Running is supposed to be an enjoyable activity. That’s why you’ve been running for so many years. Then why doesn’t running seem to be as fun now as it used to be? Some days it’s almost as if running is just another stressor to be dealt with. You have a very busy life with work and family, and now it seems running is no longer a pleasant diversion, but another stressor in an already stressful day. Your performances are getting worse and worse, even though you are trying to keep up your training. Why isn’t running fun like it used to be? Like the Stone Temple Pilots sang in their hit Stressed Out, “wish we could turn back time to the good old days……but now we’re stressed out!” So why is there all this stress with your running?

First, and foremost are you tired? Fatigue can make even the smallest task seem like a monumental struggle. Look at your log (begin keeping one if you don’t already) and see if you have tried to up your mileage or the intensity of your training too quickly. Make sure you plan and adhere to easy recovery days, especially as you get older. Don’t be afraid to plan days off in your training schedule. Do something else you enjoy in the time you would have been running. When you’re rested and full of energy running will be more enjoyable. Read your body!!! Persistent fatigue tells you something. So make rest and recovery a very regular part of your running. Feeling energized can make any busy day be less stressful.

Are you getting any pleasure from running? Sounds like a pretty ridiculous question, but try and honestly answer it. Running should improve your health and self-image, while making you a well-balanced human being. Strive to keep your running in perspective. Running should be an activity that balances your life, not rules it. Try and remind yourself of the things you have always enjoyed in running and then get back to them. Running should be your healthy sport, not your unhealthy obsession.

Are you frustrated with your running and feeling stressed about lack of progress in your training and racing? Have you set some goals and failed to reach them or just don’t seem to be making any progress toward them? It may be time to rethink and reset your goals more realistically. Examine if your goals have been realistic, yet challenging. Goals, which are too difficult to achieve, lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment, both of which can sap energy and motivation. It you have set goals that were too easy, you simply may be bored. Set some new goals that will stimulate your interest and give you a positive level of anticipation and excitement in achieving them. Maybe try some different distances and surfaces for your races.  

Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions with your running? You force yourself to run, but you really don’t remember much about the run or there seems to be nothing of significance that occurs during your run. It’s as if you are on some type of automatic pilot, just numb to the environment and your running in general. Well then change things up! Put some variety in your training. Run as many different courses as possible. Run on different surfaces. Run shorter, run longer; just get out of the rut and do something different. You may even want to cross-train for a while. Ride a bike, inline skate, cross-country ski or something that you think is fun and doesn’t stress you out. Sometimes sheer boredom leads to stress!

Are you being too hard on yourself about running? Do you think of not running a certain mileage each week or taking a day off as a sign of weakness? Do you feel like a failure because you’re not running well? Hey, lighten up will ya’! Remind yourself that you’re more than just a runner and your family and friends still love you no matter how running is going. Look at the enjoyment running has brought you and all you have accomplished since you began running. If you keep berating yourself and putting yourself down you will ultimately begin to really internalize it and really believe it. One of the best reasons to run is because it’s fun. Think for a minute how you would feel if you couldn’t run. Remember that injury that kept you from running for weeks? Think of how much you missed running then and how glad you were to be able to go out on a run, even if it were a very short one. Feel good about running, even though at times it may not proceed, as you would like. There will always be bumps in the proverbial road of running. But when weighing the bad and the good you will probably agree that running really does enhance your life, so don’t beat yourself up and get stressed out when running doesn’t go well.

Obviously other people like to run too, so many of you probably run with a training partner or even a group. Running with others can be a plus or minus depending upon how it’s done. If your training runs turn into competitive races with your training partners then you will most likely feel stress about training. Nothing can spoil the pleasure of running like trying to race someone every single day. Not only will it stress you mentally, racing each day in training will quickly wear you down physically resulting in poor “real race performance”, horrible fatigue during the day and possible running burnout. If your training partners seem to always want to race, then take a few mental health days each week. Run by yourself and enjoy the experience. If you like to socialize as you run, then find a group who runs easy, doesn’t race in training and likes good conversation. Remember that training is basically hard days followed by easy days to allow the body to adapt. Run hard on the hard days, but run easy and really enjoy yourself on the easy recovery days. Your fitness will improve as result and you will most certainly experience less stress.

Always keep in mind that the globe will still keep turning if you don’t run every day, or if you don’t run a couple days with your group, or if you simply go out and run around a field with no watch to read for time or known distance you want to cover.

Heck, there are 6 billion people in China who don’t even know you or that you run! So be good to yourself and allow yourself to enjoy running again. Think about it: you’re healthy and you’re still running after all these years because you must enjoy it. Go out and allow yourself to enjoy running like you did when you first began! Make running a release again and not a stressor. Turn back time to the good old days!

Dr. Ferguson is Chair of the Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Science Department at Averett University and is an AASP Certified Sport Psychology Consultant.  He may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Read more of Dr. Ferguson articles on www.runohio.com 

Confidence: It’s Your Choice -  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/60-confidence-it-s-your-choice 

What Is Mental Toughness? -   http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/90-what-is-mental-toughness

Don’t Panic!  -  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/107-don-t-panic-by-richard-ferguson-ph-d