Fall is here and with it, peak racing season. We are weeks away from some the most popular marathons in the world – Chicago, Marine Corps, New York City – and dozens of smaller races that are no less important to those who have put in months of work to get ready.
At just about this time — between two and six weeks out of the race — most runners feel… well, over it. You are tired, you are cranky, you might be nursing tiny nicks in your legs or feet that you feel may turn into injuries any day now. You are dreading those 18- and 20-mile runs you have coming up. You just aren’t feeling it any more.
Breathe. This is perfectly normal. You have been putting your body through more stress than it is used to, and it is telling you that you need to do something about it. Stop training? No need for that! Here are five ways to address a training slump. Barring an actual injury or serious health conditions, I bet trying at least a few of these will work for you. In order of importance:
1. Get. More. Sleep.
Cannot stress enough the importance of good sleep during peak training. This is when your body needs the most time and the growth hormone you produce as you sleep, to repair torn microfibers and make those muscles stronger. If you normally get 6 to 7 hours a night, try to get 8 to 9. On weekends after a long run, take a short nap — or at the very least give yourself an hour or two of “quiet time” when you can put your feet up and relax. During quiet time, put your phone, tablet, laptop or any other electronics away: don’t let those shiny little screens mess with your brain when all it needs is rest. Read a book?
2. Eat iron-rich foods
Endurance exercise takes a toll on our bodies. One of the ways it affects athletes is an increase in plasma volume (i.e. we have more blood running through our veins and delivering oxygen to hard-working muscles). If that increase is larger than the increase in red blood cell volume, the result is slightly lower levels of hemoglobin in the blood. This might cause fatigue and affect athletic performance negatively.
If you eat a balanced, healthy diet made up of whole foods and heme iron sources (i.e. red meat), your iron levels might be perfectly fine and you can ignore this. But runners who live on a plant-based diet or avoid red meat in general should pay special attention to taking in enough non-heme iron from foods like leafy greens (beet greens, especially), lentils, beans, chickpeas, and iron-fortified bread, pasta or cereal. Eat with foods rich in Vitamin C, which aids the absorption of non-heme iron.
3. Add fun into your training
Not easy to do when you’re on a five runs a week schedule of prescribed interval training, tempo runs, long runs, hills. But adding a fun factor – a basketball game or fun bike ride on your day for cross training, for example – can leave you feeling refreshed and ready for your next long run.
Other fun ideas: meet with a friend after your long run and treat yourself to your favorite fall drink. PSL? PSA (pumpkin spice ale)? Hey, we don’t judge.
4. Get a new running outfit
I was going to start this with “Sorry, dudes.” But you know what? I am not sorry. Getting a new running outfit always adds a bit of extra pep in my training step, and I bet at least one of my current rotation of three new running skirts that even the manliest of men would feel better about that next week of training if they got themselves a new pair of shoes, socks, pants or a shirt. Try it!
5. Run for more
Some apps track your training or encourage you to train, while helping you earn money for charity. With Charity Miles, for example, runners earn 25 cents for each mile they run (and 10 cents for each mile they ride) for their charity of choice.
With Pact (formerly known as Gym Pact — read my review of the app and how it works from a few years ago), you commit to working out a certain number of days a week, earn money during weeks in which you make your pact — and pay a pre-set amount, often $5 or $10, for the number of days a week you fell short. Running counts and can automatically sync via Runkeeper, or the step-counting function of your phone.
Speaking of Runkeeper, they’ve been running (ha!) a ton of challenges lately with brands like New Balance, in which you can get discounts on purchases for completing a certain number of miles (per week or per run).
Or simply remind yourself that you’re in the final stretch (of training) – it’s no time to give up now, is it?
[tweetthis] Tired? Hit a training slump? Here are five ways to get over it. #FridayFive #runchat #realwomenMOVE [/tweetthis]