Tulloh Says: Beating The Training Blues

Training becoming a drag? Feel like you're running in glue? Then read on...

Posted: 27 May 2003
by Bruce Tulloh

Concentrate on doing the things you enjoy

We’ve all been through it. It starts with a reluctance to change and get out of the door; it continues with a feeling of lethargy during the warm-up. Some days you manage to overcome it and get stuck into proper training, but on other days you just plod round your circuit feeling awful and wishing it was over. The most likely causes of this problem are overtraining and boredom.

Rest is important: if you don’t give your body enough time to recover from the long, hard sessions you inevitably become run-down and depressed. If your training lacks variety, the boredom effect will wear you out mentally even before you are physically overtired.

The first remedy, therefore, is rest. How often do we read of runners who after a good run say, “The amazing thing is that I missed several days training last week, because I fell off my bike/had a cold…”. A little rest will always do you good in the short term, and the harder you are training, the more benefit you will get from the time off. Even the most dedicated runner can afford to have one rest day every two weeks, and I recommend that you should have one easy week out of every four; the easy week should usually come when you are racing at the end of the week.

The next most important thing is having a real mental break. You can come back fresh and better able to see the way forward. Some international runners take two to four weeks off at the end of the track season. A lot of runners are scared of doing this because they think that they will suddenly become unfit, but it’s unlikely that you’ll do nothing physical during the break. If you ski or climb, or just walk along the beach, you will lose very little fitness in just two weeks and you should feel mentally refreshed and keen to get back to training.

Suppose you find it boring doing the same thing day after day? Maybe you’re just in a rut, trying to beat times around the same old courses. You need to rethink your programme. Decide which races are important in the year and plan things around them. Don’t be afraid to have periods where you are either on a ‘minimum maintenance’ programme – three short runs a week – or a ‘no pressure’ programme, where you just run for so many minutes a day, four, five or six days a week, without bothering about times or distances. When you’re in serious training, consider introducing some new elements into your schedule -– runs in new places or with different training partners. Introduce a new hill or track session. Consider doing weights, aerobics, swimming or mountain biking. If you’re committed to doing long runs in marathon preparation, then plan to go somewhere different every couple of weeks. Get someone to drop you 10 miles from home so that you’re not going over the same old ground.

Perhaps, though, the malaise goes deeper and cannot be cured just like that. You have to reconsider your reasons for running. First of all, do you really like running ? If not, you’d better have some good reasons for doing it! Be honest with yourself. If you just like getting out into the open air, walking would be almost as good. If it’s to keep fit and lose weight, a regime of swimming, cycling, aerobics and walking would achieve the same goal. If it’s to have a break from work and meet people, you could take up line dancing.

If you are an obsessive lifetime runner like me, though, all these suggestions are totally irrelevant. The most likely reason for the blues is that you are going round the same circles and not improving. Are you frustrated because you can’t achieve last year’s times even though you’re training harder? Write down your times for this year, last year and the year before. Can you really expect to be improving at every distance? Should you be thinking of concentrating more on one particular aspect of your running in which you can still improve? Are there events you haven’t tried yet, or places you haven’t been to? Is running as important to you as it used to be? If something in your personal life or your career has changed, running may not have such a high priority. You may just be going through the motions through force of habit, which is why it feels so hard. In this case the answer is to run just as much as you need to keep reasonably fit and not to worry about staying at the same level of performance.

Concentrate on doing the things you enjoy, not the things you think you ought to do. Enjoy the friendships of running – and worry less about the pace. Above all, think how many people would like to be able to run but are unable… and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

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Discuss this article

I'm planning to run after work tonight.
Already I feel weak due to malnutrition. Does anyone have any good tips for a really quick snack that will digest quickly and give me enough energy for 4/5 miles?
Posted: 02/06/2003 at 17:16

I normlly have a bit(or chunk) malt loaf (no butter)washed down with some orange juice or lucozade sport about 90 min before run

Normally dose the biz for upto 7 miles - over that i also take a sports drink out with me
Posted: 02/06/2003 at 17:27

Cheers for that Will

I'll give it a try

Posted: 02/06/2003 at 17:30

look don't tell anybody else, top, top, secret nutritional boost food , a can of slim fast (strawberry is the best to digest) full of nutriants and 300cals, did a 48 hour treadmill run recently soley on this drink. rememeber don't tell anybody else!!
Posted: 02/06/2003 at 21:55

ready brek, banana & golden syrup is my most running friendly breakfast.
Posted: 03/06/2003 at 08:46

Cheers to the Yorkshire Running Man and Ed M, I'll give both of your ideas a try. But not at the same time!!
Posted: 03/06/2003 at 09:15

Honey on toast is good it works wonders with me

Posted: 04/06/2003 at 12:48

muller light yogurt with a banana 30-45min before a run gives me a boost! i will be trying the slim fast shake from now on though!
Posted: 10/06/2003 at 10:39

A couple of bananas, the high5 engergy bars are great
Posted: 10/06/2003 at 10:40

48hrs on a treadmill !
Posted: 10/06/2003 at 17:36

Good old bananas. Anything else makes my stomach cramp when running. I think that if you tough out the hunger though, you will probably run quite well and then you can have good meal after the run.
Posted: 11/06/2003 at 18:34

Chunky Kit Kat and a diet Coke for me!!
Posted: 13/06/2003 at 17:05

Posted: 13/06/2003 at 18:22

or if you have a few minutes (do it in the microwave, less goo)


(dont forget the pinch of salt - made with water only, you can add what you like after ... GOLDEN SYRUP)
Posted: 13/06/2003 at 18:24

DIET coke Hill-Reps? dont we need the real sugar?

and I've heard FIZZ is not good if you're running ...

but YES I do buy one 500ml bottle of coke and one 500ml of water if I go out shopping and get the urge to go for a quick 2hr FAST WALK (hills) on the way

Definitely and always

BANANAS .................... chocolate raisins
Posted: 13/06/2003 at 18:36

HELP - this is not "NUTRITION" !!

Posted: 13/06/2003 at 18:39

try to eat your lunch later in the day so that is still fuelling you for your run.
Posted: 13/06/2003 at 19:50

I eat a 'Freusli' bar 60-90 minutes before an evening run.
Posted: 14/06/2003 at 08:33

yorkshire runing man - 48 hours on a treadmill? how far did you get?

I'm thinking of doing the 24 hour track race in hull next month (which is running in circles to see how many laps you do) - any tips?

nb lucozade sport or carb gel and water gor an instant boost... what its designed for
Posted: 15/06/2003 at 10:17

I eat bananas, fruit bars, plain bread or dried fruit sometime before I run then a chunk of marzipan just as I start to run.
Posted: 29/06/2003 at 16:22

try mulla rice with banana makes my legs twinge every time good luck
Posted: 28/01/2004 at 20:10

Either bananas on toast or museli,weetabix and chopped bananas mixed with milk for breakfast!obviously allow to settle before running!x
Posted: 31/01/2006 at 01:33

Does anybody know if there is a slimfast equivilent that does not contain milk?
Posted: 31/01/2006 at 09:51

What if you run before breakfast? I've been trying to get up & out by 0530 hrs but can't really see me getting up another hour earlier to throw some breakfast in me!! Any ideas for a really fast-acting, non-vomit-inducing energy-giving snack for early morning?

Posted: 04/07/2006 at 19:50

I tend to eat something just before I go to bed and then get up and run straight away. It beats getting up even earlier even though it might not be quite as good as eating something an hour before running!
Posted: 04/07/2006 at 19:57

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