Turning a Craptastic Run or Race Around: It’s possible, here’s one trick!

Today’s run started out like crap. You know the feeling, your legs are wobbling around herky-jerky style and in your mind you feel like a fish out of water. You think, “Good gracious, it’s like these things have never run a step in their lives before!”

Oh the ‘beautiful’ first mile of the not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be runner. It’s almost like you can hear the creaks and pops while the body is cracking off the rust, akin to the running Tin Man. ;)
blurry runner
But you warm us runners up and thanks to the TRUE beauty of muscle memory the fish fins transform back into your actual running legs. Then though, there are just those days. The legs warm up but they still feel like a load of junk, much heavier than they ought to feel.

It happens, all part of the game, and on days like that you just put in the effort. Remember that ‘meh’ runs happen to even the best runners in the world, then look forward to the next run.

HERE is where things get interesting and we can pull a little actual science into this running businesses. Because there ARE ways to turn a heinously ‘meh’, craptastic run around…now not always, yes, craptastic runs will always exist, but if that first mile is particularly heinous don’t lose all hope yet!

animals to run
Super Science Stuff…but not in sciencey lingo

* Two Energy Systems: Distance runners work primarily off of their endurance, cardiovascular system, for the majority of their miles. Easy runs, warming up, cooling-down, even longer distance intervals and races. You get the gist, we’re not out there putting in 100 meter repeats and taxing that anaerobic system.
* Gear Shift: Sometimes us distance runners get ‘stuck’ in a certain pace; get conditioned to that ‘easy’ run pace too much and you can wind up in a rut. When this happens that ‘easy’ pace doesn’t feel as ‘easy’ as it should. Now it sounds counterintuitive but to bust OUT of that rut, sometimes all you need to do is toss in a change of pace.
* Bust the Funk: If you’re thinking, “Running easy feels hard, no way in heck running faster is even possible at this point!”…bear with me. Toss in some strides, a few relaxed surges, then settle back into your easy pace. The gear-shift will have tapped into that other energy system for a bit and two things will happen:
1) The shift caused your muscles to work in a different way, giving a little ‘break’ to the endurance-heavy system. Little breaks feel good, right, those muscles will appreciate letting the other energy system do a little work.
2) Settling BACK into easy pace will feel, well, easier. This is thanks to switching gears but also that easy pace really IS relatively easier than the faster surges.

KA-BAM!! Better run!

It’s funny that sometimes the answer to turning a really craptastic run around is to just play around with the pace, but it’s true. I did the exact thing on my run today and ended up NOT feeling like a fish stuck on the shore. Flip. Flop.

Give it a shot. There are also TWO very important times to remember that a change of pace can leave you feeling like you’ve got much fresher, faster legs:

1) Warming up before a race: Legs can feel like crap during the slow warm-up, bust off some of that sluggishness with strides, and miraculously you’ll feel bouncy after the gun goes off.
2) The Beginning of a Race: Sometimes the beginning of a race can still feel harder than it should, but DON’T give up right away, or use that as an excuse to not put in the effort. Try the same change of pace trick and bust out of the funk.

Keep on running, Runners, hopefully less craptastically! ;)

1) Have you ever tried surges or strides mid-run to bust out of a rut?
2) Have you ever had a race where the beginning you thought you’d run horribly but your legs starting feeling better later on?
3) What is one trick you use to get through craptastic runs when they happen?

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10 thoughts on “Turning a Craptastic Run or Race Around: It’s possible, here’s one trick!

  1. I’ve never tried picking up the pace for a short surge during a rin where my easy pace was feeling tough. Probably because it seems counterintuitive like you said. But I definitely plan to give it a try the next time I feel stuck in a rut during a crappy run!

  2. I love your toons! Despite the fact my phone closes your page every time I’ve tried to leave a comment (stupid app!!) But that’s ok cause I’m sitting at a real computer now and I can actually “leave” some love!!!!!

    I completely agree with what you said and I think the last 5km I went into I was “slugglish” and struggled to find my groove and if I had included some strides and higher pace stuff in my warm up I am confident I could have found a happier place earlier on!

    No matter how ugly it gets or bad it feels there has to be HOPE that a second wind or better feeling is just around the corner… well that’s what I tell myself anyway ;)

    • oh dang, i’m soooo sorry that your dang phone has been eating your comments! been there, sooo frustrating, and i REALLY thank you for coming back and making sure to leave a comment. :)
      haha…i totally tell myself that second wind is around the corner, hey, even if it only comes one step before i’m done, it’s that HOPE that always keeps us going, right? ;)

  3. Warming up is so important to my legs actually feeling like they are going to work! I learnt that one from you Miss Cait :)
    I have learned that I need to accept that some mornings the whole run is going to suck – but I remind myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that I can survive the next hour or so of discomfort because I love what running overall brings me. Tomorrow will always be better :)

    • being uncomfy being umcomfy so true…i also believe us runners tend to have a different scale of ‘what’s working’ compared to regular folks. cuz let’s be honest, no run it totally easy peasy! :P love that last line there. :)

  4. This is a little crude, but the last tired, heavy legged run I had, I told myself “I’m out of the house/away from work, life is good and at least I don’t have to poop!” Looking at the bright side! Next time I will try some strides.

    • girl, you read this blog long enough and you’ll see that on the crude-level scale that’s nothing!! #bushdives #necessaryevils #runnersnoshame

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