Q: "Since a disastrous long-distance trail race in April, I can't bring myself to train or race again; even the idea of a short, easy run is not compelling. How do I get my motivation back?
A: The kind of low motivation you’re experiencing is a combination of lingering physical and mental effects from a bad race, but that’s not to say it’s all in your head.
I suggest taking stock of all the things you feel right now so you can take a holistic approach to getting your running back on track.
It’s possible that part of the issue is residual post-race fatigue. Even though the race took place months ago, you may still be under-recovered. Just because you haven’t been running much doesn’t mean your body has healed sufficiently.
And if you’ve been under any form of stress—including poor sleep, diet, mental or emotional duress or illness—then your body’s repair and healing processes may be compromised.
Examine your dietary habits. Are you eating enough nutritious food? Are you drinking enough water? Are you getting eight hours of sleep? What worries or problems are weighing on your mind these days?
It’s important for all runners—not just those experiencing this kind of slump—to attune to these and any others daily stressors because they can impact your body in terms of hormonal changes and inflammation that can leave you feeling as though you’re running a marathon every single week.
As long as there’s no serious malady at play here, then investing in quality rest and recovery will eventually restore your energy.
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Now let’s explore the mental aspect of your issue. Your race experience fell far short of your expectations. You feel extremely disappointed because it didn’t represent your true potential.
To move past that disappointment, make running for fun your only objective for the time being. When fun is your primary goal, then you remove any kind of pressure or expectation from your performance. Run short, run long, run slow, run fast; it doesn’t matter as long as it feels playful and relaxing. There’s always time to “train,” but now’s not it. Even if you have another event in the coming months, don’t worry about training for it.
For any runner experiencing a low point, such as you are right now, reconnecting with their passion for running must precede running as work. This is because pressure to perform—from either one’s peers, coaches or ourselves—sucks one’s motivation dry more than just about anything else.
Having fun while running keeps you focused on the process of running rather than a desired outcome. And for a lot goal-oriented runners (which, let’s admit, is most of us), this can be a difficult shift, but well worth the effort.
Releasing your attachment to outcomes of any sort means running with no expectation and merely opening yourself to the inherent joy of running that is always there but is often buried in the expectations, dreams and outcomes we pile onto it.
Run from your heart and you’ll find your way back.
Over her nearly 30-year running and wellness career, Elinor Fish has helped thousands of runners improve their technique and health through Mindful Running (explained in her interview with Active Junky on the art of Mindful Running), as well as through her writing, workshops and running retreats. Check out RunWildRetreats.com to learn more.