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

  1. I usually on take breaks when they are forced (injury). I don’t really have seasons anymore (I haven’t competed in a long time!).
    I can’t think of a time when I have really ever felt apathetic about running – maybe when I ran on scholarship in college – I lost a lot of the joy of running when I was doing it for someone else!

  2. Great points! I’ve definitely been in a rut – who hasn’t?! Finding new things keeps me going – right now it’s trying to master my 10k program, and then, then hopefully I can find new ways to get stuck into marathon training.

    Missed you!

  3. Running in the winter takes a lot of mental energy, but I usually am able to brave the elements for bragging rights =) … The meh feeling is the worst!

  4. I’m new to running. 3 months in. The thing that has made it stick for me is the mental part. I really love figuring out how to be better at it. Maybe it’s because I’m still learning a lot, but I like having to put the mental energy in as well as the physical. It keeps things interesting. However I do worry about it gettinh to be ‘meh’, so I guess I’m just trying to stay a step ahead of that.

    • YAY for sticking with the *best* sport ever! 🙂 hehe. keep it up and u’ll be learning so much about urself and ur body through the mental aspect, it’s amazing how much running parallels other areas of life. 🙂

  5. I’m new to running. 3 months in. The thing that has made it stick for me is the mental part. I really love figuring out how to be better at it. Maybe it’s because I’m still learning a lot, but I like having to put the mental energy in as well as the physical. It keeps things interesting. However I do worry about it gettinh to be ‘meh’, so I guess I’m just trying to stay a step ahead of that. Good article!

  6. A great post!

    I’ve definitely been in a running rut – ones as long as a month or longer! The way I’ve broken out of it is to take a BREAK – a completely and good week or two off.
    Other times, I’ve found that just running through it can help – a couple miles here and there, and soon enough, the craving to really run comes back!

  7. For me, a rut usually means I’m putting too much pressure on myself, and so dreading the workouts – and especially the races. Best way for me to fight this is to run a race for fun – better if it’s as support for a friend, or a relay, or something where I really, absolutely, cannot-no-matter-what worry about time.

    This reminds me that running is fun, and forces me to take a spoonful of humility, in chalking up a slow(er than usual/I prefer) race time. Somehow, once that tension is gone, I return to running/training/racing feeling renewed.

  8. I get out of ruts by changing things up. Sometimes I’ll go months without running because I need to not run. At this point in my life, I’ve figured out that running isn’t the be all and end all. Life actually CAN be richer if you get off the fucking merry-go-round once in a while!

  9. That’s also why major sports take seasonal breaks. It’s important to just chill for a minute and not do the same repetitive actions that we do daily. As long as you get back to it taking a break is GREAT.

  10. I’m running my first marathon this weekend, and I’m super excited to take a small break from running afterwards. I was forced to take a break a few weeks ago because I was sick, but training for such a long period of time has definitely got me feeling ‘meh’ about running. I’m sure I’ll get more excited about the sport once I know I don’t HAVE to run for any specific reason (like a race).

    • GOOD LUCK!! but yes, even if u don’t want to take a break after ur marathon you need it! far too many people just skip out on breaks after their marathon.

  11. A change of scenery seems to help bring me out of a rut. I have been struggling lately to run for more than 3 miles on the treadmill but being in Florida and running along the water, I have no problem running 7 miles at a time. I have a lot more confidence going into a half marathon in March. I was getting worried!!

    • ya, the treadmill can be more of a mental burden sometimes than the actual physical. sometimes u just gotta get outside and prove to urself u CAN run the distance. 🙂

  12. I definitely tend to find it harder to get out the door when it’s freezing and there is snow everywhere (like this morning!) But I think that’s just the way it goes. Signing up for a half marathon in April gets me inspired. Great post!

  13. I find running in beautiful areas really helps when I’m not feeling the running love. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but it makes a big difference if you can run amongst trees or near water rather than on concrete paths or roads.

  14. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog. I began running intensly in high school almost a year ago and recently I’ve gotten so caught up in the pressure/intensity that it has taken an unnecassary toll on me. I absolutlely love running. While some of my teammates dread having to run on trails, up hills, I find those to be some of my favorite things. But after going through very tough track workouts at least 3 times a week I found myself almost dreading it, and feeling the “meh” you’re talking about. I also began not performing as well in races as some of the people I train with. I began to get scared that I was loosing my love for running. But when I would go out for my 8 mile Saturday runs I was assured running is still something I love. Knowing that it’s not running that I don’t like, but the pressure/anxiety I feel from it, I try so hard to eliminate the anxiety. My coaches, parents, friends, really didn’t understand or know what to say. But it’s almost like you wrote some of these articles for me. Now that I know how to take the steps to eliminate the anxiety that running can sometimes cause, I can 100% enjoy every part of running again.

    • awww, kate, i’m so happy that this helped u! yes, try these tips and let me know how it goes!! the biggest thing i want to assure u is that if you DO make sure to keep that stress in check u can NEVER lose the love of running. so just find that way to destress. 🙂

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