Running Through The Training Blues

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!

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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.

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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.

Happy Running!

17 thoughts on “Running Through The Training Blues

  1. I had a cut back week two weeks ago that I sorely needed. I knew my feelings were normal and expected in a long training cycle, but it’s hard to accept it. I actually cut the mileage down more than the plan said, but I needed it in order to be a happy runner. A training plan that makes you unhappy all the time is not a good training plan.

  2. I admit I haven’t been doing the long runs necessary for the marathon I was hoping to run in Oct, but not because I’m exhausted — I’m just not doing them! I’m sure the heat/humidity played partly into it, but also I’ve just had so many things going on on the weekends that I haven’t done anything past 13 miles in a while. I need to up that game asap if I want to continue to train…but we shall see!

    • While fall races are so perfect, training for them during the summer can be super difficult and can even mess with your head. The good news is you still have plenty of time and the weather is cooling off and the air is getting crisp. You’ve got this!!

  3. I think some people have the impression that a marathon training cycle should be like the ‘Gonna Fly Now’ montage in Rocky that just makes a great progression and gets more exciting and then magically culminates just before the race! All excitement.

    But alas, as I titled a post way back when “mostly the miles are boring”. You are doing the work required to help reach your goal, but it comes with its own ups and downs. Oh, and you have an actual life with a job and human interactions to manage – and really don’t want all of that to suffer too much for the sake of a marathon!

    Now that we are ’empty nest’ with both kids at college, I am looking forward to doing a 50 miler next year and a 100 miler the following year! And I know what I need to do, because it was what I was planning for back in 2013-14 but had to not race the 50 … it will be a lot of miles 🙂 And many will be ugly, ugly miles.

    And as I tell people, always do a ‘race post mortem’ when doing something new like your first half or full marathon or triathlon, working on a 5K PR or whatever … look at things yourself, but also get feedback from others. We can always learn more about ourselves!

    • 100% spot on. It is boring! And that’s okay. Hopefully as we become more seasoned we learn how to deal with that boredom a bit more. I’m so excited for your upcoming running journey. I’m sure you hear from people who think it sounds awful or crazy but I think it sounds crazy awesome!

  4. My training definitely goes in peaks and troughs. I’ve struggled recently because, for the first time in about six years, I don’t have a major event that I’m working towards. I do love running, but it’s easy to get out of the groove when it’s aimless. Occasionally I just have to remind myself that a rest day is training too, and it’s ok to reduce the tempo a bit sometimes.

    • Nontraining blues are the worst! You want to keep running but it is so hard without something on the horizon. And yet it is okay to not have anything on the horizon. Absolutely right that extra rest days help. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Thanks for the great advice! This is how I feel at the moment training for Spartan Beast in a month. Those long runs at the the moment need a lot of umpf to get up and out for!

  6. Thank you so much for this post! If you read my most recent post from Thursday you’ll see I was (am) in the midst of a week-long training slump, and I was just exhausted. Fessing up, having a little weep, and moving on looks like it might work for me- I feel a lot fresher now, even just having opened up and moaned about it. I’m taking this week as a cutback week, with a missed speed session and a nice slow long run this weekend- hopefully that and some rest will put me back on track!

    • Good for you. I hope that extra rest and cut back week are just what you need to move forward and feel strong and healthy. I know it can be incredibly frustrating to deal with. Have a great weekend!

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