It's 6:23 a.m. The alarm's already gone off, you're out of the confines of your bed, and ready to hit the pavement running chasing the sunrise. Despite looking forward to striding along streaking light beams, you feel off. Tired. No more than 400 meters in, you realize that this just isn't your day. A crappy run. A run that makes you angry you schlepped out of bed and laced up in the first place. You want to be home. You want it to be over. You want to pretend it never happened.
Sound familiar? Hey, you're not alone. While you may think that a bad run is just in your mind, turns out that there are loads of reasons for feeling subpar. We caught up with S10 Training and Nike+ Run Club Coach Joe Holder to help us shed some light on the situation. According to Holder, there are three major reasons why that run feels like the pits:
You're not recovered: Exercise, no matter if you're lifting weights or tackling a 6-miler, can make your muscles sore. That soreness is a result of the hard work you're putting in, generally a biproduct of the small tears in the muscle surrounding connective tissue. Not to worry: They're normal, but they also require rest.
"A lot of the adaptations and improvement come in recovery, which a lot of people don't take seriously enough," says Holder. "They think the workout as just a vignette and they try to close it off, not realizing how the other hours of the day impact the recovery process."
Do yourself a favor and think bigger picture. The best-case scenario? Studies suggest giving your muscles an average of 48 hours in between workouts of the same muscle group to prevent injury. During that time, think of alternative ways to aid in recovery. Fuel properly with these better protein sources, and don't be afraid to make friends with a foam roller (trust us, it won't bite).
You're not warmed up: "A lot of people don't take into consideration the need to warm-up," says Holder. "You need a lot of, especially for running, proper nervous system activation, get your body and brain ready to run. If you just go out and run—you'll get into a bit of a funk."
So, what's a proper warm-up include? Aim to use a string of movements that wake up the posterior chain, including knee hugs, quad pulls, leg scoops, glute kickback and table tops.
You're only running: Sure, running may be your second love (behind cookies, we're sure), but that doesn't mean your body doesn't crave an alternative form of fitness.
"If you just constantly work the same thing, not only will your improvements diminish, but you won't get recovery as well," says Holder—who stresses the importance of working all of your energy systems (lactic anaerobic, alactic anaerobic, aerobic). "If you just constantly do base aerobic runs, your body has adapted officially. It's time to incorporate that speed, whether you realize it or not, you'll be working a different energy system. You'll see a better improvement, including your aerobic efficiency improve too as you incorporate speed into your workouts."
So what's a runner to do? Do not force it. It's super critical for you to understand that some days aren't going to be your best days, and that's just fine. (Get this: running just 5 minutes a day can better your life expectancy.)
"Realize it for what it is and shift your perspective," says Holder. "Say you're out there already and you're in a funk, treat it as a recovery run, treat it as a form run, treat it as something where you're getting some work out of it. Often times if you push through when you're not really feeling it, it can be detrimental. [Remember] you're getting some activity done, that's better than none. Let it happen, treat it for what it is."