12 Ways to Get Out of a Running Rut

Stuck in a running rut? A run with a friend can help.

I’m in a running rut. I had a great year and finished six half marathons, but I seem to have lost my love of running. Do you have any tips on how to get out of a running rut? — Sande

Although we tend to think of a rut in the negative sense, it’s actually a positive – it can be the force that moves you on to new and motivating places. A rut can encourage you to try new things and mix up your routine.

The key is to step outside of your rut to look for ways to continue to challenge yourself. Here are 12 ways to get unstuck and move into another motivating, successful running season.

Socialise. Research has shown that social exercise not only inspires you to run longer, you’ll also push harder within a group environment. If you’ve been a lone wolf, consider heading to your local running shop, gym, or running club meet-up.

Go shorter and faster. For some runners, going the same distance over and over is an accomplishment, but it can feel like a scene out of Groundhog Day after a while. As you’re setting your goals for the New Year, include a variety of race distances. Challenge yourself to run faster in shorter races and plug in longer races later in the season. It will help you focus on speed without the drain of longer runs and spice up your half-marathon training, too.

Build strength. Runners like to focus on distance, but adding total-body strengthening can drastically improve your form and efficiency and spike an interest in a new kind of workout. For best results, weave a total-body strength routine into your active life at least twice per week. Whether you’re taking a class at a gym, streaming a workout, following a DVD, regular strength training will change your running life.

Reverse course. It’s amazing how different your normal running route looks when you run it the opposite direction. It’s a small change that can bring new energy to an old route.

Take your runs off the beaten path. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven after I ran my first trail race. What I lack in speed, I make up in strength and grit. Trail running can shine a light on talents you never knew you had.

Run locally. I’ve run races all over the world, and this year I’m setting my sights on a trail race in my region. I can easily train on these trails with my friends, the planning is effortless, and the thought of running a smaller race this year brings me great joy.

Schedule a runcation. If you normally run in your neck of the woods, consider scheduling a race in a new destination and combine your vacation with a running race.

Keep it simple. Take yourself off the wheel of training for races and simply run for fun. Look at your life schedule every Sunday, then set a weekly mileage goal that’s realistic for maintaining fitness. For most of us, this includes three or four runs, one or two cross-training days, and a rest day. Blend in a variety of workouts, including high-intensity intervals, fartlek runs, hills, tempo runs, and easy runs. Do at least one longish (60 to 70 minutes) run per week.

Unwind, learn, and connect at a runners’ retreat. Register for a running retreat and learn from the pros, connect with like-minded runners, and refresh your training plan. A little education can go a long way in creating new and effective strategies for training.

Take the “less is more” approach. Sometimes a runner can gain the most by running the least. Try running once or twice a week and filling the other days with another activity you enjoy, whether that’s cycling, swimming, or go-go dancing. Mixing running with play is an effective way to take an active break from running and relax into where you want to go from there.

Go old-school. Back in the day, there were two racing seasons for half and full marathons: the spring and the fall. Try training the old-school way: with a full 12 to 14 week half-marathon phase (or an 18 to 22 week marathon phase), three to four weeks of recovery, and an off-season. There will be less bling at the end of the year, but you may earn a PB or two along the way.

Wait for it. Sometimes a rut happens from registering for races before you think about whether you actually want to train for them. Plan a four- to six-week long ban on race registrations, and take the time to organically find a goal that interests you for longer than a few minutes.

Remember, ruts aren’t the end of something. They are the beginning of an adventure. When you take the time to remedy your rut, you also begin to understand how to avoid the same problems in the future.

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