If you normally love running, but you’re suddenly finding it lacks fun or is surprisingly difficult, for no apparent reason, you might be struggling to keep it up. We’ve compiled a list of the top reasons that running often becomes suddenly hard for people to try and help you identify what’s going wrong so you can adjust your strategy.
1: Are You Running Too Much Or Too Fast?
The most obvious reason you might be struggling with your running routine is that you are pushing your body too hard when you run. You may be making your runs too challenging, and taking all the fun out of them.
This will make it a lot harder to keep running and to feel good about your runs. You might find you end up skipping runs, which will also increase the difficulty when you do run.
If this sounds like you, let me point you in another direction that might make more sense to you:
How to get started running – the correct way
2: Are You Overtraining?
Remember, running isn’t the only exercise that counts toward your weekly aerobic load. If you are doing lots of other kinds of exercise, this adds to your overall “training load” and you need to think about how much you are doing.
If you spend a lot of time on aerobics, you can overload your body between sessions. It is not healthy to overtrain and stress your muscles. Make sure you are implementing regular rest days in your workout routines, and do not train every day of the week.
Are you performing too many tough or speed workouts during the week without adequate recovery? Tough running sessions such as tempo, threshold, interval, or hill work tax your overall aerobic and anaerobic systems. Make sure you’re getting enough recovery in between your sessions.
Also, don’t stack two tough workouts back to back – not only will your performance suffer on the second workout, but your body becomes more prone to injury from already fatigued muscles. Instead plan a recovery run in between your harder days to give your mind, body, and training load a break.
For a detailed post about overtraining and ways to spot the signs check out:
Am I Overtraining? When Do I Know I’m Running Too Much?
3: Has It Been A While Since You’ve Exercised?
If you’ve had a break from running, do not be surprised if it takes you a while to get back into it. Even a few days away from running can make a difference to how hard it feels, and if you’ve had a couple of weeks off, you should expect to notice a distinct difference.
Doing other forms of exercise will help you to stay fit, but they are unlikely to exercise the exact muscles you use for running. Try to take breaks into account when you’re setting your running difficulty, and don’t work harder than you’re ready to.
Related: How To Start Running Again After Taking A Long Break
4: Have You Gained A Substantial Amount Of Weight Recently?
If you’ve put on weight, you might be surprised by how much harder running becomes – quickly. Your muscles will need to work harder in order to move your body, and you will also notice a lot more impact, which may lead to soreness and stiffness, and make it harder to run the next day.
If you’ve gained weight, it makes sense that you would want to run more, but you need to make allowances for the increased difficulty and be realistic about what you can achieve.
Normally with substantial weight gain, you all see a vast decline in your overall cardiovascular fitness level. Here is a way to check your current VO2 max by walking 1 mile as fast as you can – without running. It’s called the Bridgeport 1-mile walk test – give it a go (calculator included on page).
Related: What Happens To Your Body When You Walk More?
Related: Check out my YouTube Video on 30 Ways To Make Running Easier
5: Have You Changed Your Diet?
What you eat makes a major difference to your running performance. That probably isn’t surprising, but it’s easy to make changes to your diet without really thinking about the impact. If you have cut out certain fuels your body is used to getting, you might suddenly find exercising gets harder.
Protein is important for extended running, as it helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and can help you feel full. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of eating high-sugar foods before a run; these will often lead to a crash.
What are some of the best foods for runners? Find out here –> What are the best superfoods for runners?
Are you eating from emotion and you’re not sure why? Check out this post that dives into the details about emotional eating.
6: Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
It won’t surprise you to read that not getting enough sleep can impact your running performance. You are much more likely to experience fatigue while running if you are already tired.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run if you’ve had a bad night (or a few bad nights). Tiring your body out physically might actually help you to get better rest. However, you should cut yourself some slack.
Related: Why Do I Feel Tired After I Run (besides exerting energy)?
7: Are You Sick Or Have You Been Sick?
Some people may feel inclined to run while they are sick or when they’re just getting over a bug. It may be okay in some circumstances – running can help to clear congestion and may make you feel better – but it is also likely to affect your performance.
When you’re not feeling well, take it easy. If you choose to run, make it a light run that does not pressure an already stressed system.
If you need a way to destress try some runner-specific yoga poses. I’m in a few of the photos myself – don’t laugh!
12 Best Yoga Poses For Runners
8: No Food In The Belly?
Some people like to run on an empty stomach (a fasted state) because it helps to burn carbs faster, but it is not always a good idea. For some people, it can have health impacts, and it is definitely something that can affect your performance on a run. If you plan on running for more than 60 minutes you should put some carbs in your stomach before setting off, especially if it’s going to be a tough workout. If you’re not fueled properly for speedwork, how are you going to perform at your top “A-game”?
9: Have You Recently Run A Long Distance Race And You’re Not Recovered?
You might not think about your muscles as needed to rest after a long race; you probably feel great if you’ve just completed a lengthy challenge. However, it’s important to bear this in mind if the days following a race feel sluggish and you can’t hit your goals.
Remember to take a break and let your body heal when you have stretched it to its limits. For a detailed post on what to do after a half marathon or marathon race, check out this post: How to recover from a half marathon race.
10: Are You Injured?
Injuries of all kinds can affect your running capacity, even if they aren’t in an area of the body that is used for running (though let’s face it, running engages most parts of the body). Your body needs to put energy into healing and will have less available to fuel your running.
Talk to your doctor about running with any medium to a major injury, and check whether they think it’s a good idea. Light exercise can promote blood flow and help injuries heal, but this needs to be controlled and done with care.
Are you suffering from a common running injury? If so, you shouldn’t be running until you’re healed. Here is some basic information on the most common running injuries and possible home remedies. This, however, is by no means a substitute for a sports rehab doctor or medically licensed professional’s advice – which I am neither.
Related: 8 Tips To Help New Runners Run Faster Without Injury
11: Are You Not As Young As You Used To Be?
If you are comparing your fitness with much younger you, you might find it hard to understand why you can’t run as well as you used to – but older people need more recovery time, and their VO2 maxes (the maximum oxygen the body can utilize) tend to decrease.
This may make running seem harder than before, and you might find yourself struggling with challenges that would once have been easy. Try to practice deep breathing exercises and build your muscles gradually.
12: Maybe You Need A Break
With any sport, it is easy to get burnt out, and this is certainly true of running. This might be physical or emotional, and it’s possible that you can avoid it by taking regular rest days – but sometimes you just need to take a bit more of a break from running than your schedule dictates.
Remind yourself that this is okay: it doesn’t make you a bad runner!
13: Did You Lose Your “Why” You Run?
If you used to love running but it now fails to enthuse you, try to work out why. What made you enjoy it before? Did you love the feeling? The scenery? The company? Try to get back to that root and rekindle your love, or find a new reason that makes running fun.
The “why” in running will be different for everyone and may change over time, but understanding it and taking it into consideration is an important part of your relationship with running.
Maybe you’re running mojo is lost and you need some helping to locate it: Where did my running mojo go?
14: You might be bored
It might be time to change your running routes or change the distance you run – or both. When you change your running route your mind locks into a curiosity mode and sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re running. This could easily snap you back into not hating your runs so much.
15: You might be tired of what you’re training for
If you race 5Ks all the time you might need to change up your training and shoot for a 10k or maybe a half marathon.
16: The weather was horrible
Sometimes the weather can make you absolutely despise running. Cold weather, hot weather, humid weather all come with their negatives. If snowing or raining, hope on a treadmill for some of your workouts and runs.
17: Bonus – I still have more questions…
I have put together an even deeper dive into why running is so hard. You can check out the post here:
Why Is Running So Hard? – 35 tips to make your runs easier.
How To Run 1 Mile When You’re Out Of Shape
There are many reasons that running might feel harder than it used to, so take some time to consider whether any of these apply, or whether something else is disrupting your running “mojo” and making it more difficult.
Finding the source may help you make your runs easier again, or might tell you that you need to take a short break entirely.
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