Ahh, August, when the heat and humidity reach levels normally not found outside of Swedish gym facilities, and runners long for the crisp days of Autumn. Chances are, if you are training in this heat, you probably aren’t enjoying it too much. Even if you’re not dealing with sweltering conditions, you doubtless will encounter times when you just aren’t feeling great, and find yourself slogging through a run with sluggish legs and a sour temperament.
What is a runner to do when a normally easy pace feels difficult and you struggle to find enjoyment again? Simple: slow down. Next time you are feeling lousy on a run, check in with your effort. Even though the pace might be “easy,” are you trying too hard to run that pace? Slow down until you physically have to try to run any slower, and let yourself plod along as if on cruise control. Let your legs and your body set the pace. 90% of the time, this will be enough to make you feel like your normal self again.
If you are still feeling cruddy, try injecting some short, fast strides into your run. Go 10-20 seconds at a quicker pace and give yourself about two minutes to recover before the next one. If you’re anything like me, the first few will be pretty slow, around tempo or maybe even marathon pace. But, you might find that by the fourth of fifth one, you can get down to 5K speed, or faster, and will probably be feeling smoother and more relaxed than you did before! Make sure again to listen to your body and don’t try to push yourself to go any faster than your legs want to go. Again, you will probably start out slow, but gradually pick up speed as you continue. I find these that these short strides are great for “waking” up the legs and enabling you to feel better on your run.
If you have done both of these and you still feel terrible, then consider it good mental training! Things don’t always go well during races, and if you are running as hard as you can, you will undoubtedly feel bad at some part during a race. So it’s good to feel bad during training too, because then it’s not uncharted territory when you start to feel awful two miles into a 5K or 18 miles into a marathon. If you’ve been through it before, it’s easier to endure knowing that you made it through OK in training. It may not be fun, but training, and racing, are not always glory and glamour. Once you accept that some of it sucks, you can accept it and hope to feel better the next day!