You know the feeling. You go out for a run and something doesn’t feel right. Your energy levels just aren’t normal. Inspiration and motivation just aren’t pulling you along the way they usually do and you just…
You check your watch and stats when you get home and confirm what you expected. You were way off your normal performance level today.
What’s going on?
You know aren’t coming down with something. You didn’t celebrate a little too much last night with your friends and the neighbors didn’t keep you awake all night.
If you are new to running you may feel like something is seriously wrong or maybe thinking that running just isn’t for you because it shouldn’t be this hard.
But don’t give up. Every runner experiences this at some point and some even fall into a slump regularly.
So, of course, you are asking “how can you fix it”?
Most runners who lace up and head out every day of the week groan about sudden slumps but just keep going. They tell themselves that there are good days and bad days and that tomorrow will be better.
But what if it isn’t? What happens when the next day is just as bad and so is the next, and the next?
Don’t panic. I’m going to tell you what works for me and many others.
Yes, you can power through it. Eventually you will come out of your slump but it may a few days or a week. Sometimes maintaining your running streak is worth more than quickly reversing the downward trend. You need to decide that for yourself.
If you aren’t trying to continue an unbroken running streak, I am going to tell you to do something that will seem completely counterintuitive and slightly blasphemous.
Take a break.
That’s right. After your second slump day when things feel like they couldn’t get any worse, plan on two days without running and without exercise. You are not going to run or lift or cycle, do yoga or hit the dreadmill for two whole days.
Instead, put your feet up in front of the fire, talk to your kids, read a book, medidate, whatever you find enjoyable that has nothing to do with exercise. Don’t think about running, don’t watch ultra race reports on Youtube or check on the latest posts in your online running groups. You are temporarily going cold turkey.
After two days, emerge from your isolation, lace up your favorite shoes and go for a run. Your legs will be so happy to be back doing what they love that it will FEEL like your best run in a long time regardless of your actual performance stats.
Outside of the time off resetting some internal mechanism or giving your body time to recover from something you didn’t know was affecting it, I can’t explain exactly why this works, but I can’t recall a time when it hasn’t.
And this is coming from a guy who complains loudly about taking any time off from running, just ask my wife.
Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you.