5 questions to ask yourself after a bad run

Last Friday my training schedule called for me to run 9 miles (14.5 km) for my long run. I only ran 6.25 miles (10 km). I’m no rookie when it comes to training for half marathons. In about 7 weeks I will be running my 11th half marathon. I’m shooting for a Personal Best (PB) under 2:09. When you’re chasing PRs/PB training is tough and sometimes it hurts. So why in the world did I have a bad run, although some of you might not think 6.25 miles is bad, for me it was?

When I have bad runs I developed a little system that I quickly go through to do a post-mortem on some bad runs.  You might already do something similar. Here are five quick questions to ask yourself after a bad run: I call it the WONTS system

Weather?

Weather plays a big part in derailing some of your “would be better” runs. When it’s hot and humid outside (100 degrees F/ 38 degrees C) your body will not run as optimally as in fair conditions such as 60 degrees F / 15.5 degrees C. The cold weather, especially snow, and ice could also be the reason for a bad run. When it’s really cold outside your body is trying to keep the warmth inside and therefore some of the energy you would normally use to run will be diverted to help keep the body warm.

In Texas, where I run, the summers are blisteringly hot. If you want to do long runs, you have to go out before the suns up. This is early morning running, like 5:00 AM.

Overtraining?

This is one of the most difficult things for an individual to spot. A trained coach can spot this or your running partner. Basically, when you’re overtraining you’re putting your body at risk of getting sick more often and injury. When your body enters into a state of overtraining, your body never exits the stress/rest cycle. Your body is going through a Stress/Stress cycle every day. When your body is supposed to be resting it’s actually stressing instead.

Symptoms of overtraining:

  • appetite loss
  • moodiness or mode swings
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • excessive fatigue
  • unmotivated to run (extreme)
  • hormone imbalance
  • Adrenal fatigue/Chronic stress (Mayo clinic explanation)

The reason why it’s sometimes hard to spot as a runner is because sometimes you will feel some of the symptoms above like fatigue. However, let’s say that you decide to take two days from running because you were tired. You get two nights of great sleep. After two days of rest, you go out for a run and you start feeling extremely wiped out. This would be a sign of possible overtraining.

Not ready (Physically)?

The reason you had a bad run could also fall into the category of not being physically fit enough to accomplish the training requirement for the day. This is what is referred to as the zone of disillusionment. In other words, “What the bloody hell was I thinking!” For example, a new runner that can run 5k runs all day long decides to start training for a half marathon. On the long run day that is scheduled, they decide to go run 7 miles instead of 3 miles. Now for someone that already runs long runs this would be ok. For someone that has never run past 3 miles, their body will not be very happy with the decision to run 7 miles.

Tired?

Your life can sometimes be one big juggling act. When our schedule couldn’t get any busier we throw running into and then we also throw in two and three-month training schedules as well. We often don’t think about scheduling in our sleep but it is one of the most important factors besides the act of running. Numerous studies have shown us that sometimes forging a run is more beneficial than actually completing a run that you’re really not giving effort to.

I had to start forcing myself to stop all of my activities around 10 pm so that my body would go to sleep by 11 pm. I’m kind of a night owl, but after I started to make myself wind down earlier in the night, I started feeling more rested.

Sickness or Injury?

This should go without saying but running when you’re sick or injured is definitely going to cause you to have a bad run. First of all, if you’re injured, you should be running. The old verbiage of, “I’m just going to work through it,” might not be in your best interest. There are temporary aches and nibs and nags that you can work through by foam rolling, stretching, or just running it out. When something hurts progressively worse to the point of pain such as stabbing or throbbing, you should back off from your running.

If you’re worried about losing your current level of fitness because you’re injured or sick, you need to think again. You’re fitness level only begins to drop slightly if you’re out two weeks (Less than 8%). When you start heading into 3 and 4 weeks and beyond than your fitness level will start decreasing but only up to about 20-25%. In reality, if you’re injured then take a few days off and see if the injury gets better. I’ve taken numerous days off just to be safe if something just wasn’t feeling right.

Conclusion

The reason I had a bad run was due to two of these factors. First of all the hot summer Texas sun and humidity were first to blame. The second factor was that I was just getting over a common cold which had zapped some of my endurance. As a runner, we will all have bad runs from time to time. But the runner that doesn’t quit and realizes this will continue running long into their life.

Some other factors that can come into play which actually pertain to a training schedule itself. Here are 3 things that your half marathon training schedule doesn’t show you.

Have a great Labor Day weekend and get in a short run if you can!

Scott Morton is the author of, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury free race finishers. He recently completed his 10 half marathon race. He is also an RRCA certified coach.

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