5 Ways to Run Through a Rut

Friday 5So, while Catnip was writing a post about staying motivated while pregnant and Salty was asking why we do this to ourselves, I was sitting around and considering the fact that I’ve had no motivation to run over the course of the last month. Or two. So I started to wonder what it takes to break out of a running rut. And then I started wondering if it really mattered whether or not you really break out. Stop throwing things at me and hear me out. 

Have you ever taken a break from running? I’ve taken whole years off before. And when I came back I came back because I wanted to, not because I felt obligated to.

Here are five ways to break out of your running rut…or not.

1. Physical fitness – muscular and cardiovascular strength, endurance, stamina, mental toughness – is important. But (sacrilege!) it doesn’t have to come from running. It could come from cycling, swimming, yoga, rowing, climbing, crossfit, kickboxing, or any of a hundred other activities designed to challenge you. You can swap out a cross-training workout for a run and do it guilt-free, especially if your brain needs the break. At the end of the day, a little cross-training might even make you a better runner (shhhh. Don’t tell the boys on the LetsRun forum I said that!)

English: Running woman Nederlands: Vrouw die h...
#6 Almost no one regrets going for a run once she gets out there. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Pay for a race – because we’re all trying to save money, and the little bit of guilty pleasure that comes from doing something for ourselves turns in to guilty guilt if we pay for something and don’t use it. If you sign up for a race, you’re more likely to run in preparation for it. Now that you’ve paid for the race…

3. Sign up for a training plan – so that you are well prepared for race day. A training plan is great for getting a specific workout on the calendar for a specific day. That way you don’t get out of bed and a) wonder what to do, b) decide that since you don’t have a specific workout in mind you might as well do laundry instead, or c) get right back into bed. Most training plans get incrementally harder, so you can look ahead and tell yourself that you’re not going to be ready for that 15-miler in week six if you don’t do the workouts in weeks one through five.

4. Phone a friend – running buddies can keep you accountable, and you’re less likely to bail on someone else than you are to bail on yourself. If you can’t pin down a friend for a running date, engage your family and/or social media. The pressure of knowing that someone, somewhere, expects you to check back in next week and let them know about all of the improvements you’ve made might just get you to lace up your shoes.

5. Recall positive reinforcement – this sounds really corny, but a few years ago when I had just started running again after a long self-imposed hiatus, I did a 5-mile run that I really, really didn’t want to do. I was tired, it was hot, I was tired, I was achy, I was tired, I had a bunch of stuff to do, I was tired…but I did it. My husband, who I didn’t realize had been paying attention to my struggle, recognized and mentioned how proud he was of me for going out and running even though he knew I really didn’t want to. He has no idea what effect those words had on me, and still to this day remembering that bit of encouragement is better at getting me out of bed and on the road than any other cute little saying or mantra or motivational poster has ever been.

All that being said, I still stand by my original thoughts on this subject. It doesn’t really matter if you run or not. All that matters is that you do something.

What experiences or thoughts have helped you break out of a running rut?

A 30-something runner striving to hit that ever-elusive BQ. Mother of two young teens, fan of fantasy/fiction/sci-fi (<-read: geek), with a fascination for tortoises and a love of the outdoors.

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  1. You could always embrace the running rut and work on your cycling or some other sport like rock climbing for a while. There is nothing wrong with that. Sports like cycling can be significantly more social, and we need a bit of that every once in a while. Also don’t forget that even the best of the marathon runners have scheduled time off between seasons. I’ve had ruts that have lasted years. We’ll save that for another time.

    To stay out of a rut now, I keep my training logs on Strava public so that I feel like I’m held accountable even though I know that no one but me really cares. I count my year-to-date miles and announce them at my office because it feels good every time you tick another thousand off on that left side. When runs suck I cut them short. There is no point in running when you’re not felling it.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right! Unless it’s your job, then when running isn’t fun anymore it’s time to take a break and do something else for awhile. I’ve bagged lousy runs before too…the hardest part is telling yourself that THAT’S OKAY and that lousy runs don’t make you a lousy runner.

  2. Thanks for posting this – it came at an ideal time for me! I’m in a crazy transition period so I’ve been pretty much down for the count the past two weeks, but I am anxious to organize myself and get myself back on a training plan. Signing up for that half marathon (my first!) will indeed force me to keep up my running, haha!