How to Turn a Bad Run Day Into A Good Run Day

Most runners lament bad workouts. It’s funny, but I’ve always felt that a bad day running is better than a good day doing most anything else.

Have you ever had a bad race? What did you do? How did you react? What did you do tactically during the race? Did you try to push the pace when you felt bad? What were you thinking? How did you change your thinking? Was there a pattern to what you were thinking? What were you focused on? Did you successfully shift your focus? What was your pre-race routine like?

Much like goal paced workouts and specific race tactics (i.e. kicking, negative splits, etc.) if you do not rehearse your mental approach to a bad day or bad stretch in practice, you won’t suddenly and magically be able to call upon some kind of “mental power” to overcome your tough times on race day.

If you cannot answer the questions I pose above you have a problem. Your initial problem is identifying what went wrong. You need to go back and relive that bad race and get answers. Next, you design mental interventions, thought patterns, cue words, focus shifting strategies, and pace experimentation that will get you through those tough times. And finally, you practice those elements in your training. When do you do this? Of course you can practice during any run. However, it becomes more real if you practice while having a bad day or bad stretch of running. That is how you will really know which approach really works for you. Use them. Get adept at multiple approaches so that if on a given day one doesn’t work, you have another one waiting in the wings to rescue the day.

Bad runs are opportunities. Don’t waste them!


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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2 Responses to How to Turn a Bad Run Day Into A Good Run Day

  1. david says:

    On Friday, I had one of the slowest 3 mile runs I’ve had in a while – felt like I was running through mud. Yesterday, I had a solid 6.5 mile run and felt the best I’ve felt in a while on a non-race run. Running is just weird like that…

  2. David,
    You’re absolutely right on that. I’ve had many similar experiences. One of the keys to getting consistent with running is finding patterns and triggers to these runs – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes it’s life instances – a bad sleep night or stress – sometimes nutrition or medications. Down here a real issue this time of year is chronic dehydration (a low level of continuous dehydration from not totally rehydrating after workouts). It can also be overtraining or just the opposite – trying to get in shape after long lay-off. All these things can lead to inconsistent workouts. Then again, sometimes I just have to chalk it up to stars not in alignment!
    Coach Dean

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