Posted by Filed Under: Running is Funny

quick sandThere is plenty of advice here, and on other websites, about how to improve your running. But what do you do on those days when nothing seems to work?

You know what I mean. Your intervals are slow. Your strides are uneven. Your mood stinks and you’re completely gassed about halfway through your 12-miler. You’re out there on the road, already flipping through your mental file for the proper adjectives to use to describe this travesty later in your log or on your blog.

I’m a big believer in getting something positive – anything – out of every training run. So when I find myself at the end of my tether and recognize I’m in the middle of a session I’m going to want to immediately forget afterwards, I make the decision to shift into low gear and enter plodding mode.

Of course, sometimes your body utilizes its automatic transmission and shifts into plodding mode all by itself. What I’m suggesting is to decide not to fight it.

You’re having a lousy run, maybe for reasons entirely out of your control. Don’t you think this could happen on race day? So don’t freak out about it. Train for it.

Slow down to what feels like a crawl. Take tiny steps. Shuffle, if necessary. Take the pressure off yourself. “Today’s training goal is out the window. Let’s see if I can just keep moving.”

Pretend you’re out with a slower friend and you’re simply keeping him or her company. Look at the scenery. Have some extra fluid or Gu. Breathe deeply.

The effect is partly psychological but has physiological benefits as well. If you stop being angry with yourself, if you slow down significantly and tend to your body’s needs, your heart rate will level off and you’ll automatically feel better. Some days that’s enough. But I find it works so well that I often end up exiting plodding mode and going back to a steady running pace to finish up strong.

In a race, it’s an emergency procedure, but if you have practiced it you’ll feel more confident in the outcome. It’s not the sort of thing that will produce a PR, but on a bad day it may help you to a respectable time instead of a DNF.

It’s important to note that you should not continue to plod if you’re injured. Be sensible. If your run is going south because of the stabbing pain in your ankle, an additional slow four miles is not the best treatment.

Some people might call these junk miles. Junk is in the eye of the beholder. Excellent runners think all my miles are junk. But one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and the best way to overcome your fear of disaster during your target race is to prepare for it.

About Mike Antonucci

I ran 6-minute miles when I was in the military, then tapered for 20 years. Two-time marathoner (3:43 PR), my next goal is to stay healthy enough to run another. There are literally thousands of people handing out running advice and serious tips. I prefer to focus on the humorous or odd facets of our shared obsession. Let's face it, running is funny.

  1. Chuck on June 27th at 2:28 pm

    I totally agree. I went out this morning with great expectations for a spectacular run. 20 minutes in and I lost all motivation. I stressed, fretted, and wondered what to do. So, I walked a bit, turned around and jogged back to the car. On the way back, I watched 2 squirrels playing, then saw a chickadee fly to her nest.

    So, I had a shorter & slower run than expected, but it ended up a good run.

  2. Kel on January 15th at 8:33 am

    I couldn’t agree with this more. On my most lousy days I think to myself “it may’ve been a crappy 2 miles but it’s 2 more miles than lots of others ran today.”

    My friend and I have a quote that plays on “run like the wind.” We say “run like the turtle.” After all, the turtle keeps going…even if it is just plodding along 🙂