Overtraining: Why Do I Suddenly Hate Running?
We’ve all been there. We start our daily run and we’re instantly miserable. We wait for the endorphins to kick in, but every step is making us think about all of the enjoyable things we could be doing with our time instead. While we all pretend to love getting sweaty and jacking up our heart rates, there are times when we are overtraining, and running isn’t appealing as a result. Sometimes we fall into slumps that last only a few days, but there are times when they can drag on for months, or even years. So, what do you do when you can’t seem to get back into your workout groove? What do you do when you’re overtraining and just hate running?
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Running is a voluntary activity. There are zero reasons why you should be forcing yourself to follow a strict exercise routine, even if you are training for an event. There are times we get so caught up in our goals that we believe we should follow through on our training plans with the same loyalty as we do our flossing routines. But, guess what? Nothing bad will happen if you take a dance class instead of the track sprints you had planned or cut your workout time from 60 minutes to 20. Nothing. I promise.
You may be thinking that mental toughness is a key factor achieving your running goals. Well, I agree. I have been a long-time believer in the idea that running is sometimes more about mental pain tolerance than physical ability. But, it’s important to know when you’ve crossed the line from simply being a wimp to actually being really unhappy. Again, running is voluntary.
Aside from being unpleasant from a mental standpoint, emotional misery can be a sign of physical distress. In fact, if you’re struggling to mentally power through your normal running routine, it’s quite possible that your body started breaking down a long time ago and you are in the trenches of overtraining. It can be easy to ignore a knee that’s been aching for years or an IT band that just won’t loosen up, but it’s much harder to ignore a sudden disgust for a sport you love. Take note of any pain you may be feeling and whether your overtraining has made you dread your regular runs. If this is the case, take a cue from the next paragraph.
As the Science of Running points out, the way that we think about our workouts can determine whether we feel like we’re overtraining or not. Stopping your running routine for a bit can be a mental reset that allows you to regain perspective on your workouts and goals.
Take a Break from Running
We runners tend to be an obsessive and ambitious bunch. We like to exercise hard and fast, getting stronger and better every day. We also tend to fall in love with working out, getting carried away and wanting to be active as often as possible. If you’re suddenly feeling like you’d rather do anything other than run, go ahead and do anything other than run. When you feel like you hate running, there’s a reason for that. Your body will likely thank you for the break.
Running puts a lot of stress on your body. While your body humors you and usually does what it’s told when asked, it’s secretly wondering why you’re choosing to put it in pain when you aren’t being chased by a lion. Any training plan worth its salt will incorporate easy days and rest days into its weekly schedule. If you’re not using a training plan though, be conscious that you’re building rest periods into your routine yourself.
Sometimes this simply means throwing your alarm clock out of the window for a week and catching up on sleep. As Joel Friel notes, sleep is a crucial factor in recovery. No wonder you hate running when your body and mind are craving the pillow on those early morning runs.
Taking it a step further, you may need a few weeks to allow your body to fully recover and reset. Don’t worry about losing fitness. If you were overtraining, your body will likely improve given the time and rest needed to repair your muscles and build strength. This is a great time to refocus on your next goal. Once you’ve had some physical and mental distance from your running routine, you’ll be able to set your intentions for the future without the influence of fatigue.
Try Something Else
Let’s all say it together: “running is a voluntary activity.” Very good. You don’t have to choose between overtraining and a life as a sloth. There are countless ways to stay healthy and maintain your fitness. Sign up for a yoga class, join a rock climbing gym, or grab a surf board. Heck, buy a unicycle, skip a jump rope, or pull on a pair of roller skates. Think beyond your normal routine and consider activities you’ve always wanted to try. This can be a fun way to add variety to your running routine and dispel any misery that may be coming from monotony.
While also being fun, switching things up is essential to keeping your body in tip top shape. When we do the same exercises every single day, we place undue attention on one set of muscles and completely neglect another. For example, let’s say that your routine only consists of pushups and pullups. While your biceps will be strong, many other muscles will suffer. This can lead to injuries, fatigue, and imbalances in your stride and posture. Activities that encourage the use of muscles you don’t typically use during your regular exercise routine can be a great way to ensure overall health for your body.
From a mental standpoint, an increase in the variety of your workout will give you space from running. You may find that, over time, you no longer hate running and are ready to pick it back up again. Steve over at Nerd Fitness has a great post on what to do on a rest day. As he showcases, there’s no need to sit and stare at a wall just because you suddenly hate running and don’t want to lace up your shoes. Video games anyone?
Understand Your Reasons for Running
If you’ve read my post, 4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Just Exercise to Lose Weight, you know I believe that exercise is about more than a number on a scale. Exercise should be empowering, community building, adventurous, and downright fun. You shouldn’t hate
Ask yourself the reasons why you have running goals. Is it just so you can fit into a pair of pants, or is there something beyond that to inspire you to get out of bed every morning? If your reasons for running don’t inspire you, neither will your run. Take a look at your reasons for exercising and make sure they are things you care about. It doesn’t matter how cute those pants are; if they don’t inspire you to get out the door in the morning, they aren’t motivating enough.
While it sounds obvious, it’s important you have reasons in the first place. This is surprisingly easy to overlook, as we often mistake vague and stereotypical generalities for specific and individualized motivations. For example, we might say, “I want to be healthy.” While this is a great overarching theme, it’s not specific enough to inspire lifestyle change. What does healthy mean to you? What does it look like? Feel like? Even taste like? What will healthy allow you to do? Do you want to play baseball with your child without getting winded? Are you hoping to conquer a challenging hike in your town? Can you lower your cholesterol and knock the threat of diabetes? As you can see, “health” is not a reason that’s specific enough to motivate change. If you’re finding that your exercise routine is uninspiring and falling off the tracks, do some soul searching and reconnect with your why.
To read about my motivations for exercising, specifically running, check out this excerpt from my newest book, Better Running Goals.
Not Too Big, Not Too Small, But Just Right
Just like Goldilocks trying to find the perfect bowl of porridge, be sure that your running goals make sense for your current circumstances and desires. This can be tricky to figure out, as our lives can change quickly and require new sets of rules and guidelines. For example, running a marathon was a great goal when I was a student and had a summer vacation to accommodate training. Once my schedule was crowded with two full-time jobs, this made less sense. I needed to re-evaluate my running goals and make sure they were in collaboration with my schedule, desires, and current capacities.
If a running goal is too large, it can be overwhelming to take even the first step in pursuing it. This is why so many novels go unwritten, so many houses go unpainted, and so many businesses go uncreated. While all it takes to get started is one word, one brush stroke, and one click of a mouse, we only see the large and daunting end result and discount all of the small and manageable baby steps it takes to get there. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your exercise goals, break them into smaller pieces. No, you may not be able to climb Mt. Everest today, but you can go on a hike in a hilly part of town.
If you want further guidance on breaking down large goals into small and manageable pieces, check out Gary
On the flip side, it’s important that your running goals are challenging enough for you. If you have a goal to run 2 miles a day, but you can easily knock out 5, you won’t be inspired to get on the track to complete your miles. There’s a lot to be said for the feelings of confidence, pride, and achievement that come with achieving a goal. If you aren’t challenging yourself with your fitness, and aren’t emotionally invested as a result, it might be time to take your goals up a notch. Ask yourself if you hate running because you aren’t letting it challenge you.
If you suddenly find that you hate running, believe me, it will pass. While we may love to pursue our running goals with the determination of a fly on an apple pie, our brains and bodies need rest and variety. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back every once in a while to try something new and allow your body to heal from overtraining. Don’t worry; the starting line will still be waiting for you when you get back.