The 5 Ways to Maintain Joy in Running

Runners are admittedly a little crazy. Like mos people with a passion for something, their love of running can come and go in waves. One day, I can have a great run and love every second of it, only to get out their the next day and have a miserable time and swear off the sport forever. I’ve never had an injury, but next time I have a “bad” run, I’m going to live vicariously through Jill’s experience, and work on appreciating the very fact that I have two working legs (and corresponding feet, toes, etc) to get me out the door. And when that appreciation isn’t enough to keep me feeling fulfilled, I’ll try one of her other very sound suggestions:

This summer I was sidelined for 9 weeks with a stress fracture in my foot.  NINE… LONG… WEEKS…

At the time of diagnosis, 9 weeks seemed the equivalent of forever.  “How will I deal with this?  I’ll never be the same runner I was before.  It’s the end of the world… WAH!”

Pretty quickly 9 weeks was over and I got to start running again, little by little I added on mileage and time.

I won’t lie and say that everything was the same… 9 weeks of very reduced activity will take a toll on your cardio fitness.  But it’s not going to take you all the way back to square one either.  The biggest change was one that I didn’t expect, it happened to my mental approach.

The old me would take it for granted that I could go for a run.  I really let bad runs get under my skin.  (And bad runs will happen to everyone at some point… it’s inevitable, don’t let it discourage you!)  I got irritated if life got in the way of my training.  Basically, I let the negative side of my brain participate in the run a lot more than I should.

Since coming back?  Every run is filled with gratitude.  Grateful that I can run, grateful that my body is working well enough to work through the motion of running, grateful that I am alive.  It’s amazing.

I’ve been back at running for 3 months post-injury and I’ve still not lost that gratitude and I really hope to retain it forever.  Here are some ways to keep the joyfulness in the sport:

1. Run by feel sometimes.

Leave the Garmin, Nike+, RunKeeper or whatever methods you use to track pace/distance behind and go out for a run just to experience the world.  This method usually works better if you run outside.  Look at the world around you and appreciate it!  If it feels labored, slow down.  If you feel great, speed up.

2. Run hard sometimes

Doing something harder every now and then will help you appreciate what your body is capable of.  The hardest part is often getting your brain out of the way, the little voice that tells you that you can’t.  But once you do that and you’ve accomplished the task at hand, your confidence will surge.

3. Don’t run sometimes

Everybody needs rest days.  None of us are super-human.  For all the stories you hear of athletes that sound like they are invincible, they still need to take rest that is appropriate to them.  So figure out what level of rest-to-run ratio works best for your individual needs.

4. Tune in and Zone out

This is something I advocate to the runners I coach… tuning in is running without music and focusing on your body.  Pay attention to your breathing, your form, your thoughts.  Make adjustments as needed.  Zoning out is running with some kind of distraction, frequently music or a TV on a treadmill.  Both methods can be helpful in your training, but both are necessary.

5. Don’t be afraid of change

If you are chronically injured, don’t just accept that is the way it will be forever.  LOOK for an answer.  For some people that means changing their form or trying different levels of support in shoes.  Sometimes it’s a matter of balancing and strengthening other parts of the body.  You may need to implement some complementary cross-training.  But you need to be ready to put in the work on your own behalf.  If you are constantly in pain, you’ll never feel happy about running.

Jill blogs at JillWillRun.com and is an RRCA-certified running coach.  She coaches the Las Vegas Team Challenge group.  In addition to running and coaching, she works full-time as a web geek.

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3 Responses to “The 5 Ways to Maintain Joy in Running”


  1. 1 Jill Will Run December 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for letting me guest post!

  2. 2 Cheryl Kellond (@XXfounder) December 14, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Great post! Loosing the Garmin is one of my top 3 for putting the joy back into it!


  1. 1 Back to Reality « Marathon Winer Trackback on December 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm

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