The Apathetic Runner: Are you stuck running in the ‘meh’ zone too long?

Runner apathy? I read an article about apathy as it applied to ‘normal’ life and as per usual there is a running parallel. It’s reportedly becoming more common that people are stuck in a sort of happiness limbo; they aren’t necessarily depressed but not happy either.
blue runner
Now, I’m the first person to say, Suck it up. Seriously, people are inventing diseases and disorders at this point!” So don’t get me wrong, the fact that this article was trying to tell me that apathy should be some new kind of quasi-psychiatric problem just above depression at first made me roll my eyes.

BUT I do think getting into a rut, as a runner, can happen and it’s important to dig yourself out to not only feel better running-wise but so you don’t lose the initial passion that drew you to the sport.

The problem with constantly feeling ‘meh’ is:

1) It sucks.
2) It’s boring.
3) It’s a small step to resenting the run.
4) A short jaunt to quitting…or at least runner slackdom.

Runner apathy is also a tricky one because runners have become conditioned to tune out a lot of signals from their body/brain. We have to in order to dull out the pain discomfort of hard workouts and races. So it’s quite easy for a runner to dig themselves into a little pit of ‘meh’ and not really realize it.

carpe the f***ing diem

How about ‘Carpe The F’ing Run’? ;)

What’s the Deal With a Runner Apathetic

I’ll be straight, there will always be days when you’re not feeling the run. Here is where some tough love comes in and I’ve written plenty on tips for motivation. But start stringing together weeks of needing to talk yourself up and that shouldn’t be the case.

Every time you need to talk/hype yourself up to go run it takes a degree of mental energy, even more mental energy to hype yourself up to do a hard workout, more for a race. A runner only has SO much of that mental energy, think of it like a full glass of water. You take a sip every hype-up session, but keep doing that too much and you wind up dry.

* Health: The first thing is to rule out any physical reasons why you’re feeling more tired, lethargic, or ‘off’. You’d be surprised how easily it is to start dreading your runs if you’re anemic and every step feels like an insurmountable amount of effort.

* Missed Break: Through the course of a racing season, or gearing towards your big goal race, all those hard workouts and ‘smaller’ races take it out a person mentally and physically. Even if it doesn’t ‘feel like’ you need a break or some time away, if you are competitively training for multiple months you’ll need some down time. Even professional runners take breaks, just as much to recharge physically as mentally…you can revisit my article on that HERE. If not, you can go into the next season feeling ‘meh’.

* Season Lull: If you’ve taken your break but still have a long pre-season build-up those early season runs and workouts can lead runners to feeling a little apathetic. I mean there isn’t the taste of a race coming up, so amping yourself up for a hard interval season may not be the easiest thing to do.

* Too Heady: I’ll blanket this to cover getting too wrapped up in the pace of EVERY single run. Stressing yourself out to the point where every workout you’re so focused on the splits that you start to dread it. Comparing yourself so much to what so-and-so is running, comparing to your ‘pre-injury’ self or workouts you used to do. All of this mental energy is SOO life-sucking.
blurry runner
Yo, so you’re apathetic?

Figure out what you’re deal is and then get to fixing it. Easier said than done sometimes, but certainly possible:

* Health stuff, go see a doctor and figure out what your next step is.
* Take your breaks, People. I’m the first offender for wanting to talk my way out of a break, but if you’re competing you NEED breaks between seasons. Even if you’re not necessarily on a racing team, breaks can help keep you excited about running. [By break I mean a 1-2 weeks off/low, two or three times a year...not like run a week, take a break...haha.]
* Long season? Start looking for low-key races to jump into just to keep the ‘taste’ of competition fresh. Some people NEED a specific race/event to motivate them, that’s okay, just find that motivation. Even if it’s a team time-trial.
* All runners have their head issues, so ditch the watch, take a Garmin hiatus if you have to, burn your old training logs so you stop comparing, run like a kid, whatever you need to. Remember it’s NOT worth letting a head trip ruin your love of running.

** Goals: Get refreshed and ink out some goals. Write them down and feel like you are working towards something, that each run DOES count.

Do I necessarily think there is an epidemic of apathetic runners on the loose? No…but I think we can all get stuck in a rut from time to time and feeling ‘meh’ isn’t so much fun.

So if this is you, go find your SPARK, because running is too much fun to feel only ‘meh’ or apathetic about.

1) Ever been in a running rut? How did you get your spark back?

2) How many ‘meh’ or apathetic runs in a row have to happen for you to start getting worried?

3) What do you do after your racing season? What does your break look like? How often do you take breaks?
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Fix Your Form, Drop Your Shoulder: The ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ runners should clean-up their form (ie: get faster)

“Drop your flipping shoulders!” is pretty much what I had to yell to myself as I was running for years. Add to that list, “Stand up tall,” “Right elbow, tuck in that right elbow, idiot!” Oh the beautiful language of a runner’s inner-monolague when trying to fix their form.

finish line face man running

Technically running with a relaxed face would be more efficient, but the homestretch go ahead and let your face look wonky!

Form is a tricky issue to deal with, mostly because however a runner naturally takes to the action is, well, natural. It’s without thought and it FEELS normal to them, no matter how wonky or biomechanically wrong it ends up being.

Fixing your form is also difficult because you can’t SEE yourself; you need an outsider to tell you 1) You’re doing this whole running thing wrong and then 2) To accurately tell you if what you’re doing to FIX your form is working. It goes without saying that you need to ensure that this outside person knows what they are talking about…lol.

I just wrote an article for “Fixing Your Form a Half Mile at a Time” which discusses the four biggest culprits for form flaws in runners and then how to begin fixing your own form. Read the article and I’ll add a bit more over here.

* Constant Thought: In the article I explain that as you start to correct your form you need to do it SLOWLY, but that for the time you do think about your form it needs to be constant. Ideally pick the last 1/2 mile of each run where you literally THINK of your form flaw correction the whole time. Chant whatever you need to in your head (“Drop your shoulders!”), watch your shadow, chant some more.

tired runner

She really just drove herself insane from chanting, “Drop your shoulders!” ;)

* Reteach Muscle Memory: The reason you need to be so diligent is that changing an ingrained habit, like form, is a process of reteaching your muscles and nerves how to fire. You are essentially changing what feels completely normal and natural to your body; to make it CHANGE to what is correct will feel unnatural, if you don’t keep tabs on yourself it will ‘naturally’ slip back to what feels ‘right’ (but it’s wrong…got it…hehe).

* Outside of Running Work: Lots of form issues need work done from two sources: 1) Running implementation, as is thinking about running biomechanically correct as you’re running, and 2) Drills, core, weights, stretching etc. Lots of form flaws stem from other weaknesses, so strength moves and ‘extras’ need to be supplemented. Example: A weak core causes runners to hunch over.

* CAREFUL…Watch for Compensation Injuries! The reason you need to be so gradual in fixing your form is that your body has been running the ‘wrong’ way for years. It is used to running that way, usually it is caused because of weaknesses elsewhere, and with weaknesses that means other muscles have had to adjust to pick up the slack. Bottom line is if you try changing too many things too fast you will wind up with over-compensation injuries because you’re body isn’t used to running correctly.

* Repetition, repetition, repetition: I’ll say it again…form work is constant and yes, a pain in the butt. BUT it is worth it in the end. Make sure you’ve got an informed coach/person/expert to watch you as you shift your form and have them continually check-in on your progress. It can also be helpful to have someone video you running every couple of weeks to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

* End Result = Worth It: “This sounds like a lot of work,” you think. Yea, to be honest it probably is…but read the article and I’ll explain why it’s worth it. Hey, running itself isn’t easy but the end reward is worth it, right? Here is some simple runner math for you: bad/sloppy form = inefficient = wasted energy = lost time. By contrast: better/improved form = more efficient = more energy can be spent running forward = faster times.

So, because I was thinking this on my run, “Tuck in your stupid right elbow already!” until I wanted to lop off said elbow, I will bid you adieu with some fitting parting words…

“Fix your form already.” ;)

1) By now we know running with better form will make us more efficient (read as: faster) but do you tend to avoid doing any kind of form work? Or are you doing form work, and what do you do?

2) How do you keep tabs on your form? (ie: look at shadow, ask others, see yourself on video/pictures, etc.)

3) What’s something you did that made the biggest difference in cleaning up your form?
Truthfully, a coach who would keep on me and help me. If you don’t have a coach, I’d suggest finding a fellow runner to REALLY stay on you; you can return the favor of course…sort of partners in stopping form atrocities.
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Runners Eat REAL Carbs: Don’t let me catch you ordering a burrito bowl

When a runner walks into Chipotle they da**-straight don’t order a burrito bowl!

burrito bowl
If a runner comes back from a long run and sits down at a burger joint, they aren’t going to be ordering up something that comes wrapped in lettuce…give them a carb-tastic bun for crying out loud!
burger for runners
A pizza is not served atop cucumbers, zucchini’s, mushrooms, or any other crust-wanna-be. As runners we are entitled to every kind of warm, doughy, delicious carb-loaded pizza crust in existence. The exception may be those crazies who prefer the thin crust…but you better get some doughy breadsticks too…sorry, I’m all about the soft stuff. ;)
pizza for runners
Runners work for it, so don’t deprive us.
More cartoonage HERE!

Burrito related reading and GI distress for runners HERE.

Reasonable nutritional advice and wordage for runners wanting to perform at their best HERE, HERE, and HERE.

1) Do you confess to ordering burrito bowls, bunless junk, or pizza crust knock-offs? ;) [side-note, leeway is offered to those gluten intolerant runners...but then again there are GI options available...hehe]

2) Thick and doughy crust or thin?

3) Favorite post-long run refuel? Double points if you swear you get it in within 30 minutes after finishing your run.
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Warning: Runners in mirror are stronger than they appear

Don’t mess with me, I’m a runner. Looks may be a bit deceiving, I’ve had people call me ‘hummingbird arms’ or ‘wishbone’ but I can pack a punch. Runners come in all shapes and sizes, a few of us (okay, probably more than a few) could be dubbed scrawny…but don’t ever confuse that with weak.
strong runner
I do my weights, core work like a good little harrier, am no stranger to the plyometrics. I’ll admit that it sometimes feels like I have to choke that stuff down because I’d rather gobble up more miles BUT I know all these ‘extras’ will make me a stronger runner. If you want to be fast, (or at least less slow…hehe) you’ve got to have a core that can keep you standing tall when you’re tired. You can’t have feeble little arms swirling around like a ribbon-dancer if you want to be efficient either.

Those arms can be slender but darn tooting they should be long, lean, and muscular. Okay, we may not ever bench the same amounts as those gym-goers with the permanent protein powder shaker bottles in hand, but that’s not our aim. Distance runners lift for higher reps and lower weight, duh. It’s all about the endurance.

Want to see us be a little more explosive? Then come to the track after a workout and we’ll show you our plyometric routine. Granted it may not be on par as the sprinters but for distance runner standards that’s some POP! You’ll see that same POP come the last lap of our 10k’s…all that explosive power translated into speed is something beautiful, I’ll tell you what! It’s even more beautiful to swing wide and pass that poor fool who neglected working on that power and speed.

Not all of the ways we build speed are so obvious, some of that power comes from the miles and miles run up hills. Hill repeats, yup, long runs on trails, you got it, tempo runs where the times are misleading due to incline…you bet!

But you want to know the BIGGEST reason you shouldn’t mess with a runner? The strongest assest of a distance runner is, in fact, their mind. I open myself up to hate from footballers, b-ballers, curlers (teehee)…but until you’ve done mile repeats until you swear you’re about to barf and then enter into the next rep, the day you run so long you’re not quite sure if you’re running so much as kicking your foot out in front of you and praying it catches, or you refuse to believe you’re beat so you DIG down for that extra gear.

Mental fortitude…that’s why you don’t want to mess with a runner. The rest, well, the rest is just enough for us to kick you @$$ with. ;)

1) Finish the sentence: Don’t mess with a runner because…

2) What is one way you’ve gained strength, speed, or power?

3) If you’ve played other sports, can you compare the different skills or mindsets necessary for them versus running. What has been the hardest sport or tested you the most?

4) Sometimes even runners have weaker mental days, it happens. So how do you rebound off of a ‘weak’ mental day, learn from it, and aim to not give up next time?
I always remember how crummy it feels when I know I’ve been a mental weenie.
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The GI Issue Cursed Runner: Tackling those great, poopy disasters

This runner has had burritos on the brain. That being said, tucking into a 5lb burrito bomb and taking off on a 5 mile tempo isn’t such a hot idea. Actually, going for any run after that may be iffy…
burrito pooping beans
I’m more than open in sharing my runner stories of GI distress, gut woes, and tales from the poopy trails. HERE is a previous post and with lots of tips to tackling your own GI issues. Though I happened upon an interesting interview with Dr. Barry Schlansky, specializing in gastroenterology and hepatology, over at FloTrack.

Go read the article yourself, but here are some settling, and not-so-settling things I took away from it:

* Blood Flow Bottom Line: The root of many GI issues is how the body is delegating blood flow through the body during and after exercise. When we’re running our butts off the body’s first priority is to send blood to the muscles in order to fuel our exertion. The intestines are the low-men on the totem pole here and when they are deprived of adequate blood flow there is a bit of damage being caused. Without the adequate oxygen from the blood flow the intestines start to stage their revolt.

* Post-Run Gut Revolt: Sometimes the worst pains and episodes happen AFTER a hard or long run…talk about being chained to the lou for the rest of the day. I’m sure many runners can relate to this feeling, and Dr. Schlansky states it as much, “Right, the longer or more intense the workout is, it will increase the symptoms during and after the workout.” In short it comes back to the intestines not having adequate oxygen/blood-flow WHILE we are working out; then, once we stop working out and blood begins to get shunted back to these organs it’s almost like opening a flood-gate and the intestines aren’t prepared to handle such a quick supply of blood/oxygen. So, they then stage their revolt. “The influx of oxygen to the vulnerable ischemic (damaged from earlier lack of blood supply) tissues can result in a chemical reaction called “oxidation,” which is thought to be the basis for additional injury to tissues after exercise has stopped.”
running after burrito
* Endurance and Effort: Not surprising is that over 80% of elite marathon runners complain of some GI issues; this is both the upward and the downward. Unfortunately Dr. Schlansky is blunt, “I wish I could tell you “why,” but to be honest, at this point the associations are unknown.” (unsettling) Most likely the fact that running puts our guts through quite a POUNDING has a strong link, and “Additionally, researchers have hypothesized that friction between the organs and the lining of the abdominal wall with pounding exercise may cause irritation that causes symptoms.” As for effort, I’m no doctor but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the fact that the harder we run, there’s got to be an extra level of ‘pounding/driving’ force shaking that sh*t up. ;)

* Females: This really stinks, Runnerchicks, but woman are more apt to GI issues than the runnerdudes. He’s not able to give us a reason, but it’s probably due to differing hormones.

* Eating and Food: Burrito bombs aren’t recommended (duh) and it’s wise to seek out ‘blander’ foods, not too high in fat, not too spicy, not too beany or cheesy, nix the dairy, and so forth. Learn your ‘tummy trigger foods’ and avoid them. Also, timing your last meal is just as important so you can revisit my post on that.

* Iron and Anemia: Any extra blood loss from diarrhea, especially if it’s on a continual basis, can lead to iron deficiency/anemia. “Yes, because it is also possible to lose small amounts of blood in the gastrointestinal tract that is invisible to the naked eye but can result in iron deficiency,” says Dr. Schlansky. If you’re having a lot of GI issues it’s important to keep tabs on your iron levels, I know that runners who later find out they have celiac disease and are gluten intolerant, that because of all of their GI problems they are then anemic.
runner eating
* Dehydration: Any kind of increased vomiting or diarrhea leads to fluid loss and dehydration, that’s why it’s so important to rehydrate yourself. (The issue there is if you’re running a marathon but aren’t able to take in any more fluids or gels…sadly, you’re kind of screwed at that point, that’s why it’s important to test out and try a bunch of different foods/supplements BEFORE your race to find one that works.) So with any kind of GI issue run make sure you’re extra mindful to replenish those fluid and electrolyte stores.

I’m a sucker for a good poop read, so you should read the full interview done by Danny Mackey. Who is actually a super cool guy in addition to being smart. He’s also married to one smoking fast runnerchick, Katie Mackey, so he gets extra cool points. ;)

1) What was your last GI disaster run? Can you link it back to one food in particular?

2) Do you have more GI issues going the up route or the down?
Down. I’ve never thrown-up actually during or after a run.

3) What foods have you learned are GI suicide for you? What is a ‘winning’ combo that’s worked?

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Runner’s Strip: Runner’s Math

Let me school you in a bit of my runner logic…
runner math
If math isn’t your forte, we’ll just blame it on an oxygen deprived brain. I mean, c’mon, all of that precious O2 is going to our muscles where it’s needed FAR more. So if our math isn’t quite adding up, we’ll just blame it on runner logic and oxygen debt.

But regardless, if you want to finagle with my numericals there go for it…but I will argue with you to the DEATH that consuming 70 Pop-Tarts isn’t fully warranted. I’m a runner…I burn it off. ;)
Well, even if that engine is burning red hot there’s much to be said for still eating with performance in mind…read my much less Pop-Tarts tongue-in-cheek posts HERE and HERE.

Here’s my post on timing your fuel pre-race and then post-run.

More Runner’s Strip Comics.

1) Give me your own running math equation!

2) Do you embrace the ‘lazy runner’ logic…as in you EARN the right to sloth around after a run?

3) Finish this sentence: A PR is worth more than…
Check out my own little schpiel on PR’s. :)

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The Complimented Runner: Why numbers will always trump words

What’s the ultimate compliment for a runner?
Good form.
Stellar kick.
Awesome smile atop that podium.

I guess that works too! ;)

I guess that works too! ;)

A little old lady remarked to me as I set off on my run this morning, “You look cold.”
“I’ll warm up fast,”
I replied.
“You look cute though!” she then yelled at my back.
I thought to myself, “Okay, well, thanks, I guess?? But really, wouldn’t any runner rather hear: ‘You look fast’?”

Admittedly I know I didn’t look fast today, so maybe she was just scraping the bottom of the barrel in regards to compliments and could only come up with ‘cute’.

The thing is, sure, aesthetics are nice and all that jazz but there really is nothing better than the compliments that come from the watch, you know?

Well HELLO there, Mr. PR! DAAANG, I like what you’re spitting out, keep more of those kind words numbers coming!!

How about chugging through an endless set of intervals, each one faster than the next, sure the countdown to the last one started three prior, rounding the bend of that homestretch you’re swearing on your life that THIS is going to be the last one no matter what…and then you finish, look down and BAM yet another negative split!! Booyaah, that recovery jog, the lactic acid cripple shuffle, goes by way too fast but with that validation compliment from the watch you’re taking off with as much gusto that is humanly possible for yet another interval.

runner on track

ACK…another interval! Well, you knew you were going to do it, regardless of what you promised during that last repeat.

Words are nice. Words are great. I’m a writer so I’ll even go so far as to say words are fan-freaking-tastic. But you want to know something?

Numbers, namely the RIGHT kind of numbers, to a runner are way freaking better.

There is no validation compliment like a PR.

1) What’s been one of the best compliments, in terms of being a runner, that you’ve had yelled at you?

2) What’s the oddest thing someone has yelled at you?
I once had, “You look like a praying mantis” shouted at me from a car.

3) Why can numbers speak more volume than words sometimes?
They quantify. Runners are all about those digits…distances, times, miles, are all concrete. Words can be ambiguous and iffy, not numbers.
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Runner’s Strip: Dog Park

I’ve passed plenty of dogs while out running and whenever I see one of the HUGE ones, the kind that probably weigh more than a few runnerchicks I know, I can’t help but imagine riding that furry beast like a horse. Let’s be honest, the temptation is particularly strong late-tempo run and you’re already entertaining thoughts of chucking yourself off of a cliff because it would probably be less painful. ;)
running with dogs
We don’t ride dogs, of course, because that would be cheating. But it’s always fun to dream, right??

1) Are you a dog person? Do you run with your dogs?
I could end up getting some hate mail, but when I’m out running I get a little annoyed with the OWNERS who don’t know how to control their dogs. I’m sorry, I love dogs, but I don’t want one chasing me, frothing at the mouth. I also don’t like almost tripping over leashes when owner-pet is hogging entire pathway. That said, I’m currently looking to get a pup so I’m a dog person in ‘normal life’. :P

2) What’s the biggest dog you’ve seen, do you own one the size of a small horse?
Tips for battling the pain of workouts and racing: HERE HERE and HERE

More of my Runner’s Strip Comic Strip

3) What have been some random thoughts when you’re tired during a workout and, let’s be honest, you play the “I bet — would be less painful than this workout/race” ?

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A Runner’s Selective Amnesia: Push out memories of the crappy runs to keep room for the epic ones

Runners need to live in a constant state of selective amnesia. Namely, we need to push from our minds the runs that feel like we are dragging lead bricks behind us or the times when our legs decide to pretend they’ve never run a decent split on the track ever before.

keep running

We keep running EVEN through those crummy runs.

We push from our minds the miles that are more painful than they should be and let the recollections of these dark workouts and dismal races slip into the darkest of chasms within our grey matter. We do this so that we have the fortitude to lace up and go out for that next run. Selective amnesia, you see, is quite a prolific coping mechanism for a runner.

The memories and moments that we cherish are the workouts that click, when we feel totally in sync with our stride. We are running controlled, relaxed, smooth, and ON. We savor the days where we come back from a long run with a new ‘personal distance record’, ironically we will even remember the moments BEFORE that long run where we wonder if we’ll be able to do it. We let consciousness retain those dark, slivers of doubt because in the end we proved those doubts WRONG. We now have more proof that the whimpers and whispers of doubts are fallacies and lies, we CAN do much more than our brain wants us to believe.

runner from behind

Let the bad runs fade into the background and look forward to the better ones.

Runners, we will even keep aroundall those mundane and ‘normal’ miles run because they are constants. They may not be all that thrilling or exciting, but they are the bulk of our running history and we can’t thrive on just the epic highlights. These regular runs also define us in that without these recollections we’d really only be runners a handful of times in our lives…I mean those EPIC runs only come far and few between. We continue to run in the quest of them, but we don’t stop because we don’t hit a certain quote.

Keep on living in that realm of being able to decide that once a certain heinous run is done, that it never existed. Do that so you are brave enough to shower and then run again. Those really bad runs test us and help toughen us up, we NEED them in fact. But rather than letting the craptastical runs DEFINE us, we are entitled to let them slip away into oblivion.

Selective Amnesia.

1) Have you had times where you felt ‘off’ and like your run was much harder than it should be? Did you pretend that once some of those bad runs were done, that they didn’t really happen, OR, that they didn’t suck as much as they did so that you were ‘brave’ enough to get out there and run again tomorrow?

2) How do you cope with bad races? Do you try to learn something from them and then give yourself permission to ‘forget’ them?

3) What is one run you will NEVER let selective amnesia do away with?
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Hey, Lance, you just got chicked!

Running is hard. “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” It’s hard for everyone and competing is even harder. So, I have absolutely no respect for cheaters. There, I said it, I stand by that.
lance armstrong getting passed
Now that Lance Armstrong wants to go around running and cycling clean, I dare say there are plenty of awesome runnerchicks out there ready to chick him! ;)

No need to focus on any more negatives, keep getting ‘er done, runners. Running is hard. It is hard as heck, but it rewards the hard-workers too.

1) Finish this sentence: Running is…

2) What is one way you motivate yourself to get out there when your brain is thinking, “Ugh, running is hard and not all that appealing at the moment.”
Remember that this little thing called runner guilt will wreck havoc on me until I do, indeed, get my run in.
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