In her latest article for Lonely Goat Running Club, Hannah Irwin explores the benefits of having a bad run, and the importance of recognising the bigger picture.
As runners, it can be difficult to accept that not every day can be a good day.
There are days that don’t go quite as we hoped, and we tend to let them get to us more than we’d like to admit. A great run can leave you feeling amazing for the rest of the day, but a ‘bad run’ can ruin your day. It sounds dramatic, but many runners can understand.
Realistically, this shouldn’t be the case – and we know it – but sometimes it is hard to listen to ourselves.
A ‘bad run’ can be seen as anything from your legs feeling tired, to your head not quite being in it, feeling like you are running slowly through treacle, doubting your status as a ‘runner’, or being in pain (usually a sign of an injury).
We may believe that if every day was great, everything would be amazing, but would we really want this? After all, the ups and downs are all part of our own unique journey.
There is usually a reason why you feel the way you do, try to understand the cause, act upon it and learn for the future.
Always a lesson to learn
Firstly, in my eyes, there is no such thing as a ‘bad day’. There is always a lesson to be learnt and a positive point to take from every run or session. The bad days actually tend to teach us more than the good ones.
Whatever it is that has made you classify it as a bad run, you can learn something from it and this is always a positive.
On the tough days, when your legs aren’t interested in running, it is down to your mind to get you through. Training your mind is just as key as training your body. The tough days when your body says no, still make you a stronger runner mentally, and ultimately, running is just as much a psychological effort (if not more) than it is physical.
The best way to deal with the ‘bad days’ is to put them into perspective. Yes, some days won’t be as good as others, but this makes us truly appreciate the great ones. If every run was amazing, they would inevitably all become average as there would be nothing to highlight them as being better than usual.
The odd session or run that doesn’t meet your usual standards gives you the drive to work hard and appreciate those runs when everything comes together. Runners can tend to forget the average and great days as soon as we have a single ‘bad day’. Therefore, the days we feel below par also remind us not to take running for granted.
It is worth reminding yourself that we most likely have considerably fewer ‘bad days’ than we realise; we just forget about the good and average ones. Everyday should be embraced.
Recognise the valid reasoning
Whether you are a recreational or a competitive runner, it is important not to put too much pressure on yourself, and enjoy each day, no matter how it goes.
If a run doesn’t go the way you hope, there are likely to be reasons for this. There is a long list of different things that may influence how you feel on a particular day. These include:
- How much sleep you have been getting;
- Whether you have been fuelling as well as you usually would;
- The terrain you ran on;
- Whether it was hilly or not;
- The weather; and
- The stage you are at in your menstrual cycle (if applicable).
Also, remind yourself of the other training you have been doing. It is inevitable that some days your legs will be more tired than others due to an accumulation of fatigue. This is normal!
When you wonder why a particular run went ‘badly’, consider all the different factors and re-evaluate whether it was actually as bad as you’d thought. You may not have gone as fast or far as usual, but consider what else could’ve affected your run.
You aren’t alone
With the prevalence of social media, it can be easy to feel like you are alone when you have a bad run. However, despite what Instagram may appear to say, everyone has bad days, not just you!
Just because some influencers post daily pictures of themselves looking amazing and motivated, doesn’t mean that is actually how they feel. A photo can say a million things other than the truth. As well as sometimes being used positively, social media can be a façade.
I can 100% say, everyone struggles at times. Whether that is due to a lack of motivation, or because your legs and body are tired, no one is invincible. It is only human to have off days. Tell yourself not to take social media at face value, because you might only reach the conclusions you do based on a single snapshot. We don’t know the person’s full life story.
There will be a lot more to how someone feels than simply what a picture tells you. We all have ‘bad days’.
Act, then move on
This is much easier said than done, but there is no benefit to letting a bad run, or a general down day, hang over you. Once the run or day is done, act accordingly, put it behind you and stop dwelling on it.
Allow yourself to acknowledge that it didn’t go as you hoped but recognise the importance of being able to detach yourself from the run and learn from it. Just because it hasn’t quite gone perfectly, doesn’t mean you need to punish yourself. If anything, do the opposite. Face up to what went badly and react to it.
- If you felt heavy legged or lethargic, it could be a sign that you are tired. Allow yourself a few easy days or rest days to recover.
- If something hurt, it could be a sign that you’re injured. Seek advice to stop the injury getting worse.
- If you were bored or struggled to get out the door, it could be a sign that your running mojo is dwindling. Add some variety to your running, or ask yourself if there is something else in your life that is affecting your motivation.
Lessons can be learnt from why you feel how you do, but it is important to be proactive in understanding the causes and making changes where necessary.
For example, if you’re struggling to enjoy your running, incorporating more easy days or weeks into your training may help avoid too many ‘bad days’ in the future. We can all be guilty of not resting enough, but it is just as important as putting in the hard work. Without recovery, the training you put in won’t be as effective.
Put your feet up, or do something that will cheer you up, then move on.
A bad day can be a good thing
Ultimately, in order to deal with the difficult days, we have to be able to accept that they will occur. They can’t be avoided, so we need to recognise their importance and appreciate they are an important part of the experience of being a runner.
Running is a process of continual refinement. The good runs tell us when things are working, and the bad runs tell us when things need changing – whether that’s how hard we train, the routes we run on, our self-confidence, or whatever it is we identify as requiring improvement.
It is through this constant evaluation and adjustment that we fine tune our running to maximise our enjoyment.
Hannah Irwin, is an international runner, who has represented England over 10K and cross country.
Check out Hannah’s other articles for Lonely Goat Running Club and keep an eye out for more, coming soon.