Not all runs are created equal. You could have gone out yesterday for six miles and felt like a stud – strong, swift and light. Then you could have gone out for the exact six miles today and felt like a piece of dog crap (that is the technical term) – weak, sluggish and heavy. Why the difference if it’s the same distance and the same route?

1. You’re more dehydrated today.

It doesn’t have to be hot as hell outside for you to feel the effects of dehydration. Even in the winter and springtime, you’ve got to make sure you’re drinking enough. The trick is not just to drink while running but to start your run already hydrated.

How do you know if you’re drinking enough? Don’t focus only on the number of ounces consumed. I like to go by this rule of thumb (or “rule of pee,” as I like to call it) – make sure you urinate at least six times per day and that your piss looks like the lemonade you get at a kid’s lemonade stand (very pale, watered down).

2. You’re more stressed today.

Stress can mess with you and zap all of your energy stores. When stressed, your body becomes WAY out of balance. This imbalance can lead to all sorts of physical and emotional conditions, such as headaches, GI distress, loss of appetite, racing thoughts, poor judgment, worrying, overeating, chest pain and elevated blood pressure.

No wonder your run feels difficult. You are not only carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, but also your physical body is breaking down.

It is true that many/most of us use running as a means of relieving stress. And it works. However, when we start our runs already very stressed out, our energy level and physical sensations may be gravely affected. Just be prepared.

3. You didn’t sleep last night.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you how important sleep is. Without proper sleep, your body doesn’t recover as well from previous workouts. Your immune system can become compromised, making you more susceptible to illness. And guess what? You simply FEEL MORE TIRED when you try to run. (I am so incredibly smart.)

4. You overindulged last night.

I don’t know about you, but I run much better when I’ve paid attention to my diet the night before and hours leading up to my run. It’s not rocket science to know that your body has to work harder to digest fatty, heavy foods than it does leaner, lighter foods. Also, richer foods can lead to more stomach upset, which can cause you to feel sluggish during your run (and maybe result in more pit stops). Other items such as dairy-based foods, berries, chocolate and alcohol can also be difficult to digest and cause heartburn and acid reflux. (Keep in mind that even healthy foods like broccoli and cabbage can lead to stomach distress/gas.)

5. You have a bad attitude today.

Let’s face it. Some days you just do not feel like being out there. That feeling is just human nature. However, it is amazing how quickly those negative thoughts affect your physical well-being and immediately zap your energy.

The good news is that 97.6% of bad runs are followed by good runs (I made that up, but I am sure it is true). I think it is because the sucky run was so sucky that your expectations for the next run are LOW. Having low expectations can sometimes be a good thing because you are usually pleasantly surprised. The moral of the story is: don’t get discouraged. Some runs are just harder than others. Control what you can (sleep, hydration, fueling, attitude), and keep pushing on.

Have you had a rough run lately? What do you think contributed to it?


By Nichols