THE BEAUTY OF A BAD DAY
My last post was about the importance of having a plan when you lace up your shoes and hit the road. Yet, as the old saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” What do you do when your run doesn’t go the way you want it to?
Now, I’m not talking about the external factors can derail a run. Too hot. Too cold. Rain. Sleet. Snow. These are things over which you have little control.
I’m talking about those days when you just don’t have it. Maybe you bonked at mile 20 of a marathon. Maybe a quick 3-miler just feels like a marathon. Whatever the case, these “bad days” present an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself as a runner.
When I find myself having one of those runs, I work hard to evaluate the situation. Basically, I ask myself a bunch of questions to help diagnose the problem:
What’s holding me back, my mind or my body (or both)?
It’s important to understand whether your lackluster performance is mental (stress, motivation, boredom, etc.) or physical (injury, fatigue, etc.). You can try to run through the mental stuff, but the physical can be more challenging. And of course, stop if you’re injured.
Am I bored?
Boredom can derail your run without you even realizing. Two things can happen: 1) Your mind wanders and you end up thinking about all of life’s little stresses, or 2) You start to dwell on the natural aches, pains, and exertion of running. My personal remedy for boredom? I go out of my way to run with others whenever possible. I love the social aspect of running and the distraction is provides. Find a running buddy. Find a social run. Find a training group. Try to stay engaged and focused.
Did I bite off more that I could chew?
There are times when the issue isn’t really poor performance, but unrealistic expectations. Increasing mileage too quickly or trying to sustain an unusually fast pace can lead to a (seemingly) bad day. It’s also good to take a day off now and then. Unless you’re looking to break a world record, running 7 days a week is generally not the best idea.
Did I eat something before or during this run that might affect my performance? If I eat too much before a run, I’m sluggish from the start. I’ve also discovered that I need to eat something on long runs. I now find myself finishing strong rather than dragging myself to the finish. Every runner has a preference for eating on the run, but I’ve found Probar Bolt energy chews very helpful.
Am I properly hydrated?
In my opinion, there is no better way to screw up a run than improper hydration. Many runners overlook hydrating during their runs. Maybe they feel silly carrying one of these or wearing one of these. Personally, I feel silly when I hit the wall halfway through my run because I didn’t drink a little water. Here’s a great article to help you come up with a hydration strategy.
So here’s why a bad day can be so great: It gives you the chance to get better. If corrected, all of these little things that can derail your run can make your next run great.