Experience From - Holly , Dave Littlehales , Sean Greenhill , Deb Reno , Rock Cogar , Karl King , Jeff Washburn , Holly #2 , Ray Zirblis ,


Anyone got any good advice for what I guess is a slump???

I've been running an average of one 50K event per month since last september. my training is LOW mileage in between events - usually two shorter runs during the week 4-8 miles, and one longer run on weekends 8-10 miles or so, and usually just walking the week after a race.

lately I've found that I am having a hard time talking myself into running at all. everything seems to take precedence, including reading ultra email! to make matters worse, I am travelling during the week on business, so two days a week are pretty much shot with airplane riding and resulting weariness. I feel FAT and LAZY...

any of you have any good slump busters?????? cattle prods? tow chains? take away the car keys?

Dave Littlehales

Whenever I get this way, I break the pattern entirely. Even a week or two of doing nothing at all or dropping down into the shorter distances breaks it up well for me. That's why I do everything from 5K's up. It mixes it up and reduces the burnout significantly. At least, that's what works for me.

Sean Greenhill

I have similar problems from time to time. Firstly, my advice is to back off from the "I've got to run every day" mentality, which might have got you into this mindset in the first place. The pressure of compelling yourself to run can be unexpectedly great and builds up.

When I had ITB in February, I cut my running back to a maximum of 3 times a week and started crosstraining, especially cycling. Now I'm a lot more hungry for my allocated runs, because I know that I have to get more quality out of a smaller base. It hasn't detracted from my results at all.

Also, compel yourself when needed. If you need a long run, take enough money with you for a one way train ticket and catch a train 40- 50K away. Then you'll have no choice but to run home. I've done this several times and it certainly works. In addition, I cycle to and from work 5 days a week, which gives me 1 1/4- 1 1/2 hours of workout 5 days a week right there. No car. No trains or buses. Don't use them.

Join a running club to add a social element to your runs.... there are plenty of other possibilities.

Deb Reno

Seems to me that at least part of the problem could be plain ol' tiredness. The travel alone can do that to ya, especially if you're crossing time zones. And, it might not be out of the question to make sures there's not a purely physical cause -ie. anemia, thyroid malfunction, low blood sugar, a whole host of things might be causing you to be less energetic than normal. Maybe checking in with your Dr. could provide a clue if other things don't get you going. Check your overall stress level - that takes it's toll as well, draining our emotional resources which could certainly contribute to lack of motivation. And, good grief, if you've been racing a 50K or more every month, you're probably entitled to a slump!

Rock Cogar

Pick a Time-Distance goal, like doing a short event like a 10K, Triathlon or marathon, put a training program together and follow it!

Example: Doing a quarter (s=0.9,b=24.4,r=6.2) distance Triathlon in 2:15 of less.

Karl King

While diagnostics over the internet are dangerous, the "slump" problem sounds classic.

Your training doesn't sound like that much, but when you add the days of travel, and the fact that you recently ran two 50s, the net result is that you've exceeded the stress level that your body can handle. Remember, stress is additive; all the stress from racing, traveling and training combine.

The apathetic feelings are a big up-side-the-head message that you need to back off, reduce the stress in your life, and rest. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that maybe you should just train harder. That would be pouring gasoline on the fire. When in doubt, try the easy alternative first. If you rest for a couple weeks, get plenty of sleep and still find that your energy level is low, you can search further. Chances are that with some good rest you'll find that your desire to run comes back strong.

Jeff Washburn

My best advice is when you're not motivated is to take some time off and vegetate. You are obviously burned out ither from running to much or by trying to fit too much running into your very busy schedule. Take a break. You reap a lot of benefits.

Holly #2

Thanks for all the advice on my slump feelings...i started to do personal thank you's but true to the amazing-ness of this list, i was overwhelmed with suggestive and supportive email :) so i'm doing a group thank you here....and just to put in a little ultra content, a summary for any other slumpers who may be lurking:

There were varied responses, but they centered around a few central themes:

  1. Face it, you run a LOT - you need a break so lay back for a few weeks and give yourself some slack. Drink a beer, eat some french fries, eat lots of veggies, make sure you're well nourished.

  2. Try some alternate activities for a few weeks, an/ord start mixing them in with running more permanently - biking, swimming, triathlons, blading, stairmaster with book reading, plain old hiking, good sex ;)

  3. Try to vary your running more - do some short distances or speed work, maybe enter a 5K or 10K race (ok, nonultra but it's in context!).

  4. Set a goal and make a training schedule rather than just free-floating.

  5. Run with friends, in a group.

That's about the extent of it...and one person reminded me that my endocrine system may just be a little worn out with two 50 milers 30 days apart following 7 50K's in the previous 7 months.

So today, I have pulled out the yoga mat and am smiling peacefully as I stretch out some tightened muscles.....then onto a plane and back to Austin....where (don't tell anyone) I am going on a group trail run with friends on Saturday, may do a cycling event with another friend on Sunday, and plan to run a little club 5K monday morning before seeing the acupuncturist for a tune up and then heading back to california where I am now considering a goal event of the shadow of the giants 50k on 6/5.... Last night I went out to a pub with a few co-workers and a brother-in-law of one who just HAPPENS to be an ultra runner (and lurks here on list Ii'm told) and spent a few hours drinking blackandtans, eating fish and chips, and boring my coworkers to death talking ultra geek talk!

taking a little bit of everyone's advice and smiling again! (and for some weird reason I don't feel quite as fat this morning - whooohoooo)

Ray Zirblis

Sometimes one just needs to take time off. For me, the strain and focus of preparing for a particular goal can lead to a slump once that goal is reached, or a kind of 'post partum' depression following a big race. OR at times my training lacks drive and focus exactly because I do not have a short term goal, a particular event I am getting ready for. Of course, I feel most motivated when I feel progress being made, and the question is how to get the ball rolling in that direction.

As to 'slump busters,' running with people can help, doing any short race, 5Ks, can get my juices flowing, there is a Tuesday 'fun run' in my area, which can give me energy.

Shifting the time of day or changing the route can help. Sometimes, stopping until I am dying to get out there is the ticket. I've had to force myself to get out the last few weeks, and this Saterday A buddy and I met at 4:00 am and ran the hilly, rolling backroads on a 32 mile loop. Five hours of running, but we were back and showered for a 9:30 breakfast at my favorite yuppy waffle joint. This was much more of a hoot than getting up at 7 or 8 and going out to slog my regular long run where I'd be done by noon.

So, finding a way to 'shake it up' can help. I took workshops with Mike Spino and the Esalen runners in the 70s, and he had some playful and, for me, transcendental ways of breaking up routine: meditation and guided imagery, paired running with one person keeping their eyes closed, close observation of children and animals and how they run for elements that one might bring in to one's own practice. Once he stashed a bouquet at the ten mile turn-around of a twenty mile run, so that we all did the second half holding and smelling beautiful red roses. We experimented with identifying with various animals, even in a simple, iconic way. What is the difference between embodying the ideal of tortise or hare? Of preditor or prey? For one grueling nightrun in Big Sur, after a 1/2 of silent sitting meditation, someone hit a gong and said, when you hear the gong again the run will be over. In what seemed like a few minutes or one of those 'timeless moments' I heard it, except that we were in Carmel, some 20 plus miles north and hours had passed. Group hypnosis? Who knows?

Another 'trick' is to hike or run with a pack, say, to above timberline, then dump the pack and enjoy the free, light feeling of running the summit rocks and ledges and a pleasant down hill jog afterward. I generally will cart gallons of water, then drink what I can and dump the rest out for an empty downhill pack.

I do seem to enjoy having a physical demarcation point, a hilltop or tower or waterfall to look forward to, and a lake or stream to jump into at the end, now that it's warm enough.

Another possibility is to build your run around your other interests. For example, I am an architectural historian and I love exploring new cities and towns on my runs.

Another way to break through a slump is to help someone else. Can you pace a friend or help someone who is just starting to run and needs a partner? I will sometimes privately dedicate a run to someone such as my mother or father, I just run keeping my focus on them. I'm Catholic (I guess someone has to be. :) So I sometimes do the rosary which is a prayer and meditation cycle, for someone. In 1992 when a friend was dying of cancer and I couldn't just sit with every one else at her bedside, I ran loop after loop around her road. This was my own response and attempt to 'do' something, when nothing could be done. At some gut level, I hoped that running myself into the ground would somehow reach and help her, as silly as that may sound.

On the lighter side, I have a friend who swears by buying herself a new running outfit every Spring, and says that once she's got it, she has to 'live up to it.' Another friend watches movies like CHARIOTS OF FIRE, MARATHON MAN or THE NAKED PREY to rekindle interest.

This obviously isn't your fancy, coach-type, objective running advice, but I hope it gives you food for thought. Some slumps arrive and depart in their own good time.