Running Aground

What to do when you've lost the will to run

Running is wonderful. It's great exercise, it's uplifting, it's cheap (unless you're addicted to buying kit) – and you can do it at just about any time of day, anywhere, without setting up any equipment, or persuading ten other people to join in.

Why then, does it sometimes feel like it's the hardest thing in the world to escape the gravitational pull of your own rear end?

There are many reasons why we don't always feel up for it. It's commonplace to blame the weather (too hot, too cold, too windy, the sky is a funny colour, that rainbow is looking at you, etc). You might feel too tired, too busy, or too full of dinner to contemplate bouncing up and down for half an hour. Or maybe you just can't put your finger on a reason. Maybe you'll come up with any reason not to go.

Occasionally it just feels like you've run aground. But (if you'll allow me to enjoy the metaphor for just a little longer) we're all in the same boat. I asked the Fetch community to come up with some suggestions – and you produced your usual crowd-sourced sage advice. Here are the best ones:

Start Small
It's important to accept where you are with your training. You might have been through golden periods when you were ripping up the miles and tearing up your times. But if that's not where you are right now, try concentrating on some more achievable targets. Try to beat your season's best, rather than your all-time best. Concentrate on running three times a week, rather than five times. Walk before you can run, if you have to. The rest will come.

Strip Off
Choose to take this literally, and you're likely to have to run VERY fast to avoid getting arrested. If you run with a GPS, or tooled up with more technology than your local Dixons, try leaving it all behind, and reconnecting with the real world. Those little bleeping things on your wrist can be very helpful, but when you're struggling for form they can be more demanding than a hungry Tamagotchi, and distract you from what really matters.

Zip Up Your Mansuit
Also known as "HTFU", and can be used interchangeably with any number of other insults designed to question your strength of character, masculinity, femininity, parentage, life choices, personal hygiene, and so on. Take away the barbs, and they are all saying the same thing – "show us what you're made of" – and we can all do that, no matter who we are. For some people, this can be the spark that ignites the blue touch paper, but for others it's just upsetting and counter-productive. So's your face.

Run With Company
Sometimes all it takes is the feeling that you'll be letting someone else down if you don't get out and run. You could try joining your local club or running group, training up a family member, or making a pact with some people online. If you do this last one, be sure to read the small print, or you might find yourself holding a handful of cyanide capsules, surrounded by armed FBI agents, whilst a guy you know only as 'Brother Clive' legs it out of the back door with the subs money.

Enter a Race
There's nothing like the whooshing sound of a fast-approaching deadline. If you don't fancy getting out for a run, get online and book yourself up for a race in a few months time. Even if that doesn't leave you wanting to get straight out for a practice, it's amazing how quickly time flies and the pressure builds.

I often find that if I don't get up in the morning and get into my running gear, the time just slips away, and the day is done. Sound familiar? Let's workshop this! Sit down on a Sunday evening, and look at the week ahead. Plan what you'd like to do, work out what might get in the way, and write down very specific times when you'll attend these mission-critical appointments with Mr Garmin and the dap twins.

If the idea of slogging your guts out at a race isn't appealing, stick your name down to volunteer at your local race or parkrun. It's a lovely thing to do, and without it we'd have very few opportunities to participate in organized runs and races. Surround yourself with determined faces, stretch fabrics, and the smell of embrocation, and you might find that you get infected with the urge to do the same.

Log and Blog
It's easy to lose track of how far you've come, and easy to forget the euphoria that follows a great run or race. Take a look back through your training log to see just how many miles you were doing at the time. In your desire to improve, you might have pushed yourself a little too far this time, and so a rest might do you good. And blog about your running – even if you keep it completely private - there's nothing like looking back on your own account of a great day to remind you how wonderful it felt.

Remember the Fallen
At any one time, there are dozens of Fetch runners on the injury bench, and they'd all bite your hand off for the chance to go for a run. Make sure your tetanus shots are up to date, keep training, and don't let them catch you. The urge to run is never stronger than when you're injured, but if you're fit and well, kindle that flame. Make sure you don't overdo it, or you'll be back on that bench with the others.

Let's Off Road!
Most days, I like the monotony of a nice long stretch of tarmac. It helps me find a rhythm, and I don't have to think about where each foot is going. But sometimes it's nice to break the routine, and run on footpaths and through fields. It's harder work than road running, but it can open your eyes to a new world, it's great for leg strength, and at the very least, it'll make the tarmac feel a lot easier again.

Play Games
If the miles seem like drudgery, try spicing them up with a bit of fun. There are a couple of map-based games on Fetch - Conquercise is about exploring the world around you, and FetchPoint is about planning a specific route to score the most points. If that doesn't tickle all your boxes, invent your own games, like "face-pull-athon" or "ministry of silly runs".

Something Completely Different
Although it's fantastic exercise, being fit and healthy doesn't have to involve running. Go for a bike ride, sign up for one of those classes where everyone knows the moves apart from you (and tough it out until you've mastered them), or challenge the kids to an energetic belching competition. You might find an activity that you love, and running could be the springboard to becoming better at it.

Pace Someone
What might feel like a trudge to you could well be someone else's PB pace. If you're having second thoughts about how well-prepared you are for a race, and considering pulling out, why not see if you can help someone further down the field to get the time that they want. You might learn a thing or two about perseverance in the process.

Reward Yourself
If the motivation of being fit and healthy isn't enough, stop and have a think about what really rings your bell. Whether it's extra cake, or giving yourself an end-of-month bonus that's index-linked to your training mileage – it's amazing what a bit of incentive can do. Works well if you've got a training partner to trade with!

Don't Worry
We all go through our ups and downs, and sometimes, running just doesn't fit in with how you feel. Don't let it stress you out – running will be waiting for you just outside your front door, whenever you're ready. Government recommendations suggest that adults should do 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise very week – and only 39% of men and 29% of women in the UK manage this – so bear this in mind the next time you're giving yourself a hard time about not running.

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Leave a comment...

  • This just might be the most important article you've ever written. *hugs Fetch*
  • Concur - too many people need to shut the f*** up take some painkillers and run.
  • lol at Argie!
  • Not sure about this one Fetch solid but not your best piece of work.

  • Enter a XC race - this helps make normal road running seem much easier. Before you know it you are back on the tarmac regularly.
  • with lethargy as my daily companion this article made me smile despite havng to wait for all clear to lace up :( and i love the ship :)
  • Top stuf as ever Fetch. Thanks! :-)G
  • Excellent! I'm happy to share this.
  • You rock Mr Fetch.
  • I agree that this is your best ever sir.......Thank you
  • You forgot the bit about some of us needing to run to burn off the calories coz we eat too much! :-)
  • Yep. I'm just where I am right now and if I keep running it's the base for my next golden period :)
    I did think for a split second we were micro-managing the clap twins :-o
  • Excellent thoughts. Thank you :)
  • I like this a lot.Thank you
  • Thank you ... must run ... when fixed properly this time!
  • A very apposite article as I've run a total of 4 miles since running a marathon back in May... I have to stop making excuses why I can't or don't want to run and just do it. For me I am going to start concentrating on how awesome it felt when I did run rather than focussing on the short term discomfort I am wallowing in just now.
  • Bang on again
  • Reassuring to know I'm doing the right things to get back afloat.
  • Bu#er! No excuse is plausible now. :-)
  • All of the above
  • I'm currently either trying something new or running a new road/path EVERY time I run - helping avoid feeling stale. Oh and NEW KIT always helps :)
  • Just get myself out of the door and tell myself it'll just be a mile round the block. Soon as I'm going though, I never just do the mile.
  • Great combo of funny and inspiring. Your face.
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