I still get the excitement of starting again after a season break (you can read why it is so important to take time off HERE), I definitely get the rush when I race/workout to the best of my ability, and I am guilty of making rookie errors over and over. That being said, I want this blog to become a place for people to learn from my experiences, my mistakes, to help you reach your potential faster.
Thankfully, through the reach outs I have received I am able to have an outline of what everyone is wondering when it comes to running whether you are a beginner or an elite.
When you first start running…..okay, maybe not the first day you run, but after your body understands what is going on, you enter a race, as that is what you are meant to do, right? As the endorphins floods your system, you understand what everyone else has been raving about. You have officially been bitten by the running bug; you are enthusiastic, nothing can come between you and your training, it consumes your thoughts, and you can’t wait for the next opportunity to see what you can do. The world is your oyster, and you start to dream of the Olympics. If you carry on at this rate, that is where you are going to end up, and you want this, BAD. No- one is going to come in your way. How did you manage to go your whole life without this? If you manage to stay under control, and have luck on your side, you stay healthy, and run well until one day everything changes.
Mother nature is having a bad day, and takes out her aggression on the weather (hello NYC marathon!). You rationalize with yourself, “its okay, next time I will get back to running PRs”. Next race rolls around,and you are presented with a beautiful day, perfect running conditions, “this is it” you think to yourself, time for another big breakthrough! But guess what? You run much slower, you almost want to cry as you cross the finish line, how can this be? You train EVEN HARDER for the next race, and if you manage to dodge injuries, you stand on that start line confident, its time for another PR. You run your heart out, yet come around that final corner to see your PR come and go. What is wrong with me?! Suddenly you are stuck. Plateaued. Peaked.
You struggle to remain positive as everyone around you seems to be beaming, soaking in their post race glow. You feel deflated, your confidence spirals away, and you wonder why you put yourself through this. Will you ever PR again? Is this the best you can do?
I think most experienced runners have been through this at some point in their running career. The hardest part is how to not let it affect your future training.
I am actually at this crossroad right now. This is the second time in my running career this has happened, but as you can only do marathons a few times a year (if you really want to go at them with everything you have), so the stagnation lasts longer than it does for a 5k runner. So how can you make sure you continue to stay positive, and keep moving in the right direction when it seems nothing is going right?
Here are my 5 tips to stay motivated when you stop running PBs
Trust in your coach/training
This is absolutely critical. This is the time when it can become tempting to listen to that little voice in your head telling you to do more and more, when you know in your heart that you are already pushing the limit. You need to keep listening to your coach, or listening to your heart, to know that you just need to keep progressing at a steady pace. If you believe your coach will take you to where you want to go, they will. Trust in that relationship is crucial to your success.
If you look back on all your body has achieved, you will have a whole new perspective. How our bodies are able to adapt so well to the stress of running is incredible. Think about it. To most people, running for 1 mile is exhausting, yet you can run for an hour and consider it “easy”? Every mile you run, you put 2-3 times your body weight down onto your muscles, bones, and joints over 2000 times. When you first started running, the idea of talking during a run was unimaginable, but your body has adapted and is stronger than it ever was. (Did you read my Is the the Female Body Image Finally Changing for the Better post yet?). If you are grateful for all your body has accomplished as a runner so far, you are more likely to relax a little, and it will be able to do what it does best; put one foot in front of the other.
Embrace the lows, so you have earned the highs.
As frustrating as it can be, running is a sport that is all about the highs and lows. Injuries come, stopping you in your tracks, and performances follow those same ups and downs. As crazy as this may sound, I am always glad my injuries happened, and I am always glad those bad races happened.
The setbacks, challenges, bad races, injuries, all the bad things that happen in our running lives put things into perspective. They mean that when you do have that race, it feels SO much better because you know what you have been through to get there. Not only that, but it gives you a greater motivation to dig down deeper and push youserlf harder than you would have otherwise when you do get the opportunity to compete. If you trust that the lows are going to lead to even greater highs, it will help you stay on the right path.
Keep doing the little things
When runners get stuck, we tend to feel sorry for ourselves. We stop doing our exercises, we binge eat junk food, and we do not get enough sleep, because we think it won’t matter anyway. This is the completete opposite. This is the time to work on these things, to make sure you are doing everything you can to get back on track. This is the time I make sure I take my Enduropacks every day, I try to focus on eating well, and stretching. The attention to detail will not go unnoticed, and even if it does not show in your immediate performance now, it will!
Often when we plateau, it is because we are trying to force our body to do something it is not quite ready for. The more stress and pressure we put on ourselves, the more we struggle. That cortisol(stress hormome) floating around your body is definitely not helping you! Step back from running, find the joy in it for what it is, and go back to basics with it. Run without your garmin (did you read about why I am not wearing my Garmin?), or even better, run without a watch! Just run, for as long as you enjoy, and fill your time with other activities that you enjoy. Running should be a part of your life, not your life, so make sure it stays that way!
Like I mentioned before, I am also going through this plateau, so I am practicing these tips myself. I have been using them as best I can, but I have hard days too. If you would like to talk more, feel free to email me at fuelyourfuture(at)tinamuir.com.
What do you do to stay motivated when you are struggling? What other topics would you like me to post about?
This is really relevant to me! I’ve experienced exactly what you described, and honestly I’m not sure what this marathon is going to show for me, if I really “peaked” already, but I’m going to re-read all of what you wrote because it’s such important stuff to remember. You are a smart woman, Tina!
Such great advice, as always! I am at a different but similar place in that I’m sure my PBs really are behind me for good. I’m fine with that. I have times I wish I could have achieved but didn’t. But today it’s all about loving the ability to run–that’s what matters to me. I’m glad I’ve handled the shift ok–I know women my age who don’t!
Thanks, Tina, I really needed this post! I am nowhere near PR shape and that’s been frustrating me for some time. I’m nowhere near as fast as you, but I would like to be able to run a little faster. I know I’ll get there eventually. 🙂 When I get burnt out on running, I definitely step back, take a couple days (or weeks) off, and then focus on enjoying my runs rather than hitting a certain pace when I get back. It’s so easy to be really hard on yourself, and it can take a lot of concentration to let go of what you think you should be running at and all of the thoughts in your head and just run.
Great points! I especially like the point about having gratitude. I often think you appreciate the things in life that you have to go after again and again in order to achieve because of what it took to reach that goal. I find looking at a setback from an outside perspective gives good insight and if you look at what you would think if it were someone else, sometimes it doesn’t seem so bad.
As always, great advice. Hitting a PB is kind of like getting addicted to a drug–you likely continue to search for the next high, and it becomes increasingly elusive. But it doesn’t have to be all search and no success! Sometimes? You need to just let yourself soak up the success of the current moment!
This is timely for me. I’m going to be 40 in March and I just keep thinking “how many more PRs can be in my future?” I know some people are ok with slowing down and running ‘for fun’ but I’m not one of those people. I’m shifting gears next year and going to try my body at Triathlon. I think training in three disciplines is better for my aging body BUT running will always be my one true love!
Great post! I am permanently at this place (damn you old age) but I’ve made peace with it. It’s hard to let go of the quest for a certain pace and constant improvement but there’s also so much to be said for running for the sheer love of it.
I think it’s only natural for all levels of runners to go through highs and lows. While it can be really frustrating it;s important to keep it in perspective and remember why you run in the first place. It is always helpful to see that elite runners have the same feelings that we mere mortals do. PS I am dying for one of those roll 8 rollers
One that I’ve done that has helped is I used to run seriously, somewhat, and fast, and back then I just ran–for years–w/ no watch, not paying attention to time, no hard/easy days, no speedwork. So now, 15-20 years later, I am racing again–so I wiped my old slate clean and everything is new. I’ve started over w/ PRs! It’s been great. I also never did speed work in my 20s, so now I am trying some actual strategies–instead of just running like crazy when I was younger and not doing much more than that. It’s fun just to see what happens. For me, wiping the slate clean–esp. if you’ve taken time away from racing–has been great. Also, I know I just love to run–and I can run w/out racing any day. I don’t need to keep score to run. That is freeing. Love this though. You rock! Love your blog.
I don’t race that much (hello entry fees$$!) but I know I get upset when my times don’t improve just on my runs. I love these ideas to step back and trust training. I am hoping the weather cooperates for my race on Sunday because I’d really like a PR!
I think the best advice iv ever been given is to take a step back and to simply ENJOY running.
To stop worrying about times, my garmin, training partners, miles and to just go and find somewhere nice + run!
Also entering low key ‘fun’ races where the result/time is not relevant – you often surprise yourself at how taking the pressure of really helps!
This helped me when I was recovering from my injuries and I felt slow and unfit 🙂
Great tips, Tina! I’ve never experienced this with running since it’s not something I ever got into seriously enough, but I’ve had my fair share of those moments with snowboarding and feeling like I wasn’t making any progress. I think what works best for me during those times is taking a step back and focusing on having fun for a while instead of pushing myself, getting nowhere, and just ending up more frustrated. Time off works wonders, not only physically, but mentally as well. I also love what you said about gratitude… because you’re absolutely right — tonnes of people would kill to even be able to run a few miles.
And I couldn’t help but notice you said PB in your title when I think you meant PR. Blame the nut butter brain 😛
Thanks lovely lady 🙂 You are so right….and actually, I did mean PB….its what we say in England…..personal best, and I used it cause I like it better than personal record 😉
When I need to stay motivated, I try to follow a few steps…Take a break (this is so hard for me, but I’m getting better at it…SLOWLY though…); switch things up; and sign up for a race to give me a schedule to follow, so I stay focused and have something to look forward too. Great post and I cannot wait for you to try the yoga video. You have to keep me posted! XOXO
Nodding my head yes to this entire post. Not only is it definitely along the lines of what I was talking about yesterday with really taking a step back with training, but I went through this in college when I was running track (and even swimming). My best times with both sports were freshman year and a lot of that had to do with trust. I didn’t trust the training, I didn’t believe in myself, and I didn’t give myself a break. This is all such great advice and I’ve really tried to employ a lot of these methods into my post-grad training to avoid that burnout again.
When I am feeling the lack of motivation I will reach out to training partners and friends to schedule workouts with them. This helps me keep things fun!
Love this- especially the reminder to step back. I think we often think we just have to push and train even harder which can backfire. I know I have more PBs in me but it’s going to take some time to build back to my old mileage and training… so I’m not at this place right now, but I’ve been there and I know I’ll be there again!!
Great advice-I totally agree with stepping back and just enjoying the run or workouts. Not worrying about miles or calorie burn.
I love this and think that it hits so many of us at different levels. Definitely a lot of good information and things to remember – I especially like the idea of being grateful for all your body has already done – something that I have to remind myself of a lot these days!!
So true the part about eating junk and feeling sorry for ourselves! After 11 months of being injured, I’ve had my times of really being good about eating well, stretching, work on the little things as you say then I have times where I just want to sleep all day and eat crap. I have no idea how to stop the cycle. Actually I would just like my post injury complications to go away because mentally I cannot take it anymore.
I’d like to get faster and work to do that, but I’ve learned that whether I get PB’s or not that I still enjoy running. Having a race to look forward to is always a big motivator for me. Next up, a 50K trail race this month!
Great post. I’m at a point where I know every race can’t be a PR. When I first started getting PRs consecutively it kind of made me dread a race to be honest. How much harder did I have to push, what if I was way way slower, I was going to just disappoint … who? I think it’s great to have time goals, but I also think it’s so important to enjoy the experience too. Of course, I’m nowhere near elite paces.
i think you and the kiwi are related. really! your mental approach is so similar. and so WISE!
As you know, I was really hoping for some new PB’s this Fall. I did get one but then injury soon reared it’s ugly head. I wonder if my body just wasn’t made for anything faster. All I can do is try and hopefully learn from my mistakes.
Wonderful advice! I know my fastest times are behind me, but I still enjoy my runs. I can’t imagine ever giving it up. I stay motivated by running with friends. Knowing I am supposed to meet someone allows me to not let excuses creep in. I tend not to race very often but I got talked into running the Disney Princess Half, so now I have something to train for. I have a feeling that maybe finding something to train for might motivate me to keep going when I don’t feel like it.
I love this post Tina and such great advice and a great approach. The hardest I think is to step back especially for us Type-A runner types!
I’m in a rut right now with no PR’s and I’m actually gaining back some of my weight. For me I need to get better about diet but it’s hard to do when I feel rushed for time. I need to center myself stress is the enemy of PR’s! 🙂 Great post Tina.
Awesome post! As I’ve said before you are always my go to blog for the best advice and I love that you ask your readers what topics they want you to talk about, it’s indicative of just how helpful you are. I have mad respect for you lady! 🙂
Such great advice Tina! Thank you!
Great tips Tina! I especially love your words about accepting the lows so you can really celebrate the highs and the work it takes you to get there. I have no doubt you’ll be experiencing a high very soon! xoxo
What a great post. Hitting those running PB can be such a high and it is hard to stay motivated with the lows. I have been there too.
I embraced a time this summer where I ran totally technology-less to rediscover my love for the sport. Best of luck getting over this hump.
Great advice! It is always great to have a PB, but that cannot be what it is all about all the time. This year I took off from trying to get PBs to just enjoying the run!! #fitnessfriday
These are such great tips and advice. Stepping back is hard, but can be the best thing for you. So hard to do though!!
Hi Tina, I always love reading your posts. It’s funny, when I’m reading things running related I often wonder what your elite perspective would be. That’s why I tagged you in the Mind Gym tweet. Curious to know which if any of the techniques you use.
You share an elite perspective to running that I’ve never had before 🙂 Love it!
LOVE THIS. Feel like I’m definitely going through this right now. I’m running faster (typically) day-to-day than I have before but I still feel discouraged and like I’m plateuing with races (which I am). NEED to embrace these lows so the highs are even better!! You nail it on the head every time, girlie!