Tuesday, September 10, 2013

11 Ways to Keep the JOY in Running

My most JOYFUL race. Hot, tired, covered in chocolate gel, and needing to gain at least 5lbs but so HAPPY to be running strong.  Nothing but smiles at mile 26.1 of my 26.2 run with my husband in 2011. 

Running has always been a constant in my life.  A faithful companion.  Always there to give me a boost in energy or keep me company while I spill my deepest and dearest emotions on the road. It brings pleasure, challenge, calm, fulfillment and release. And it just makes life better. But lately, running just isn't as enjoyable as it used to be.  It doesn't feel as effortless.  And I certainly don't crave it as much.  

I was reflecting this morning on how much harder running is for me now compared to the past.  Paces. Motivation. Sticking to training plans.  Being consistent.  I'm just not finding the same JOY and LOVE for running as I once did. This lull in running love can probably be connected to a lot of different things. For one, I'm I'm just not that into training for something again. On one hand, I like having a goal on the horizon and some sort of plan to follow but on the other hand, I'm wanting to skip runs more often than not.  This makes experiencing joy in my running a tricky thing.

Putting training aside, I'm still struggling to find my running mojo.  I realized this morning that so much of this running rut (and life rut even) is probably because I've been comparing myself to a version of me from the past instead of embracing myself as I am now.  Things have changed.  Life is different.  I'm not in the same place as I was even a year ago....with running, motherhood, relationships.  And that's okay. I can't expect myself to be running the same exact paces as I was three years ago with drastically different training and life circumstances.  I'm just not there right now.  With a lot of things.   That's not to say that my days of running personal bests  are over by any means. It just means that where I'm at right now with life isn't all about the hard core training and faster times.  I've got to accept this and just be where I AM.  This goes with all things in my life, not just running.

Adapting to change is easier said than done. Here's to working on embracing who I am TODAY and not trying so hard to hold on to who I was yesterday.

My life truly is better when I have running as part of it.  It makes living a full and balanced life so much easier and there's no doubt that I want it in my life for the days to come.  For this reason, I want to find ways to keep running as something that brings me JOY, not dread.

Ways to bring keep the JOY in Running:

  1. Switch things up.  Finding new places to run, trying out new workouts and running different paces are ways to shake things up with our running routines so we don't get stuck in monotony.
  2. Embrace Fast and Slow Days.  Don't always expect every run to feel fast and strong.  Some days, maybe most, just need to be nice and easy.  Go with how you feel on that day.  
  3. Run Naked.  No, don't take off all your clothes and go streaking.  But definitely run some of your runs without a watch or Garmin.  Just RUN.  This can be one of the most feeing and enJOYable types of runs.  I need to do this more often.    
  4. Try not to compare yourself with others.  It's easy to get caught up in reading running blogs ad seeing what all our running friends are doing.  This can make us lose sight of being the best US and not trying to be what someone else is. I was reminded of this truth from a tweet this morning.    
  5. Sign up for a race.  Training for a race might not be something that we find joy in all of the time but it certainly makes running exciting sometimes.  Better yet, sign up for a race with a friend and make it someplace you've always wanted to travel.  
  6. Be part of a community.  Having community is important for all kinds of things.  When we have other people in our life with similar interests and goals, it makes for some really great support, validation, and inspiration.  Join a running group, meet new friends that run, read running blogs, follow running forums, and read running magazines.  
  7. Find a running partner.  Some people like running alone and others like the company, so in addition to finding your running community in other places, you might want to find that special person that you fit well with when it comes to running.  I've known many people that have had the same running partner for years.  My husband is my favorite running partner when I do run with others.  
  8. Celebrate Progress. As you reach goals and make progress with running, don't forget to celebrate!  There are so many ways to celebrate our success and progress...new shoes, a date with a friend, self-pamper time, etc. 
  9. Try not to get to caught up in comparing your "Right Now" self with your "Used to Be" self.  You're at a different place today than you were yesterday.  Embrace it.  For some, you might be running stronger and faster than ever before and in this case, comparing is a fun thing to do.  But for others, running might seem harder and slower than it used to.  That's okay too.  
  10. Take time off.  Taking time off of running is certainly part of keeping it enjoyable.  When I've had a stretch of time where I take a break from running, I find that I start to crave it.  It always provides such joy when I return to running after a break.  
  11. Enjoy the downtime.  Enjoy the times when you just run because you love to run and not because you are training for something.  Enjoy having running as that constant in your life for no reason at all other than the fact that you love it.  
How do you keep  JOY in your running?  


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  1. Always love your words, Amanda! I have been completely missing from the blogosphere all summer...not just from writing my own posts but from reading and commenting on other's posts, too. Thankfully, your posts are emailed to me so I am always reading them and keeping up on what you're doing...but still am failing to comment. :)

    Anyway, I think that anyone who has been running for any length of time will soon experience the ebb and flow of the joy we get from running. There are times when it feeds our soul and the miles feel effortless and other times when it is just plain hard work and no fun. And, like you, I always compare myself to my "best" running self and wonder why I am not like that today and every day. That is why I love what you said about learning to embrace who we are TODAY.

    Since I am injured, I am coming at this from a different perspective and like to think that I would be incredibly grateful just to be able to run pain-free at any speed. That I would find JOY in running a single step. But that doesn't mean I haven't been exactly where you are...and know that I'll be there again one day.

    I have known you and read your posts long enough to know the special place that running holds in your heart. So just know that the tide will turn and the joy of running will return to you once again! :) xo

    1. Ah, thank you Kristin! Love your comment here. So heartfelt. Yes, I've missed your posts and so sorry to hear that you are injured. I'm so pathetic when it comes to commenting on posts these days. And reading posts.

      So true about the ebb and flow of the joy we get from running...this could be an article/post in itself. Today's run felt amazing. The 7:30's came and even though I slowed in between miles, I felt amazing. But most days lately seem so sluggish and ...well, like WORK! I hope you heal soon my friend!

  2. What a great post!!! I love these tips - and they are so true!!!
    For me, I have found that not racing helps a lot - I just run because I love it not for any other reason and for me that works!

    1. Thank you Kim. Yes! I think this is big for me too. I'm not a huge racer but I do like to have one bigger one one the horizon sometimes.

    2. Although I would never wish to be running in high school or college again where I raced every week. So much pressure. Nerves. Yuck! Not joyful. ha!

  3. I love the "embrace fast and slow days" advice- I've enjoyed running so much more since I've been able to thoroughly enjoy both, and really not care what my pace is on my slow days, as well as enjoying pushing myself hard on faster days. And I can also understand what you explained about you being different, and how hard that is to reconcile with your running. Keep running! :)

    1. Thanks girl. And yes, slow days! I have many many of them now. Excited to continue seeing your training progress. You keep running too! :)

  4. The love seems to come and go in cycles. Some times you can be passionate about it and other times not so much. But for me I know that while I am physically able I will always run. Some runs will be good and some won't be. Some times I'll run a lot and other times a little. But I will always run.

    1. I will always run too...as long as I can! Even if I'm running 15 minute miles. :)

  5. I can only imagine the feeling of running after having ran in college competitively. It would add some pressure to my life, as i would also be comparing "then and now" scenarios. Sometimes I wish I had done track in high school, but then I would most likely be sad at my 38 year old performances.. We have to step back and appreciate what we have, take breaks, and find ways to keep things fun. I love that you run with your hubby! That would be fun...
    Running naked and trail racing/running are ways I like to keep my running fun. Less pressure, lots of endorphins. Finding new trails and routes adds new interest too. Hope you can find that joy again soon!
    Say HI to hubby for me. Wish I could come run a slow 3 miler with you two :)

  6. Such a great post (as always!) So much of running happy is maintaining perspective, which in and of itself is such a challenge. Trying to be the best "me" I can be on any given day requires flexibility since every day is different. At the end of it all, I'm just thankful to be able to run, have the time to do something I truly enjoy, and that keeps me going thru those crappy moments! (and posts like this help too, you always have perfect words...)

  7. Love, love, LOVE this! I'm big on the "naked running" - lately I've not even been tracking much of anything which is fine by me (no the world did not stop turning when my mileage tracking disappeared) and it helps. I also find running with my kids a HUGE way to enjoy it - connecting with them, laughing, goofing around, etc. brings the joy back!

  8. Thanks for the great tips. I'm not sure I would add anything new. But we should count out the totally naked running...I mean if he looks like David Beckham or something.

  9. Great post. Not that I hope this ever happens to anyone, but one event in my life took me down a long road that ended in finding a joy in my running I wouldn't have found without that event. After my son was born I was diagnosed with a syndrome that caused a massive blood clot. My leg never fully recovered and my running took 2 years to get back to a very slow marathon. Now 3.5 years later and pregnant again, I am still running, slowly, but running. It took me a long time but my joy was found in the fact that I was able to run, because one day I thought it was over. Embrace the ability to run, you appear to be great at it! I still have days I want to be faster, but those days may come, yet I never want to lose the joy that was found in the fact that I can take the steps and run again.

  10. Amanda, you always know how to write the same kind of feelings I have about life. I've lost my running mojo and lately I try to pretend like I can run as fast as last year when I was logging more miles. I've embraced cycling and living life at the moment so I understand what you mean about change. Thanks for your words! :)

  11. Saw the running naked and had to laugh - I have been known, on hot days, to discard my shirt & run in my bra! I have been running without my iPod lately & just meditating on my breathing and sound of my sneakers hitting the ground. It is very relaxing

  12. HI Amanda,

    I was in Asheville for one day this spring and thought of you out there someplace.....

    TDB's posting is right on. You never know what life is going to bring...getting older for sure, but perhaps other trials and we should all cherish the ability to do the things we want to do.

    This is how I shake off nerves before a race...remembering it's a gift that can be taken away at any time... so cherish every moment..even the last 6 miles of a marathon ;)

  13. All good advice. And maybe...take a little time off just to realize how much you miss it and love it again!

    ~Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home