How to get your mojo back

We all love running.

Or, at least, most of us love running, most of the time.

Sometimes though, motivation can dip and you don’t fancy getting out of the door. That’s perfectly normal.

Beginners can struggle with motivation as going out for a run hasn’t become a habit yet and it still feels difficult. If you persevere it will get easier and your motivation will improve.

However, even more experienced runners who are fit and love running can sometimes wake up and not want to run.

This is understandable if it’s dark outside and the weather is grim. Even the most dedicated runners struggle under these circumstances. If this is a one-off, that’s not too bad. Take a rest day, or get out of the door and power through it – either way, you’ll probably be back to normal the next day.

But what if this doesn’t happen and the slump continues? What if you’ve lost your mojo and can’t see how to get it back? How can you recover your love of running?

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Rest and recover;
  • Mix things up and try something different, such as trail running or finding new routes;
  • Ignore your watch occasionally and run by feel;
  • Reassess your goals and make sure you stay in control of them;
  • Enter a virtual race (or a ‘real’ race once lockdown restrictions are eased);
  • Accept your mojo will ebb and flow, and spot when that’s happening;
  • Stay positive!

Read on for more detail on how to regain your lost mojo.

What’s the issue?

To fix the problem, work out why you lost your mojo in the first place. The causes might be nuanced, or a combination of issues, but broadly speaking can be divided into physical, or mental causes.

Bad weather can challenge even the most dedicated runner’s motivation

Physical causes

Physical factors that result in lost running mojo are:

Fatigue

You can train too much.

Improvement in running comes through balancing stress and recovery. You stress your body every time you go for a run, and it is through recovery – sleep, rest, eating right – that your body adapts to that stress. If the equation is unbalanced, with not enough stress, you won’t improve.

Conversely, if you don’t recover enough, the accumulated stress will build up and fatigue will set in. Simply put, you’re in receovery debt.

Illness

Are you ill or getting run down? Have you recently come through a period of sickness?

The effects of a virus can linger long after the symptoms have been dealt with. Even if you feel OK, there could be an underlying issue preventing you from operating at 100%.

If you know your usual resting heart rate, keep an eye on it. Any unexplained increase in your resting heart rate, compared to your normal level, could indicate an illness.

At the time of writing, we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so there is the very real possibility that you may become ill with Covid-19, or even be dealing with the after-effects now. If this is the case, please make sure you follow all the appropriate advice.

Injury

Be honest: Are you running through an injury?

As runners, we tend to get used to a certain level of general achiness. This is the price we pay for pushing our physical limits. But sometimes, that twinge, niggle or ache might be more serious than we dare admit.

Rest is the key

If you think the cause of your slump in motivation might be due to physical causes – fatigue, illness, or injury – the answer is simple: Rest.

Take the time to let your body recover. Your lack of mojo is probably your body forcing you to slow down and ease back. This might not mean cutting out all of your running, but an overall reduction in speed and mileage will give your body a chance to recover.

Of course, if you are ill or injured, then you should seek the advice of a GP, physiotherapist or appropriate medical professional, too.

When you’re excited and motivated, running feels great – as demonstrated by Marla Almasy at the Loch Ness Marathon, 2019

Mental causes

There are a range of possible mental causes behind lost running mojo. They include boredom, your relationship with your goals, obsession, and outside stressors such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Boredom

Mental factors can be harder to identify, but one is easier to diagnose than the others: Ask yourself, “Are you bored?”

Are you bored of running the same routes, at the same time, with the same running buddies, listening to the same music, over the same distances, at the same pace? If so, all of these can be easily changed.

Routine can be comforting, but it can also get us bogged down. The easy way to resolve this is to try something new:

Find a new route, run at a different time of day, run with someone different, listen to something different or nothing at all, run a different distance or at a different pace. Implementing these changes, even if just temporarily, can snap yourself out of your slump.

CB, featured in the Instagram post below, explored his local area while appreciating the views around him.

Yes, running with other people is tricky during the coronavirus lockdown, but is there a member of your household who is thinking about taking up running? If so, make them your project – with their permission! Guiding them as they take their first steps as a runner could put the fun back into your own running.

Alternatively, try leaving your watch at home occasionally. This will encourage you to run by feel, without worrying about the time. You might find if you’re not thinking about what your watch says, that you become more aware of your legs, your form, your breathing, and your surroundings, which could revitalise your running.

If you have a GPS running watch and still want to use it to track your mileage, etc., then stick a bit of tape over the face so you can’t see the display until you get home. If you still need to make sure you’re home by a particular time, or don’t want to run too far, then – depending on your watch – you may be able to set it to beep at certain intervals or when you hit a certain distance, without you having to look at the screen.

If you want to take these ideas – including more variety and trying something new – to their full conclusion, you could introduce another sport to your routine. You could cycle, climb, swim, hit the gym, try a team sport, or just go for really long walks. Obviously, some of these options aren’t suitable during the coronavirus lockdown so you might have to wait until restrictions are eased. Just be careful though: you might enjoy the new sport so much you never go back to running!

Your goals

Ordinarily, one of the best solutions to a lack of mojo is to enter a race. Getting a date in the calendar and having an event to train for provides much-needed focus.

Unfortunately, this is tricky to do at the moment, as races and events due to take place now have been cancelled or postponed as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

There are events planned for the autumn, but a) they could be six months away, which is a long time to maintain focus; and b) no matter how desperately we want them to happen, there is no guarantee that the coronavirus pandemic will have eased enough for these autumn events to take place.

Many of us, if we had been preparing for a race, will have been following a structured training plan. Now the race is cancelled or postponed we might be unsure of what our training should look like – without a plan to follow. We recently published an article on adapting your training plan to suit the current circumstances, that might help you work out what to do.

Given this uncertainty and the lack of short term racing goals, it is understandable if you are struggling with motivation at the moment. It is only natural to feel disheartened when something you’ve been training really hard for is taken away from you at the last minute.

Instead, think about what other, non-racing goals you could aim for.

It is important to be sensible, and not do anything that would put you or others at risk during the coronavirus pandemic, but there are other running goals that might give your running a purpose.

Some ideas are:

  • Challenging yourself to create “Strava art”, by drawing pictures or writing words with your GPS track;
  • Running every road in your neighbourhood, or trying to run the A-Z of street names, like Sharon, aka tilly_fit_07, in the Instagram post below;
  • Give trail running a go – even if it’s just finding the patches of greenery near home;
  • Hitting every grid square on a map of your local area;
  • Signing up as a community volunteer and delivering prescriptions or food parcels to isolated people while running;
  • Working on improving your running style, known as your gait;
  • Trying out different types of run. Never done intervals or fartleks before? Now’s your opportunity.

And if you really want to race, or crave a medal and t-shirt, there are plenty of virtual events out there. Alternatively, if you’ve got a treadmill, Zwift can provide plenty of people to test yourself against from the safety of your own home.

What if you’re reading this in the future, in a time when we’re all able to run in mass events again? What if your loss of mojo is being caused by too much racing, rather than not enough?

If so, ask yourself, “Have I become a slave to PB chasing?”

A lot of runners spend all their time trying to improve their personal bests. This can be perfectly fine if you enjoy it, but not if it causes you to lose sight of what made you fall in love with running in the first place.

If this sounds like you, head off road, enter a hilly race, or pick an unusual distance. You can still scratch your competitive itch by racing and trying to beat other people, but it’ll be so much harder for you to compare your performance to that of previous races.

Obsessed or dedicated?

There’s a meme that does the rounds that says “obsessed is what the lazy call the dedicated”. Yes, this might be true, some of the time, but it is important to recognise that sometimes obsession can be unhealthy.

It is easy to become obsessed with running, thanks to the habit-forming routine, the excitement of pushing your limits, and seeing your fitness improve. Dedication is OK, and should be commended, but when it tips over into an unhealthy state of obsession it can lead to overtraining and physical or mental burnout. If this happens, your obsession is going to prevent you from reaching your goals.

It could be that all you need is the addition of something else to balance out all the running. Learn a language, go on holiday, take up a non-physical hobby, go to a gig, read a book, see friends and family – anything that is fun, stimulating, and unrelated to running (lockdown restrictions permitting, of course!).

Bear in mind, also, that the problem may go beyond running.

Is your running obsession a symptom of a deeper issue? Are you running to distract yourself from something else? Are you running because it is something you can control?

This is a complex area to discuss, and possibly beyond the scope of this article (though we’ve touched upon it in another article), but the key is to remain in control of your running – rather than letting your running control you. This might require the support of an appropriate medical profession to help you achieve this balance.

Make sure you occasionally take time to stop and enjoy the scenery, like Lindsey Teresa in the Cotswolds, 2019
Coronavirus

Don’t underestimate the effect the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic could be having on your running.

Obviously, being physically ill would cause problems, but the negative effect of stress and worry could be a factor. Even if you don’t feel worried, the background murmur of concern and uncertainty may have an effect.

These are unprecedented times, so it is understandable if you are feeling disturbed, unsettled, or just a bit weird as a result.

The disruption of establishing different routines, or the lack of human interaction from social isolation may trigger stress responses in your body. These stress hormones might cause you to feel tired or knock your motivation to get out and run.

Trying some of the suggestions mentioned above might be enough to help you through your slump, but it might be that you’ll just have to wait until the world returns to normal before you start to feel normal too.

In the meantime, anything that brings some semblance of normality back might help. For example, CG, aka jerrensy_fitness, and fellow Goats Neil, Simon, Steven and Adam, were missing their weekly parkruns. To help deal with having to socially isolate, they all decided to run 5km at 9am on a Saturday morning – separately, in different places, as featured in the Instagram post below – to try and recreate some of the parkrun magic.

Prevention is better than cure

So far, we’ve looked at what to do if you’ve already lost your mojo. It is also helpful to learn to recognise it when it’s happening. By spotting it early, you might overcome the slump before it takes hold.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the routine of running. We head out most days, follow our training plans and do what is required – which is OK if everything is going well.

The problems arise when we get so caught up in sticking to our plan, hitting our mileage targets, or keeping a streak going that we push on when things aren’t right. Often, we’re so in the zone, we don’t notice until the problem becomes serious.

We rarely stop to assess our running. We might only do it when we’re forced to by a problem, or when taking a break following a big race or the completion of a training plan. Ideally, we would schedule in moments when we take a minute to think about our running and how we feel about it.

If you keep a paper training diary, jotting down a weekly summary is a good idea. As well as adding up your mileage or time spent training, include a couple of lines where you write down how you’ve felt over the course of the week. Don’t just write how your body feels, but your mind, too. It can be brief, but must be honest.

If your weekly summaries are consistently positive – “felt great with bouncy legs and endless energy”, for example – you’re probably not headed for a slump anytime soon.

But if your weekly summaries are tending to the negative – “feeling knackered and finding it hard to get out for my runs this week”, for example – you might be on your way to losing your running mojo. Ease back on the training for a bit, or introduce some variety, and reassess after a few days.

Online training logs and fitness trackers are great, but because they provide the information automatically, it can be easy to go from one week to the next without taking the time to stop and take stock. The act of physically writing down a weekly summary in a notebook forces you to think about and acknowledge how you’re feeling.

By taking a few minutes each week to assess your current running mood, you may prevent a slump taking hold before it gets too deep.

Seek professional advice

We mentioned this above, but it is worth repeating: If your lack of running mojo relates to problems that are more deeply rooted – and go beyond just feeling a bit ‘meh’ about running in the rain – professional advice could be required.

If you think there is a possibility this is the case, consider making an appointment with your GP or another appropriate medical practitioner, as the advice of a professional might be what you need.

There is hope

The causes of lost running mojo are varied, but can all be fixed. If you’re in a really deep slump, you might feel like your mojo will never return, but don’t give up.

Try to:

  • Rest and recover;
  • Mix things up and try something different, such as trail running or finding new routes;
  • Ignore your watch occasionally and run by feel;
  • Reassess your goals and make sure you stay in control of them;
  • Enter a virtual race (or a ‘real’ race once lockdown restrictions are eased);
  • Accept that your mojo will ebb and flow and spot when that’s happening;
  • Stay positive!

Take time, get to the root of the problem, and address the causes. This might not happen overnight so don’t put undue pressure on yourself to reach a certain level of recovery by a certain point. To do so would just introduce unnecessary additional stress at a time when you could be doing without it.

Instead, remove the obstructions, lay the foundations, clear a path and let your mojo find its way back to you.

Please remember, if you’re looking for the support of a community of like-minded runners, you’ve found it. Check out our Facebook Chat Group, our Strava club page, or tag us into your Instagram posts with #lonelygoatrunningclub or #lonelygoatrc.

Finally, to give you a little boost, here’s Emily, featured in the Instagram post below, who is celebrating after challenging herself to get off the sofa and run 10km.

 

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