You know you are having a bad run day when any of the following occur while on a run:
1. You hear an ambulance siren and don’t realize until you are on the stretcher that it was coming for you.
2. It’s 110 degrees; you find yourself face down on the pavement and the molten tar and road rash feel like relief.
3. You are exhaling chunks of body materials instead of air.
4. You are incontinent and you don’t know it.
Your run may not be quite that bad but, everyone’s had them. That day that just doesn’t feel good. Your pace feels like you’re racing and you’re only warming up.
Reasons for “bad days” are complex. Physiological, psychological, environmental and other sources could be the reason. It also can be an interplay of several of them.
Some things we do know: Dehydrated and under-nourished athletes are more prone to bad days. Take care of these things! Also prone are the obsessive runners and over-trained runners who won’t take time off. Then again, sometimes it just “is”. Bad days happen.
Differentiate between bad days because you are out of shape with the fact that it really is a result of one of the previously mentioned sources. That is not always easy to do. Start by reviewing your workout log (yes, you should be keeping one). Building up miles or pace too fast, introducing too much too soon of any kind of training (or cross-training); doing the same or similar workouts day-in and day-out or change in elevation of runs; are all trends you can notice from your log that contribute to flatness and bad days. Then consider non-running influences such as lack of sleep, disrupted routines, poor diet, family stress, work stress, illness, weather, moving, long periods of sitting, etc.
So now what do you do about those days? If you’ve had a number of bad days in a row or when you “just know” you’re going to have a bad day try these strategies.
Sammy Leilei, an elite Kenyan runner’s solution is to pick up the pace. This is not as crazy as it sounds. When you run faster you recruit muscle fibers and groups differently. You may in fact feel fresher at faster paces instead of going slower!
Vary your pace or terrain. Getting a full range of motion, while using different muscle groups can be just the break you need.
Warm-up thoroughly then stop. That may set the stage for being ready the next day. Think long term, not short term.
Run someplace different. Go run on a trail, a wash, the beach or a golf course (which is the only thing a golf course should be used for). A change of venue can be both a mental and physical relief.
Run with someone. Misery loves company. Why not share it! This is a good mental break from working out alone.
Get off the track. Stop obsessing about splits, times and paces. Take a break by running aimlessly and with no expectations for pace or distance. Just run.
Get on the track. Try out some progressively faster short repeats. Start with short bursts of 50 meters. Move to 100s and alternate jogging or just walking in between. You get some quality running in. At least it has to be faster than slugging it out jogging and slogging through a slow road run. By breaking up your run into short intervals you may not only complete a workout but at do it at much faster speeds.
Get to the pool and do an aqua-running workout. This is a great alternative (especially during the heat of the summer) high-quality workout. Don’t confuse this with floating around lackadaisically.
Perform an integrated speed-strength workout or introduce some light plyometrics.
And finally: Stop. Don’t run. Take a break. Do not get caught up in “having to run”. Days without rest from running can be more harmful than good for you. Remember, the whole conditioning premise is break-down (through working out) then build-up (through recovery). If all you do is workout everyday you are only focusing on the breaking down aspect of training. A bad day may be sending you a message, so listen!
By the way, my streak of consecutive days is 315. I had many bad days to work through during that time. This is nothing compared with the world “consecutive days run” leader, Ron Hill a four-time world record holder and 2:09:28 marathoner from the 1970s. He is still going strong at 30-plus years… in a row! I’m sure he has had to work through a few bad days during that time as well.
If you have questions about diagnosing slumps or down days, aqua-running workouts, running specific plyometric drills, contact us.
But, all things considered, a bad day running is better than a good day at work, right?