Feeling low? Slow, burned out, fatigued? Sick of it, done with it, over it–all of it?! I’m there too. And trust me, I know it’s a rough place to be. My mileage is currently the lowest its ever been in my entire running history. Many days I don’t even feel like running. I’m currently battling some serious life hurdles, and working hard to stave off the depression I know all too well. And that endorphin infused run high that I love so much? Well… right now, it is nowhere to be found. But, [BUT!] I’m not discouraged!! I have been in this place more times than I can count, and just as many times, I have bounced back unscathed. I have picked up a few tricks along the way to help myself out when I get to this low point. I hope these tips can help you out, too!
DITCH OR SWITCH THE GOAL- This is first because it’s my number one piece of advice. “But what? WHAT?! But…GOAL RACES ARE EVERYTHING!!!!” Actually, goal races aren’t everything. There is so much more to running than racing! I believe that there should be one true goal for everyone in running, and that is health and happiness. Running is a great hobby, but oftentimes, we can pound ourselves with races, goal times, and striving to be better, faster, and stronger. If a goal time or race is bringing you down mentally and/or physically, you can cut it out, and live to race another day. Let it go, and just enjoy running for what it is for a season. When I start to feel burned out, this is definitely the first thing I do. I run with no race in mind, and it allows me to focus on the act of running, and not my hopes in running. If you feel you really need a goal and there’s no way around that, try switching your goal to something less stressful. I often switch from race goals to personal achievement goals… For instance, my current goal is to run all the way up Rocky Top Mountain, Tennessee this Spring. It is my favorite mountain, and it brings me so much joy every time I run up it. This type of goal works for me right now as opposed to a racing goal. I feel no pressure in achieving it at any certain time, and I am enjoying training for it.
GRAB A BIKE- I say a bike, because mountain biking is so fun to me, but really it could be anything….Just not running. A lot of us run our bodies into the dirt, and rarely take time off. It’s what we’ve been told to do. MILEAGE MILEAGE MILEAGE. If this isn’t you– well… A++, good job, you have a brain! The rest of us are slow learners. Step away from the great and mighty running god you have created in your life, and let other modes of fun fitness take reign every now and then. Running will still be there when you get back, promise! When I start feeling low, I immediately supplement a few running days each week with other modes of movement- I like mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, yoga, and calisthenics. All of them help me return to running the next feeling a little more rested and mentally ready for the day’s mileage.
DON’T BE A PERFECTIONIST- While I’ve been slowly building my mileage back up, I’ve felt so weak and lazy during my runs. I get annoyed with myself at how often I feel like walking instead of running. I hate that I can’t seem to maintain pace. And I am irritated at how often I cut my mileage short and call it a day sooner than I hoped. In short, my runs are rarely perfect and it bothers me! But then– then, I remember that I’m allowed to be an imperfect human, and it’s all just part of my journey. And really, when I look back on my life, am I going to regret that 30 second walk break I took on a hill?….doubt it. Remember that running is a lifelong journey and process, and treat it as such. Allow yourself to be in a perfectly good season of building, difficulty, and hardship. The other seasons of success, speed, and accomplishment will come soon enough!
UNFOLLOW- again, this probably sounds backwards compared to what you’ve been told, but hear me out! Motivation is a great tool. And social media is a terrific platform for people to encourage and inspire one another. But there is one thing that I think it’s all terrible for- COMPARISON. When you are down in the dirty run rut, comparing yourself to others is the very last thing you need to do. I hate when I find myself doing it! It never leads to anything good. When you scroll your facebook feed and see nothing but people sharing their incredible running pics, or bragging on their latest accomplishment, it’s easy to drag yourself even lower into the dirt and feel crappier. “Ugh. Everyone is good at running right now but me. I suck” and the run lows continue! Instead, I would encourage you to look within yourself for motivation. Think of how amazing YOU will feel when you finish a run. Think about how much healthier a good run will make you. Remind yourself how much you enjoy hitting the trails on a sunny day. Let those things be your motivation. Unfollow people that you tend to compare yourself to, or at least just logout and shut it all off for awhile. Focus on being you and pulling those spirits back up.
CHECK THE BLOOD- this one is pretty vital. If you are continuously not performing, and feeling terrible most all the time, it’s likely time to get your blood tested. Distance runners often suffer from things like low iron, vitamin D deficiency, and hormone imbalances. Just a slight lacking of any one key vitamin or nutrient can leave you feeling like a train hit you head on. Get your blood work done, and take appropriate action. I would also encourage you while you’re at it to drop crappy eating. High processed sugar and sodium intake is going to mess with your mood and your hormones, which will–without a doubt–make you feel worse during your runs. When I start to feel low, I check myself here for sure- Am I eating well? Am I getting enough GOOD quality food in my diet to keep me fueled? Answer those questions honestly. If you aren’t, head over to the farmers market for a quick fix.
DROP THE GADGET- This is a must if you are not performing well, and are starting to loathe the thought of running. You need to hide your Garmin, and lose your strava login for awhile. Tracking your runs when you are going through a low point will only going to make you obsess even more over the apparent “suckiness” of it all. Let it go for a season, and just run because you can. What good does knowing if that last mile was an 7:30 or 8:15 do for you any way?
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE- When you are running and hating it, make it a point to intentionally counteract the negative thoughts with positive ones. Today for instance, I was running on a hill, feeling far more fatigued than normal, and totally got into my own head- “Ughhh why did I take such a long break. I’m never going to be back to where I was.” But an encouraging song came up on my iPod (Overcomer), and I remembered I shouldn’t settle on that negative thought. I fought back with all the positives I could think of: “The sun is shining. I am healthy. I am free to run. Free to move. I will get stronger from this. I will make it to the top.” —-BAM. Up the hill! It was all about perspective. I could have wallowed in the pain, but I chose not to. And YOU have the power to do the same.
To sum it all up, NO PLAN, NO PROB. When you’re in a funk, just ditch your training rules completely. Run to run. Or don’t! Walk if you want to. Sit down in the middle of a trail. Go with friends, or soak up the solo time. Run long, or skip it and take your kids out for waffles. CHILL, and remember it’s just running. The plan for now simply needs to be “get out there and have fun”. You’ll be back with your A-game in no time.
Hopefully some of these tricks will help you find your groove again and get you back to some happy running! Feel free to comment below with any feedback, or some of your own tips! Thanks for reading ~Ash
28 Replies to “Get Yourself Out Of That Funk !”
Thanks Ash, great advice! I’ve been flat chat starting July, ditched the Garmin, etc, then managed my first 6-day in November, AO 100 for 6th finish in December, Iron Horse and last weekend Badwater Cape Fear 51.4 miles. Very slow but steady so I am getting back!
Hey Jim! Nice to hear from you! Sounds like you’re all on a roll to me. That’s a lot of great races! Congrats, man.
Thanks Ash!!! Getting there. Hope to see you on the trails this year again! ~Jim
Ash – you wrote my reality… I miss you – tons! Hope all is well in your corner of the world. Let’s play catch-up one of these days! Hugs to you, babe!
Hey Mike! Yes, I know you understand those lows! Hope you’re on the top of the roller coaster right now.. Much better up there! TTYS!
Ash I think these are great tips I will try a few. How long do these funks last for you?
Hi Andy, you know it really varies. Sometimes just a couple weeks, other times a few months or longer. Actually this year, I decided to take the entire year to just find my groove again. I have signed up for nothing, and I am enjoying a more relaxed pace for now.
This was a great read girlfriend! I loved the part about being in the perfect moment of building. So true.
Thank you for reading it! Glad you enjoyed it.
Yowzers! You are back!!! My favorite lady is writing again!!! Great advice 2. I just got out of a serious relationship with a woman.
Oh hi runfan! So good to have you back.
LOVE this and you! Can you come pace me for my next trail ultra!?! I definitely agree with all of these points made above.
Haha sounds fun! When/where is the race? Would love to finally meet you! 🙂
I’ll probably do this one https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=28222 it’s not a trail but it would be my first official 50 if I decide to do it! We shall see. Let me know if you hear of any others…maybe in your area and not crazy technical. LOL
Hello Ash Runs,
I want you to know that I appreciate your very real point of view. It is nice to hear from a voice who struggles with the sport yet still loves it. Thank you for that.
Thank you. Yes. It’s mainly been a ride on the strugglebus….. but I love it anyway. Thanks for reading & commenting! =)
Yup, didn’t race at all since November. I “ran” in a trail race last weekend basically as a workout and to support the RD, but that’s it. I’ve been lazy and in a funk, but with more daylight I think I’ll snap out of it. It was great to participate in an event with no pressure. Stopped at every aid station. Chatted with friends. “Hydrated,” if you know what I mean.
My 2 cents: Switch focus. No PRs for me (I skipped a “goal race” and many more this winter), but spring and summer mountaineering is coming. Gotta get in shape for that. Plenty of motivation there. Now I just have to peel off about 12 pounds.
Love it. You know, I am thinking I want to get into mountaineering and eventually hit the big stuff overseas when my kids are older. It sits in the background of my mind a lot, and I think I finally wanna give prep work a go. Maybe in this running down time I will start plotting something. I loved your last post about which mountains to try first!
Oftentimes, endurance athletes — especially trail runners — transition really well into mountaineering. Both physically and mentally. A lot of the same stuff at work. It also helps that you like to climb. So yeah, Ashley, you NEED to climb a mountain!
Thanks for this post – there’s some really good tips in there. I’ve just emerged from a ‘running funk’ but I feel so much better for the break and ready to go again. I took the time to get more sleep and just generally be lazy, which is something I think we all need to do from time to time 🙂
I totally agree with you, and my husband is always reminding me of that- “it’s okay to just do nothing sometimes” It helps! thx for reading!
Wow, that was some great advice! In my short running career (4 years if you consider that short) I’ve definitely fallen victim to some of the things you mentioned. Even though I’ve learned some of the things you mentioned the hard way, some of them I haven’t considered and it’s great having them all in one place so I can revisit them as needed. Great hearing from you again. Happy running! 🙂
Hey kent! Great hearing from you too, and thanks for stopping by! How’s training going? What’s your latest adventure?
Supposed to run a half marathon next month, but between the nasty weather we’ve had back east and my treadmill out of commission for a while, my training has been less then desirable, which is a big hit in the self confidence area for me. Really it depends on what the next couple of weeks brings as far as my long runs are concerned. Thanks for asking – you’re an inspiration!
Hi Ash! Great to read something on this all too common subject. And a great job writting it to. You’re really good at writting just how you talk and I would guess think too. It just flows out natural and conversationally. Thanks for sharing this part of you. I am struggling right now because Im not running. Stupid dumb head injury has me sidelined for a bit (8 weeks so far).
Anyway, I found an outlet as well – I write. A new found or should I say more truthfully – newly released to the world part of me that I used to hide due to my insecurities. So as a new poet and I didn’t want anyone to know it do here goes it:
I am sitting on a boulder
Mountain trail rising up over my shoulder
Sweating profusely – I’m feeling so much older
My legs are quaking
Deep muscle in quads are aching
I go to stand and then I start shaking
I’m running, dirt churning
More altitude gained up the trail lungs are burning
All the time about myself I am learning
That’s why I’m running
It was my plan, my muse my cunning
Right now I’m wishing for a beach laying there sunning
To the top of the climb
I want to stop and then pine
But no ones there to hear me whine
I swallow my last water
Only 18 more miles till I see my daughter
She’ll be witness to the carnage and self slaughter
I stumble over the line
Fall to my knees and recline
I am covered with dust and must resemble a swine
But the feelings are so great
The conquering of mountains made of granite and slate
And in the end I am the winner of my souls inner debate
I could go on!
I was stronger than quitting with all of my energy gone
I am more alive than 31 miles ago when I started at the break of dawn
LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!! You need to be published!!!! Thanks for sharing it!
Thanks Ash! I appreciate the nice comments. Candice Burt has the Bigfoot 200 (crazy and already over 90 signed up) just north of here in Washington this year. Run or trail crew? Give a shout if you come out Oregon/Washington way..
Right on…point! Great post!