Make the Most Out of a Bad Run

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Thu Sep 8th, 2005, No comments (be the first!)

No matter who you are, if you're a runner, you have good days and bad days. On those "bad" days, for whatever reason, it's a struggle to pull it all together and have a decent run. This can even happen to those of us who love to run, including yours truly. It's understandable given the crazy lives that most of us lead. There are so many factors that affect our running.

With Chi Running, there are lots of things you can do to help your run go better, should you find yourself in less than desirable straights.

To begin with, put this thought into your head: "There is no such thing as a bad run." If things aren't going exactly how you'd like them to go when you're out on your run, it usually means that you have an opportunity to learn something new. Struggle is the fire from which change arises, and the best time to make the most of a struggle is when it's right in front of your face.

Now, I know that might sound a bit simplistic. But too often we're led to believe that struggling is a bad thing, or that we struggle because we're doing something wrong.

I disagree. I look at struggle as an opportunity to grow. True struggle happens when you can sense what is not working for you and you're willing to take the appropriate action to correct the situation. Those who accomplish change are willing to engage the struggle.

In my own Chi Running practice, I'm constantly trying out new ways to move my body. At this point, I really don't have bad runs. But, I do have days when I struggle more than others, and those are the days when I seem to learn the most. So, here are a few tips that will hopefully help you through your next "learning opportunity."

Locate the Problem
There are generally two things that can get in your way of having an enjoyable run. It's either your head or your body. Sometimes it can be a combination of both, but I would venture to say that most problems begin in one place or the other.

The first thing to do is to figure out whether your problem is in your head or in your body? This is done by asking yourself if what is going on in your run is a thought or a sensation. It's not very difficult to separate the two. A thought is not something you can put your finger on - A sensation is.

Head Problems
If the problem is in your head, you'll tend to hear some sort of internal dialog in your mind like:

  • I can't do this.
  • Where did my energy go?
  • It's too far to run today.
  • I don't want to be here.
  • This is really no fun.
  • I didn't feel this way yesterday.
  • This sucks, I just want to go back to bed.

Sound familiar? These thoughts will tend to be encrypted with some sort of judgement. Then, you have to deal with a judgement that starts a negative spin, and pretty soon you're energy is down the tubes.

Help Your Head
If your problem is in your head, here are a couple of things you can do to counteract those devilish little voices that can hijack your run.

  1. Don't pick up the phone. That's right. If you know that it's just a voice, and your body doesn't really feel that bad, you can treat your negative voices as you would the perennial dinnertime telemarketer…: don't pick up the phone. If you give energy to a negative thought, it will sap your energy. And, that won't help your situation. Just give those disparaging thoughts the cold shoulder and move onto something productive, like taking in your environment, or doing your Chi Running focuses, or watching your breath. Before long those thoughts will be lying in the dust somewhere way behind you. Thoughts are like plants. If you water them they'll grow. So, your "struggle" is to starve the thoughts you'd like to get rid of and "water" the thoughts you'd like to grow.

  2. Change the channel. I'm sure you've had the experience of having a thought stuck in your mind. It consumes your consciousness and seems to eat up all the other thoughts around it. It might not even be a negative thought. It could be a project at work or a paper that is due. These thoughts are fine, but if they take up so much energy that they're beginning to effect your running, it's time to change the channel and give your mind a break. It's not that hard to do, especially if you're doing Chi Running. All you need to do is think of one of your favorite Chi Running focuses and you'll have a new "channel" to direct your mind to. Then, your focus will return to your body, which is the best place to have it when you're running.

Body Problems
If the problem is physical, it will most often express itself somewhere in your body as:

  • An ache or pain (ranging from dull to sharp)
  • Muscular fatigue or weakness
  • Muscular tension
  • Some type of internal discomfort

As I mentioned previously, if the pain is in your body, you should be able to put your finger on it… or, at the least, sense where the discomfort is coming from.

Help Your Body
Here are some suggestions to try, if you sense that your problem is in your body.

First of all, do your best to precisely locate the problem, then work on the problem by addressing the cause. Here is our original list of problem areas along with some tips for what to do in each situation.

  • An ache or pain (ranging from dull to sharp)
    • This is your body telling you that something is not right with how you're moving. Take the time to pinpoint the epicenter of the ache or pain and check to see if you're moving that particular body part in the correct range of motion.
    • Go through as many of the Chi Running focuses as you can remember, and see if instating any of them helps to reduce your discomfort. If your discomfort is not getting worse, continue to work the focuses that seem to help the most.
    • If the pain is getting worse, stop your run.
  • Muscular fatigue or weakness
    • If your feeling muscular fatigue, your body is telling you that you're either out of shape or using too much muscle and not enough technique. In either case, slow down, shorten your stride and do your best to work on your postural alignment.
  • Muscular tension
    •  If you're holding tension in your muscles, you'll either feel tired or you'll experience a limited range of motion in the area that is tense. If you need to, stop your run and stretch or loosen the tight muscles, breathing deeply while focusing on the tense areas. When you resume running, soften those muscles with every stride. Imagine your  muscles hanging limply on your skeleton.
    • Every 5-10 minutes during your run, let your arms and legs go limp and run along like a rag doll for 100 yards. Then, keep that sense of looseness as you continue on with your run
  • Some type of internal discomfort
    • Internal sensations of discomfort should be dealt with individually and with common sense. Messages from your organs are not something to take lightly. Proceed with caution, and if the discomfort increases even a tinch…head home and deal with your problem when you're not running.
    • If you have a headache or stomach ache from some sort of over-indulgence, it's not a great reason to stop your run. Running is one of the world's best cures for over-doing food or drink. Just think of how good and cleaned out you'll feel after a good workout.
    • If you're short of breath, you're either running faster than your body is conditioned to run, or you're breathing is too shallow. In either case you can slow down, shorten your stride, or try belly breathing.

What it all comes down to is that you always have choices. When you're out on your run, and it's a struggle to enjoy yourself as much as you'd like, there's always something you can do about it. You can let yourself get swept into a downward spiral … or you can productively approach your predicament by choosing to struggle with your adversity, with the possibility of turning a potentially "bad" run, into a transformative experience.

 

Resources to help you master the Chi Running basics:

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I wanted to take a minute to thank Danny and everyone involved at Chi Running. On January 1st 2010 I limped off the Buckeye Trail in NE Ohio with another pulled calf muscle, I have to admit I was done running. 

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