Everyone who runs has or eventually will experience it… a bad run! A run where things just do not feel right. You are a 1/2 mile into your run and you feel like you are about to die!! Your rhythm will be off and you cannot find your pace. You could be struggling to breath and your muscles will just not cooperate. You feel stiff and sore. Nothing will feel right!
Sometimes there are reasons that you can pin point as the cause of your bad run such as a long hard week of training, or you are getting over an illness. You could be stressed with life events, not getting enough sleep or the air quality where you are running could be poor. Maybe you did not drink enough water throughout the day. Other times, a bad run can come out of nowhere and for no reason at all! Or worse yet, sometimes there are bad running days or weeks!!
The fact is that every runner will eventually have a bad run or go through a time where they just feel like they are dragging themselves through their training programs. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to figure out why and other times you won’t. The important thing to remember is that all that matters is that you finish your bad run. If that means you walk the whole way, then walk! The inability to complete your scheduled workout at the pace/distance you want, does not mean you are suddenly out of shape.
I personally believe there are reasons for everything, and I believe there are reasons for every bad run I experience. A lot of runners cannot pin point the cause of their bad runs because they are not in tune with their bodies and they do not track the right variables. It might sound silly, but I keep track of the weather, my sleep patterns, training, medications, life events, my diet, my equipment etc. Every single one of these factors is extremely important to knowing what works and what does not work for my body! I know most runners will not take the time and effort needed to track all the variables which are important to how their body preforms.
Tracking my diet – I believe what I eat will directly affect how I feel when I run! It has taken me two years to figure out what foods work best for me and what foods cause me to feel like “dung” when running. I use a free application called MyFitnessPal to log every thing I eat on a daily basis. I know a lot of people who use this as a tool to help them watch their weight, but this program is amazing for runners to track what foods they eat. It allows me to go back and compare what I eat the day before to how I felt on my run and figure out which foods give me the proper energy to run!
Tracking my workouts – I use an app on my phone called SportLog which allows me log every single workout I complete. This app allows me to enter the date, sports type (they have over 15 different sport types you can track), duration, distance, elevation, heart rate, track, and comments. Then the app allows me to see a sum and an average of each sport’s total per year/month/week or per each individual sport; along with tons of different summary reports to help me examine my statistics and motivates me to work on improving. (The photos are shown in a foreign language, do not worry mine is in English!)
Journal of my workouts – In addition to tracking my diet with MyFitnessPal and logging my workouts with SportLog, I also journal about my training. When writing in my journal I note any changes I notice in my sleeping pattern, major life changes, my stress levels, how I felt during my workout, along with any other factors which I deem important.
I think we all can agree that bad run days are a major bummer. Other than analyzing the everything above, what else can you do about it?
Embrace your good runs!!! Good run days are amazing and they should energize you, exciting you about your next run. When you experience a bad run, you will be tempted to do a mental u-turn. Oftentimes you will begin to doubt your conditioning or worse yet you will begin to doubt your capabilities. You may even start to dread your next run fearing it could be yet another bad run!
Having a bad run day is the perfect opportunity to work practice your mental toughness. As a runner, you will quickly learn that running is 80% physical and 20% mental. What will you do when you hit a bad run patch during a race? How will you push through it on race day? Bad run days while training are the perfect opportunity to find out what you need to focus on, how you need to think, and what you are going to say to yourself to get yourself through it! It is in these moments you will learn how to be mentally tough on race day!
Your mindset is going to set the tone of your runs each and every time you run. Work on allowing the bad run days to just pass, and just remember in the larger scope of your training “this too shall pass”! A bad run does not mean you are out of shape or you have lost your conditioning. It is simply a bump in the road!