Are you stuck in a post-holiday running rut? If so, you’re not alone. This time of year it can happen to anyone. It usually starts with a single candied almond, and then quickly escalates into a battle of survival against chocolate-covered caramels, spiced bourbon ciders and of course, sugar cookies. I’m fighting this battle as I type. I’m losing.
The next thing you know, you’re waking up in a pile of dead pine needles and torn wrapping paper. The holidays, like your training start date have long since passed. You fight back the cobwebs from your sugar hangover and try to find your running shoes. You need to run. You must run.
The first mile feels great. But then you start to breathe heavy. Your pace slows. You’re just tired from lugging the kids around to all of those holiday parties, you think. There’s no way you’re this out of shape. After all, you ran a 50-mile trail race only five weeks ago. Or was it six? You can’t remember.
You cut your run short and walk home to check your running log. Ah hell, that 50-miler was three months ago! You ask yourself, what the fudge happened?
The symptoms of a holiday running rut can be easy to miss. But here are some signs to look out for:
- You snack on energy gels while lying on the couch watching movies (note: the birthday cake GU tastes just like vanilla frosting).
- Your friends have to bribe you by making every run a pub run.
- Your treadmill is buried under a pile of clothes that no longer fit you.
- Your recycle bin is too heavy to carry to the curb because it’s overflowing with empty wine bottles.
- You spend more time on your phone researching races than you do training for them.
- You count riding the chair lift at your local ski resort as “vert.”
In all seriousness, it’s important to take time off to let your body and mind recover. But finding the motivation to lace up the running shoes again can be quite a challenge. Here are some tips to help you get back at it:
- Start slow. Your fitness will come back, but it takes time. Be patient. Work on consistency and building a base, and before you know it you’ll be right back where you left off.
- Train for yourself, not others. Don’t run harder than you should because you’re embarrassed that your pace is slower than normal. This is especially important in today’s online world where many of us post our runs on Strava, or some other social platform. No one cares what pace you are running. Stick to the plan. And don’t compare yourself to someone in a peak training cycle who has been running big miles for months.
- Discover new trails. Training during the winter months can be difficult, especially if your local trails are covered in ice and you log a lot of runs on the treadmill. If you have to travel for work or plan to visit family in a different town, see if you can find some runnable trails. A little dirt can go a long way.
- Remember why you run. Running makes me feel good. It makes me more productive with my work and most importantly, it gives me the extra energy boost I need to spend quality time with my toddler. Why do you run? Tap into all of the reasons that made you decide to become a runner.
- Sign up for a race. Knowing that you have to train, or will surely die on some mountain top during your next race, is also really good motivation to get off the couch.
- Eat a cookie. Don’t make running feel like a chore. Find a way to reward yourself from time to time for all the hard work you put in. Go out for ice cream, get a massage or crack open a cold beer. Celebrate small training victories.
- Be grateful. As ultrarunners, most of us are blessed with the health and capability to get outside and explore nature on our own two feet. Take an extra moment at the top of that big climb to enjoy the views. Give a thumbs-up to a fellow runner you pass on the trail. Be grateful that we even get to take part in this wonderful and crazy sport.
Have a wonderful 2019!