Every runner has experienced a dip in self-confidence and motivation, so what do you do? Jacob Adkin offers his advice to help get you back on track.
Self-confidence. Runners need it. Not in the arrogant sort of way though, but in the belief that the time they are putting into their training day in, day out is of value. Sometimes however, a runner can lose this feeling of security, and it is hard to know what to do.
So everything is going well. You are following the training plan, ticking off the easy runs and sessions, feeling good. With each passing race in the build up to the big one your performance improves, and head into each week of training with greater vigour and motivation.
You feel like you can achieve more than ever before, and you possess a certain air of self-confidence. And then it happens. You lose your running mojo.
It could be a niggle that has crept up on you. It could be an illness that has knocked you down and still hangs around long after you feel you have recovered, it could be that you have lost the mental will to keep churning out the miles or it could be that your body feels lethargic and reluctant to do what your plan asks it to.
The initial reaction to any of these is frustration, almost anger. All that effort you put into training, the happiness you had with your fitness and an eagerness to see where you could go. Then suddenly that all seems so distant. You could not feel any more different.
There is sadness thinking about the new speed sessions you’re now not going to be able to complete, the planned future races that hang in the balance. You begin to feel lost.
Our natural reaction is to feel anger, but why should we? Why should we be angry at our bodies and minds for losing that confidence? Something is clearly not right, and we can’t keep pushing further into the treacle and further from recovery. We need to accept, listen, and address it.
Recently I lost my running mojo. And it wasn’t for the first time. In the past, I have lost that drive to get out there – I have experienced that feeling of being lost and not knowing how I was going to overcome it.
Sometimes it has been the result of injury or illness, and other times for trying to do too much, aiming too high. Each time there has been something to learn about how I react to and how I overcome these moments, and I’d like to highlight a few of them here.
Change your plans
Losing your running mojo often suggests that your current routine has put you in a bit of a rut. It takes guts to realise this and then accept that it isn’t working, and confidence to break the cycle and change your plans to fit your individual circumstances.
Don’t over commit to certain races or training schedules – it requires patience and listening to how you are feeling from day to day to understand where you are at and what you are ready to do, both mentally and physically.
Don’t be scared to take time off
At first, it can be daunting to stop running – you’re scared to lose fitness, and you feel guilty for missing races. You can still run, but take a more spontaneous approach to it.
Don’t follow a plan, but add things to make it different from usual – find new routes, try that rock scramble that you always pass by on your local trail, run with other people.
You don’t need to set sessions, walk out the door and just start running, and as you run listen to what your body feels like doing. It may want to run easy the whole time, and that’s fine.
Sometimes it may want to stretch out, and you’ll fancy sprinting to the top of a hill, or legging it from one side of town to the shop at the other. By no means are you going to lose a great amount of fitness.
In fact, it can be so much more beneficial to unfollow the training plan – your body will absorb the training it’s been logging, and you will allow it to recuperate at its own natural rate.
Try other things
It is actually quite beneficial to sit around not doing much for a time, it goes some way to recharging the batteries. At some point though it is more advantageous to be busy again, but that doesn’t have to be running.
Find something new to pursue – book yourself onto a climbing course, take up sewing, it can be anything, sporty or otherwise.
Whatever it is, the important thing is that it creates a new stimulus and provides that sense of purpose and satisfaction that runners live off from doing running.
Make exciting plans
Making future plans can be very motivating. From organising a road-trip and running in places you’ve yet to discover, or entering an event that is unlike what you’ve usually done.
Going out of your bubble of usual activities is exactly what brings your running mojo back to life. Keep yourself flexible and willing to try new things, and the motivation will return.
Set new goals
Eventually, the time will come when you start to feel that tingle again to get back out there and train for a bigger goal.
There is no rush, however, so plan for races or other targets further into the future than you would normally.
At this time, it is much better to err on the side of caution. That way, you don’t run the risk of pushing yourself too hard from the off, and you will only surprise yourself as your training progresses.
Running is, in essence, an individual sport. We strive to better our own performance, but we can only do this if we are in the right place both physically and mentally.
Losing your mojo isn’t a bad thing. It’s a useful indicator for ensuring long term healthy and happy running.
Jacob Adkin features in the ‘Fast 10: class of 2019’ and over the course of the year will share his running journey. You can follow Jacob on Twitter and Instagram, while further information about the ‘class of 2019’ can be found here.
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