Monday, September 03, 2012

Running Ruts

In a rut? Tired of running? Too bad! You have to do it anyway.

But there's ways to get you over the hump. Here are 10 ways I've overcome running ruts:

  1. Hack a new trail: change up your running route. If you're running in the city, find a bit of country. If you're running in the country, find a town. If you're running by water, look for some hills. This is starting to sound like that creepy Runaway Bunny story, so I'll stop, but you get the idea.
  2. If you're running on a treadmill or track, run someplace real instead, for chrissake.
  3. If you still can't run three miles without having to stop and walk, run more slowly. Even if you're being overtaken by elderly nuns, the kick from having run the whole way will make you want to keep it up.
  4. Run away from home. Some of the most memorable runs I've had have been in new places. Search "running routes in ____" online and you'll find all sorts of suggestions, often including safety tips. (My all-time favorite run was on Santorini in 1999, and I doubt it will ever be surpassed - I mean, come on, it's Santorini - but I've had great runs in lots of odd places, including the industrial wasteland near O'Hare airport, where I came face-to-face with a deer.)
  5. Buy new shoes.
  6. Buy new laces if you don't need/can't afford new shoes.
  7. Find a running partner.
  8. Ditch your running partner. (Tell them it's not them, it's DoctorMama.)
  9. Sign up for a race. (Note that I have done this exactly once, and it was a marathon, which has its perils. I'd do a race again, but only if it started after 10 am, which they NEVER DO. Why?! They are discriminating against us stiff late runners.)
  10. If your significant other is putting up a fuss, tell them that running will make you less crazy, and this is good for everyone. If they continue to whine about it, give them a demonstration of crazy.
What's worked for you? And/or where was your all-time favorite run?


OMDG said...

1. Buy a cute new running outfit.
2. Read a book or magazine about running.
3. Talk about running with a friend who runs more than you do.
4. Start logging your runs.
5. Do some speed work (i.e. strides, hills, tempo) to change things up one time per week.

Jamie said...

I joined a running group this summer and it was fantastic. They grouped us by speed and so my 11-minute miles did not mean I was bringing up the rear, feeling pathetic. I was very motivated to run between meetings so I could keep up with the other women in my group. And it's been a great way to connect with other women who run slowly but consistently. This morning I was flagging a bit at 4 miles into a 5-mile run when someone called "Hi Jamie!" from behind me. It was one if the group leaders. She said, "I'd know that ponytail from a mile away!" I zipped all the way home, mostly smiling.

Anonymous said...

My favourite run was around the Wellington (NZ) waterfront with my 8 year old son. It was a 7km funrun and he loved it esp. the watersprays.

I've been jogging for 5 years thanks to you. I do find it hard not to try and go faster than I should. You know, beat your previous best time.

Heather G

yatima said...

New York on a business trip, from my hotel in midtown up to Central Park and back. It was summer and the heavens opened and I was drenched, running in the rain. I took the elevator back to my room with some tourists who double-took at the sight of me dripping wet and said: "Are you alright?" "Never been better," I said, and we laughed and laughed.

Snickollet said...

I love running away from home. I mean, running when I'm away from home. Ahem. I am just back from a long weekend in Vancouver, BC, which included a few lovely runs in Stanley Park, along the seawall. Stunning. I've also enjoyed some great running on the Oregon coast and in San Diego.

Other things that work for me when I need to get motivated: adding music (during times I usually go without) or taking music away (if I usually have it); doing a meditation run (choosing a mantra and chanting it internally to my footfalls for the whole run).

Solitary Diner (Also Known as The Frugalish Physician) said...

The biggest thing for me has been logging my runs on my blog such that I'm filled with shame when I miss runs. Other than that, I agree with OMDG that cute new outfits also help.

V. said...

Hands down, running the Grouse Grind (no walking!) in Vancouuver. i.e. the stair climber from hell. . The gondolla ride down is perhaps one of the most breathtaking anywhere.

Laurel said...

Recently I found that cross-training kicked up my game a notch--biking on non-run days, stairs, weight-bearing exercise. Otherwise, I started running in Five Fingers. I know they're ugly as sin and I'm not a total barefoot evangelist, but I'm less clumsy and feel more connected to the earth. (Been curious what you would say about the barefoot thing.) I also did the take music away/bring it back thing. I listen to my gut about routes ... sometimes I want to do the same thing over and over, sometimes I want to switch it up a lot.

You didn't ask, but I have questions. Can you talk a little bit more about advanced maggotry? I've read your posts on the topic but feel like I need more specifics. I can run 3 and up to 5-ish miles without stopping, and have been doing so for years now, but I'm still super slow, like 11:30 or even more on average. (It doesn't help that I live in a hilly area, so usually have a climb of a couple hundred feet in there somewhere. Also, I'm short and I have short legs.) I feel like I'm not really getting better. One of your posts mentions very slowly increasing speed or distance, but how do you decide when a new speed or distance becomes the new normal? For someone as slow as me, should I give up on speed altogether? I'm not in a rut exactly, but I do feel sort of dispirited about my ongoing slowness.

That said, I never got ANYWHERE until I read your blog and it's really quite something that I can now run 3-5miles, even if the elderly nuns are zipping by me. And that I've stuck with it for years now. I recommend your blog to others all the time. So thank you!

Anonymous said...

(New reader here and enjoying it very much).

On keeping the motivation, nothing works better for me than signing up for a race (though I stick to 10Ks). Books about running also helped --see Murakami's, or "Born to run". I'm also a sucker for a statistics so an app with GPS works well.

On favorite routes: I live in Germany and used to travel regularly for work --mostly around Europe. There were several great runs during a business trip, but my all-time favorite route is around the Zurich lake. Truly breathtaking, especially on an early morning.

Funny that you mention race times, though: I'm running my first half marathon in three weeks, and it's at 2:30pm, which got me all nervous since I'm definitely a morning runner. Will have to do a few practice runs in the afternoon.

Anonymous said...

But I don't want to anything other than sleep!! Seriously, not trying to be cute, none of these suggestions help when I have a bed available and two sleeping babies.

DoctorMama said...

Funny, I think running outfits are just very not cute, so that one doesn't do it for me.

But these are good.

More advanced maggotry? Will work on it.

Emmanuelle said...

get addicted to RunKeeper!
575km in almost one year :)

Unknown said...

i started slowly running in May using the couch to 5k as a rough plan. it's been great, except one day i abruptly developed pain in my left foot along the side and on the top. There was no acute trauma. My sneakers were bought in late May. i also sometimes have sciatica on the left; it happens to be flaring coincident with this foot pain. could the foot pain be related to the back pain? I haven't run in a week and I'm going crazy.

monicac2 said... (as well as the forums on has been great motivation. Connecting with like-minded people is always great!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Laurel re: advanced maggotry. I run regularly (4x per week, 3.5-4 miles, and longer 50-60 minute run and all routes have hills) but still seem to have two speeds, slow and steady and slower and struggling.

Best run...early summer morning (6-ish) in San Francisco.


lisa said...

Find someone who runs slower than you and cheer them on: I run with my Marine daughter, and her toddler AND her 9 week old in the jogger---I push the stroller and hold the dog and cheer her on. She needs to be able to run about a 9 minute mile in 2 more months, so this isn't maternal pushiness! The jogger uphill does wonderful things for my thighs, and since I'm the cheering squad, I don't dare quit.

Maddy said...

I got sick of just running so I switched to triathlons. Keeps me running, just less and way way way less bored! It is FUN and challenging to swim with a master's swimming class and to join and a bike club!

Didi said...

What do you think about Jeff Galloway's Run Walk Run?

I tried getting myself into running slowly by your method some time ago and kept getting short of breath - realized it was exercise-induced bronchospasm and did better with some albuterol, but then my enthusiasm kind of faded. A friend convinced me recently sign up for a half marathon (it was 8 mos away at the time), and I have actually been running 2-3x/week using Run Walk Run (this is a lot for me since I'm a 2nd yr resident with a 6yo and always exhausted). I'm in a rut in the sense that I've been having a lot of trouble increasing the run portion and the total run/walk time (haven't gotten beyond running for 2.5 min max before walking and beyond 40 min total run/walk).

I'd appreciate any advice!

DoctorMama said...

Unknown - that foot pain could be a stress fracture; don't run and get it checked out. (And I almost NEVER say don't run, so you know I mean it!)

Didi - I swear to you, if you run slowly enough, you will be able to run the whole thing. If you've been at this more than a couple of weeks, you can run for 30 minutes at least. Try this: start more slowly, and when you feel like you have to walk, try running as slowly as you possibly can instead of walking. It works. (And the fact that you were stopped in the past due to shortness of breath? A sure sign of going too fast for you.)

Tamar said...

I'll tell you what doesn't work: meeting up with a running group in which the leaders swear up and down that they run at all paces, one at the front and one stays at the back, slow runners very welcome... and then they all bound off at a flat ten mile per hour and three miles into it you find yourself trying to find your own way back while the rest of the pack go bounding merrily off into the far distance.

Best run: along the towpath of the Kennet and Avon with the light shining on the wheatfields and the green downs in the distance. I felt as if I could run forever.

Laurel said...

I forgot the one thing that helped the most... I got a GPS (now you can just use a smartphone + MapMyRun app though). I had spent a lot of time wondering how fast I was, how far I was going (on new courses or on trails), and whether I had just run faster than usual or slower and did it matter that there was a headwind and what about that minute I waited at the stoplight? I love the data and it is also really motivating to upload the data to MapMyRun or the Garmin Connect site. (I like MMR a little better right now, because I can use the app when I don't have the GPS, and because it smooths out my pace data better.)

Thank you for Advanced Maggotry II! Will post a comment there as soon as I can put my thoughts together. I did find this week that 1) I can now just ... make myself run faster and it's not as hard as I think it's going to be and 2) if I take the time to mark stoplights and such, I am not quite as slow as I thought. Woohoo!

Courtney said...

Motivating: Volunteer to man a water station at a nearby race.