Top Ten Ways to Escape a Running Rut

By Rick Morris

It happens to all of us. We all love running but doing the same workout, training run or race time after time can trap us in an ever deepening running rut. If you find your motivation waning or don’t look forward to your training runs you may be falling into a rut. If you perform the same workouts or a similar training program year round you could be at risk of plummeting into a running rut. If you are beginning to dread your races rather than be excited by them you could be falling deeper into a running rut. All is not lost. Here are our top ten ways to escape a running rut.

Hit the Trails

Pounding the roads day after day can not only be monotonous but can cause overuse injuries. For a nice change of pace why not hit the trails. The solitude, scenery, clean air and always changing terrain of trail running can break up what has become a rather boring running routine.

Go For the Goal

Some running ruts are caused by a lack of a clearly established running goal. Without a goal your running can have a lack of purpose. Set a challenging but achievable running goal and go for it. Always keep your goal in mind and your will regain that motivation and joy of running.

Slow it Down

What may seem like a running rut could really be signs of overreaching or even full blown over training syndrome. Doing too many hard workouts over a long period of time can take a toll on your body. If you are doing more than three hard workouts per week or have been engaging in hard training for more than 6 months without a break you might want to consider slowing down for a few weeks. Decrease your number of hard workouts to one per week until you climb out of your rut.

Climb the Hills

Many runners make the mistake of running on the same flat routes day after day. There is nothing wrong with running on the flats, but that daily monotony can cause mental burnout, lack of motivation and also can cause a decrease in your performance levels. Shake things up with some power and strength building hill runs. You will get fitter and be more motivated.

Try a Tri

Running is great but there are also other very enjoyable and challenging sports out there. The ones that most runners enjoy are cycling and swimming. If you find yourself in a running rut why don’t you branch out and enter a local triathlon or if you don’t swim, a duathlon. These multisport endurance events will challenge you both mentally and physically. There is no better way to escape or avoid a running rut.

Run for Fun

Sometimes we get so caught up in training and competing that we forget that running is supposed to be fun. Is your racing and training becoming too serious?  Are you so concerned about improving your performance that you have forgotten how to enjoy yourself? Are you stressed and basically miserable during your races? You need to learn how to have fun again. Forget about your performance. Don’t worry about where you finish in your races. Get back to running for the pure joy of the sport.  Go out and run just to enjoy the physical and mental stimulation of running. Run long for meditation. Run fast for exhilaration. Soon you will leap out of your rut and will again run for the joy of running.

Go Long

Long distance running is, for the most part, a solitary sport. Nothing embodies the sport of long distance running more than the visualization of a lone athlete running along a secluded road or mountain trail. Those long or even ultra long training runs pay huge physical dividends, but the benefits don’t stop there. Long runs are a time of meditation and renewal. If you find yourself in a running rut, try going out for a nice easy paced long run or extend the distance of your long run. Use the time to renew your yourself mentally and spiritually.

Find Fartlek

Many common training programs and schedules have very specific and structured workouts. While that type of workout can be very effective they can also be mentally frustrating. Structure is sometimes necessary but rarely fun or enjoyable. Is there a workout you can perform that is both effective and fun? You bet there is. Try including a weekly fartlek session in your training program. Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play”. Play is the operative word here. You should play and have fun with a fartlek workout.

A fartlek workout has very little structure. You basically change your pace and distance on a frequent and unplanned basis. You do whatever you feel like. The only rule to a fartlek run is to include very easy, moderate pace and hard pace running. The distance of the various components and when you do them is up to you. This type of workout is very effective because of the frequent changes of pace but also very fun because of the lack of structure and “going with the flow”.

Join a Club

While distance running is mostly a solitary activity, that doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. Even in a group, each runner is running within themselves. If you find yourself falling into a running run, consider joining a running club or group. The camaraderie and lively conversation can lift you right out of that rut.

Go on Vacation

Every runner needs a break from time to time. Putting in those endless miles and continuously challenging your mind and body with high intensity interval training causes both physical and mental strains that can take you to the breaking point and into a deep running rut. Sometimes the only way out of those deep ruts are to allow your mind and body the time they need to heal and recover. Go on vacation – not a running vacation – a complete vacation. Consider taking a couple of weeks away from running. That can be a hard thing for a distance runner to do, but keep in mind that you will come back strong, refreshed and ready to resume training.