit more of a pep in your step after a day off. Consider taking two days in a row off for a week or two. Certain runs in your training are more important than others. I recommend sticking to your weekend long run, any speed work session you have , and also your midweek long run. Most plans have a few shorter runs that are easier to miss.
Consider mixing your training up a bit. Cross training can make everything feel a bit more exciting. A session in the pool, a long bike ride, or even a group class can be helpful. I have many runners who swear by their weekly session at Orangetheory. I myself am a huge fan and love that these sessions can help keep the spark alive in your training.
In the end, nothing is set in stone. Being flexible and accommodating with your training can make everything feel a bit more exciting and motivating. Never beat yourself up for feeling unmotivated or tired. Instead, take a moment to reassess and see if there is something you can do to make the process more enjoyable.