Breaking Through a Running Rut

I’m a runner. Running gives me a great cardio workout while allowing me to mentally check out – it’s almost like my legs just know what to do and my mind goes into a meditative state. But recently, running has just flat out sucked. Though everyone has some bad runs from time to time, mine were outnumbering the good ones and that just feels like crap. Instead of daydreaming about fun things, the voice in my head went straight to “I can’t do this” mode and the more runs I had like this, the louder that voice became. Each run became a struggle between negativity and willpower…which is mentally exhausting.

I’ve been through this “runner’s rut” before – a few times actually. It typically happens after training and running too many races in a row, and burning out. And now, reoccuring injuries coupled with all the changes that come along with parenting a toddler, moving to another state, and building a business have caught up to me. There’s just too much going on, so I’m hitting the reset button. The strategies below have worked in the past and I’m sure they’ll pull me out of a rut again. If you’re experiencing a similar hangup or have gone through a running rut in the past, I’d love to hear if any of these strategies work for you!


  1. Run naked – No, I’m not telling you to go streaking! Try running without a watch (gasp!) or any device that tells you how far or how fast you are going. Get out there and experience what it means to run for fun. Simply listen to your body and go as fast or as slow as you want, and as far as you feel like going. Pay attention to the scenery and simply work on putting one foot in front of the other.
  2. Use the buddy system – Join a local running club, find running stores that host group runs, or try running with a charity to find fellow runners you can socialize with. When you’re chatting with a pal, you don’t have time to get inside your own head – and runs just go faster. Plus, running buddies help amp up your motivation and provide support.
  3. Focus on speed – Distance running can be a major time-suck. S0, if times are busy and a long run feels stressful, opt for shorter runs and work on getting faster instead. Before becoming a mom, I could run for 3 hours, come home, eat, shower, and take a long afternoon nap. Now that I have a two-year-old, I want to have the energy to play with my son, too. That means becoming more efficient and knocking out a run in less time.
  4. Hit the trails – After running a 50k on the trails of Bear Mountain in 2013, I found a whole new level of running. Being out in nature is so much more peaceful and refreshing than hitting the road. Plus, trail running feels different on your body. A softer surface lessens the impact on your joints, plus you use different leg muscles (and your brain!) to navigate pits, roots, and rocks.
  5. Mix up your cardio –  Try cycling, swimming, walking, a dance class, HIIT – anything that gets your heart pumping. You can become a better runner by finding other ways to work your cardiovascular system. When training for my one and only triathlon (open water swimming is not my thing!), swimming and cycling made me a faster runner.
  6. Strength train – Many runners tend to be cardio junkies and often forget about strength training. However incorporating exercises like weight training and sculpting classes can help strengthen your core and other muscles that support your run.
  7. Re-evaluate nutrition habits – When I first started running, I was very meticulous about my nutrition habits. I fueled up before runs (especially the longer ones), made sure I had gels and water for the run itself, and then refueled within 30 minutes of finishing. This became a habit and something I was sure to plan out not matter what. Then, as I became more confident in my running abilities, I pushed my boundaries and started to let some things slip – mostly the mid-long run energy boost. My pantry no longer has a stash of gels and chews, which is a problem. About halfway through a long run, my energy would start to dip, and by the time I was at the last couple of miles, I could feel my form collapse and parts of my body start to scream out in pain as a result. That mid-run gel and hydration definitely makes a difference and I learned that lesson the hard way. So, now, it’s time to stock up on my favorite gels and make friends with my fuel belt again.

Have you ever been in a running rut? What helped you break through it? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences!

Category: Fitness, Goals, Running

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