First of all, let me state that I really don’t believe there is any such thing as a crappy run (unless you literally crapped your pants – but that’s pretty rare). After more than a decade of running, I firmly believe that even a bad run is better than no run at all. However, I do understand there are runs that didn’t go as expected, where you didn’t meet your goals or the intention you set for yourself. Or where something unexpected happens that results in a deviation from plan. And that’s what I’m talking about when I use the term ‘crappy run’.
But I get it. You’ve been running for awhile, making lots of progress, having a great time with it – then one day your body decides it just doesn’t want to cooperate. You feel betrayed, pissed off, disappointed. You wonder if you’re really meant to be a runner, and contemplate quitting altogether.
Here’s the thing: it happens to everyone, from brand-new runners to elite athletes. In face, it’s not a matter of if you’ll have a crappy run someday – it’s a matter of when. The good news? It’s not the end of the world, and there are plenty of things you can do to bounce back.
Just move on.
Let go of the past and look forward to the next run. There’s always another day, another run, another chance to be awesome. A shitty run is not the end of the world, nor does it mean you’re a not a real runner. Beating yourself up for not living up to your own expectations can be pretty draining, and it can impact future performance. So go easy on yourself.
Reflect, but don’t obsess.
Spend a little time trying to figure out what went wrong, but don’t obsess. If you can pinpoint the problem, that’s great! Perhaps it was the first day of your period, you had a really hard workout the day before, it was unusually hot, or you tried a new pre-run snack that just didn’t agree with you. Learn from it and fix it for next time. But there will be times where you just don’t know what happened, and that’s OK. See point #1 above – just move on.
Not every run is going to be a personal record.
When you’re a beginner, every run is better than the last. It feels amazing, you’re making incredible progress, and at this rate you’ll be running a sub-3-hour marathon by the end of the year. This is the honeymoon phase of running, and (sorry to break it to you) it won’t last forever. A bad run doesn’t mean you’re not making progress, or that you’re sliding backward – it means you’ve been running long enough to have a bad run! That’s actually pretty great news, because now you’re a full-fledged runner with all the trials and tribulations that come along with the sport. Pat yourself on the back for sticking with your new routine and get ready to rock your next workout.
Listen to your body.
Sometimes a crappy run is your body’s way of telling you it’s time for a rest. Taking a week off from your running schedule is not going to make or break your training plan. Sometimes less is more, and if you keep pushing yourself through when your body is sending clear ‘STOP’ signals, you might get injured. An injury that might actually derail your training for a long time. Take some time to really listen in to what your body is telling you, and act in your own best long-term interests.
Find the good.
Even if it’s as simple as saying “I ran today”, you can find something good about every single run. Hey, you had the determination to put on your shoes and get out the door! Celebrate the wonderful things, no matter how small, instead of focusing on what you didn’t like. And once you find something good, see if there’s something else. You might even find that the run was actually pretty awesome, even if it didn’t turn out as planned.
Look back at where you began.
You might have had a bad experience today, but where were you a month ago? A year ago? Have you gotten faster, stronger, or really made your running practice into a solid habit? Reflecting on how far you’ve come on your running journey can put one bad experience into perspective and give you a new appreciation for just how brave, strong and fabulous you are.
Running is a practice, not a perfect. You’ll have days where you feel like you’re flying, and days when you feel like you’re slogging through jello. Sometimes you’ll have more of those latter kind of days (kind of like life, no?). But rest assured, sticking with it and rising above the bad days is worth the effort. And sometimes those crappy runs leave you with some pretty funny stories to tell down the road. Find the humor, the good, and the joy in all of your runs, and you’ll quickly forget about the rest of it.
How do you recover from a not-so-great run? I’d love to hear about it – please share in the comments!