At this rate, I'll be moving backwards soon
March 30, 2012 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Did you used to find running tedious and uncomfortable? Do you enjoy it now? How did you do it?

I thought I was doing great with running, but I feel like I'm actually getting worse. A little background:

About a year ago I started Couch 2 5k, completed it finally this year (there were some long hiatuses), then I started the Bridge to 10K app, and I ambitiously also signed up for a 10-mile race in May (Broad St. Run- by all accounts an extremely easy one, as it's mostly downhill). I've been diligently following the schedule on the new app but to my dismay, after a period of rapid improvement, I seem to be getting worse. Both in the sense that my average run pace is slowing down (it was just south of a 10 minute mile) and in the sense that I am finding my runs much more tedious. I really feel like I'm forcing myself to keep going rather than being absorbed enough in the activity for time to pass relatively painlessly.

The most humiliating aspect is that my single most triumphant and superior run, during which I far exceeded my previous runs in time and distance, occurred when I was grievously hungover. This goes against both my common sense and cherished assumptions about the relationship between lifestyle and physical performance.

Ever since that run, despite avoiding vices like overdrinking, I've found myself really dreading my runs, and feeling like I'm torturing myself when I am actually running. For what it's worth, I feel great when I'm done, but I'd still like to feel a little more enthusiastic about actually going on a run, and I'd like to enjoy it more when I do.

I'd like to emphasize that nothing important has changed since my "good" runs and my current malaise- same shoes (which are new), same headphones, a rotating playlist that I generally enjoy, same weather (I run outside), same route (it could be that this is actually negative, but I live in the city and this happens to be just about the best place to run outside as well as the only one near me), same lifestyle (if anything I've made improvements to my already healthy diet), etc.

It's true that the app has me going on slightly longer runs each time, but the difference is neglible- for the past three weeks I've increased the running portion of my segments by about a minute each, so it's not enough to suddenly be an onerous new change. I ride my bike every day to get around so I'm staying active even when I don't run.

If you experienced anything similar when you started running, did you do anything in particular to get past it? Persistence, willpower, good old American know-how? Even if it is just a matter of keeping it up until it feels better, I'd like to hear it.
posted by Aubergine to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
My bet is that you're just getting bored. Find something - anything - to switch up the routine. Maybe try one run in a new location, even if you have to put in extra time in transit to get there. (I always enjoy running, and often find I run faster/farther, when I'm in a new city.)

Also, this is a stretch, but is it possible that your dietary improvements have resulted in too few calories? Maybe you're just a little tired and hungry?

Finally, a running buddy has gotten me through many such slumps.
posted by TrixieRamble at 7:59 AM on March 30, 2012

Things that have made running more enjoyable for me:

- Running with others. Joining a club or even just having a regular partner makes a big difference both in enjoyment of the run and the motivation to keep going. One club I regularly run with has a regular Saturday morning run with a pot-luck brunch in the park at the end. Really makes going out to run enjoyable, even in the winter.

- Music. A water-proofed iPod shuffle with yurbuds earphones makes running much more enjoyable. The yurbuds are very comfortable, do *NOT* fall out of the ears and I can still hear most ambient sounds around me (cars, horns, people talking) as long as I don't have the volume cranked up too much.

- New routes. Run in new places frequently. If you're only run on pavement up to this point, seriously consider adding trail runs. Trail running forces you to be more alert due to the possibility of constantly changing terrain and/or direction.

- Interval training - consider doing intervals instead of just constant speed runs. Run max speed for 30 seconds, recover at a slow jog for 1 minute, repeat.
posted by de void at 8:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by bearette at 8:04 AM on March 30, 2012

Also, I made tremendous progress by participating in once-a-week running clinics that were held by a coach affiliated with a local running/triathlon store.
posted by de void at 8:07 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rather than listening to music, I like to listen to NPR podcasts. You could also do books on tape, lectures, etc. This makes the time pass quicker so is good for longer runs, but it does tend to result in a somewhat slower pace because you are not concentrating on running.

You also might want to consider mixing in some speedwork. This can give you a full workout in 10 minutes, including warmup. Really. Those few minutes are, if you do it right, going to be really painful and exhausting, but they won't be tedious. (And it doesn't have to be all sprints or all jogging; you can do longer intervals at an intermediate pace.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

This might help - obligatory reference to Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a semi gamer type escape from the zombie hordes.
posted by Augenblick at 8:18 AM on March 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

If you've got an iPhone, how about you go out for your run AND BE CHASED BY ZOMBIES.

Remember, Cardio IS Rule Number One.
posted by THAT William Mize at 8:19 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Dang it! One minute too slow.
posted by THAT William Mize at 8:20 AM on March 30, 2012

Great suggestions so far! I've been considering interval training, as I've heard good things about the resulting increases in speed and stamina- are there any apps out there that are designed for this? (I checked out the HIT FPP and while that seems eminently doable, I feel like I respond better to instruction, even when it's just a little disembodied voice coming out of my phone. Ie, my discipline is weak and left to my own devices I feel like I might not go the full 30 seconds or whatever)
posted by Aubergine at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2012

To bring a little bit more to the conversation, here's a similar Android based app.

Not as interactive as Zombies, Run! but hey - ZOMBIES.
posted by THAT William Mize at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Audiobooks for me. I'd get really bored running/biking/exercising in general. But w/ audiobooks I look forward to it.
posted by pyro979 at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2012

If nothing physically is wrong (enough food and rest, no injuries etc) and this is just a pre-run mental issue, you might want to try just ignoring the emotions and go for that run anyway.

I've been running for over 20 years and still go through times when I'm just not feeling it before a run and/or the run itself isn't good (these don't always happen together). I've learned that for me ignoring the emotions ("I'm going for a run so I can stop thinking about it") and heading out anyway often leads to a good run and an added bonus of feeling like a badass for not wimping out for no real reason.

I've also noticed that I seem to make the most progress physical performance-wise shortly after a stretch of runs that didn't feel good. Its almost like I get more bang for my buck by working through difficulties than just cruising on an easy-feeling run.

Don't make being a committed, determined runner harder on yourself by building up a mental expectation of dread. Check in physically with yourself and if all systems are go, head out the door right then - don't put it off until later and overthink it some more!

Of course, if you're physically worn out or injured take it easy. Commit to not running that day and start over tomorrow.

FYI: You may have had such a good run while hungover because you were relaxed both physically and mentally which allowed your body to devote all its energy to running rather than hunching your shoulders/clenching your fists/whatever you unconsiously do when stressed or worried.
posted by the_shrike at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Group runs, even if conversation is minimal. (I'm not much of a chatter.)

Running in pretty places. Forest trails are best, but recreation paths are good too. Having to focus on the trail makes it much less boring.


Taking it less seriously.
posted by bread-eater at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2012

I really feel like I'm forcing myself to keep going rather than being absorbed enough in the activity for time to pass relatively painlessly.

my single most triumphant and superior run, during which I far exceeded my previous runs in time and distance, occurred when I was grievously hungover.

Running with others

New routes. Run in new places frequently. If you're only run on pavement up to this point, seriously consider adding trail runs. Trail running forces you to be more alert due to the possibility of constantly changing terrain and/or direction.

Taking it less seriously.

Man, have I got group for you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I switched from 20-30 minute runs to 45-60 minute runs, I had to change over to talk podcasts rather than listening to music. I just got too bored. It was like every song was an hour long. I slowed down a bit because I didn't have the beat to keep me moving, but it was made up for by not dying of boredom. Now a 60 minute run feels 'normal' to me, and it helps that a lot of podcasts are about an hour long. It keeps me going so I don't miss the last part.
posted by pekala at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I go through slumps in running a lot and I've found that a conscious effort to change my attitude really helps me turn around my runs into something I enjoy. I have motivating quotes written down on my running schedule that I like to read through the night before a morning run. Two books have also been instrumental in aligning my attitude with where I'd like it to be: Running The Edge and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running have really helped me work through why it is I want to run. When all else fails and I need to get out the door and run, I just tell myself to fake it until I make it, and at some point I usually do make it.
posted by shornco at 9:35 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Aubergine- I can't recommend any particular app for intervals, but I can recommend what I like to call "Rock and Roll-tervals." Basically, put your mp3 player on shuffle, and for each new tune (or even song part, if it has a lot of tempo changes) adjust your pace, your intensity, or something. It keeps things interesting, it has this sense of external control over when you switch (which I feel keeps me on my toes) and it avoids the boredom that can set in with intervals, as well, when you settle into a "2 minutes of this, 1 minute of that" clock-watching routine.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2012

The more stressed out I am about other things -- work, usually -- the better I run. Probably because it can feel more like a welcomed escape and I have more pent up energy to get out.

So, y'know. Maybe stir up some shit at your job or something. Or try something new that makes you nervous or gives you a little anxiety that you can release with a run.
posted by chasing at 10:18 AM on March 30, 2012

Do you subscribe to Runner's World magazine? I promise I own no stock, am not an employee, etc. - but I find reading the magazine to be pretty motivating. Might be worth the 10 bucks a year or so.
posted by kirst27 at 10:38 AM on March 30, 2012

IME people who say they hate or are bored by running invariably aren't adequately programming their running in service to any specific athletic goals: they don't understand what energy systems they're working on, or how to affect and maintain positive adaptations.

You'll enjoy running once you properly program your training and track your progress. Stop relying on cookie-cutter apps and research your particular training needs and how better to go about them. If you're engaged in actual improvement of your energy systems, rather than just putting miles behind you along in essentially mindless fashion, boredom will be the very last thing you'll be experiencing.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2012

I'll go against the grain: I've been running since around 1992 or two with a big chunk of time in the late 90s devoted to running competitively on the roads and track. I rarely find running tedious, even now that I have no racing goals and run daily simply because I still love to run. The times when I *do* find it tedious is when I'm running too many of the same short loops on the same run (and therefore thinking about distance and the passage of time too much) or listening to music if I'm stuck on an indoor track. There's something about disassociating while running that bores me, so listening to music or podcasts makes for an unhappy run, whereas plugging into my environment, enjoying the scenery, and letting my mind wander wherever it wants to go makes for a happy excursion.

I also think that you may be making your runs too stressful by being hyper-aware of your pace, and that coupled with your attempts at distraction with music makes the act of running seem less like an enjoyable journey and way to explore your surroundings, and more like drudgery. If you want to improve your overall speed and fitness, let most daily runs remained un-timed (or alternately, only run for a set period of time rather than distance so you can vary the route at whim) and schedule one day a week specifically for a shorter workout where you concentrate of intervals/fartlek/hill reps etc.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:28 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've learned that for me ignoring the emotions ("I'm going for a run so I can stop thinking about it") and heading out anyway often leads to a good run and an added bonus of feeling like a badass for not wimping out for no real reason.

Seconding this. At some point, I started taking note of my emotions before and after running. Unless I'm injured, I always feel so much better after a run than before. Now, when I'm dreading a run or having an otherwise crummy day, I think, "know what would make me feel better? Running!"
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2012

I never know when I'm going to have a good run or a bad run, and when I have a string of bad ones, it's scary and disheartening. Stick with it. I did notice after one bad string that for some reason I'd started taking shorter strides and things got a lot better once I figured out that when I felt like it was too hard, I needed to take longer strides. So maybe try that.

Also: Yes on podcasts. I like Memory Palace and This Week in Virology.
posted by lakeroon at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2012

Well first off, a 10 minute mile is FAST for someone who needed a year to be able to run 5k. I can run a 5k after not running for MONTHS, but my running/jogging pace is around an 11-11:30 minute mile, unless I train to get faster. So sloooooww down. Slow down to a pace where your heart isn't racing, and you'll be able to zone out and run longer without hating it or without struggling. That will increase your mileage, even if it takes you a lot longer to run those miles. The other thing is, if you're biking even a little every day, your legs are probably too tired to run. You need rest days. Also, try switching up the route. You're in a city? Find some one-way streets and run on the streets in the direction opposing traffic. There's got to be some parks around where you live too. I can't run in the same place all the time, the second I know which tree is coming up on which block, I start hating the run.

The other thing that helps is finding someone to run with. Talking while running distracts you from running, and even when you don't feel like talking, having someone next to you somehow helps with keeping your legs moving instead of thinking "OK when is this going to stop??"
posted by at 4:21 PM on March 30, 2012

A "sacred" place to run is important...well sacred is a bit much....but a place that allows your mind to not think about running but just relax and ponder over whatever.

In Eugene, Oregon we have such a blessing of these types of places that you can just run freely.

I think also it is important to set no pace or distance or time beforehand. Just let yourself take a first few steps and give yourself a few miles to warm up. More often than not you will find your groove and it will be glorious.

Rest days are important. But not when you feel tired but when you still feel good.

The ritual of putting on your running gear is important and meditative I find. Just putting it on makes me feel in a different frame of mind.

But then again I am from Eugene, Oregon and worked with Bowerman so I might be too far gone to be normal.
posted by tarvuz at 7:01 AM on March 31, 2012

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