A Crappy Run

by Carilyn on May 10, 2012


Yes, I feel as awful as I look.

Yesterday, I had a crappy run.  Now, I don’t mean an I-just-wasn’t-into-it kinda run, but a real I-feel-like-I’m-1000-years-old kinda run.

While this doesn’t happen too often, it does happen, and every time I’m surprised I didn’t see it coming, it feels awful, and it makes me question my fitness.  And then, just as quickly as it came, the sluggishness is gone and my next run feels fine, sometimes even great.  Huh?

After years of running and coaching, I’ve gotten much better at not going in to a full-blown panic.  And, more importantly, I’ve gotten much better at figuring out what caused the bad run – and then fixing the problem.

Here are what I have found the be the main causes of a bad run:

1.  You are under-fueled.  Usually this problem starts the night before.  Not enough dinner, after a full day of work, training, and life, will hinder your recovery and put you behind the eight ball before you even start your next morning’s run.  This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that most of us run in the morning without eating anything.  If you do run sans fuel, it is imperative you eat a good dinner the night before.  Twelve hours with no fuel, after a light dinner, will set you up for a bad run the next morning.  The same principles apply if you run in the evening: eat a good breakfast and lunch so that you are properly fueled for a later run.

2.  You’re not fully recovered from previous runs.  You had a tough long run over the weekend, a serious hill or speed workout the day before, or it was hot and humid, and you haven’t bounced back completely. You’re body is trying to recover, but it isn’t there yet.  Take a look at your training for the three previous days and see if you might need to take an extra day of rest.

3.  You are dehydrated.  Spring is here, and summer is just around the bend.  Temperatures are rising and you’re starting to sweat like a pig – but you haven’t modified your hydration to match the new conditions.  Make sure you are getting enough to drink to match your hydration needs.

4.  You are burned out.  Sometimes a bad run just means you need a break.  Runners often seem averse to taking a break from training, even when it will actually help make them a better runner by keeping them fresh.  Every now and then, skip a run and sleep in, go to a movie, or just “play hooky”. And I mean do this even if you’ve already taken your rest day that week.  Rekindle your enthusiasm by changing it up once in awhile.

5.  You are overtrained.  This is the most serious, and the one bad run category of which you need to be most cautious.  Is your heart rate elevated upon waking?  Are you irritable?  Depressed?  Are you having more bad runs than good?  If so, you might be overtrained.  If you catch it quickly, you can recover from overtraining with a few days rest.  But, if you try to keep pushing through it, you can permanently damage your health.  Pay attention to your body, and seek treatment if you don’t recover after resting.

After a quick scan of my situation yesterday, I realized my bad run was a result of being under-fueled (very small dinner the night before) after a hard, hot hill-repeat workout.  A trip to Whole Foods for a big, juicy burger and some fresh-squeezed lemonade solved the problem, and my afternoon run was a joy!  While not every run is going to be ideal, it sure makes it more enjoyable when you feel strong and healthy.

What have you noticed contributes to your bad runs?


Happy Running!




Kent May 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I run after work, so if I’ve had a stressful day or its hot & humid outside (I live on the east coast), then I’m usually prepared for a tough effort on the treadmill. However, 9 times out of 10, a bad run results when I haven’t stuffed my face with carbs about an hour or so before the run. By the time I get to running late afternoon, I’ve been up for almost 12 hours. Its definitely the eating that affects me the most – its happened to me too many times to think otherwise. I shove peppermint patties in my face during my long runs to stay fueled (with some Gatorade).

Carilyn May 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm

That’s great you’ve figured out the correlation, Kent, and know how to correct it!

Char May 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Those crappy runs can really make you question what you’re doing and why it’s not working. And they can put your confidence right down the toilet (how come I always end up talking about toilets?). I’ve had my fair share of them but there’s nearly always a reason. And they’re good learning experiences.

Carilyn May 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Yes, Char, even now, I wonder about every bad run – just for less time. 🙂

Helen May 16, 2012 at 10:55 am

I starting to think there’s a correlation between crappy runs + the week before, um, Aunt Flo comes to visit …

Carilyn May 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

Probably very true 🙂

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