Most regular runners have experienced it: you have a run scheduled that you’d normally look forward to, but aren’t up for it, mentally or physically. If you’ve ever pondered the options of heading out the door or crawling back into bed, you’re definitely not alone. While following a training plan, or aiming to hit new personal goals requires discipline and consistency, athletes must also be cautious to avoid overtraining and running on the verge of illness.
A lack of motivation to get out the door can signify a variety of things, from simple general fatigue or mental stress, to more serious issues like RED-S syndrome. It can also simply be a lack of activation energy, something behaviour science expert James Clear describes as the energy required to get started in any habit or task. The smaller the habit, the smaller the activation energy required. Running can seem like a monumental task some days and pure joy on others.
Finding the sweet spot between self-compassion and self-discipline: finding the grit to get out in unpleasant conditions or when one is feeling a bit lazy, can be hard to nail down. Performance coach and author Brad Stulberg recently discussed this dilemma in an interview with endurance athlete and podcast host Rich Roll. He’s also commented about it on social media.
Marry self-discipline with self-compassion.
Doing hard things is hard. You cannot get the most out of yourself without occasionally being scared and failing. If you beat yourself up, you just waste energy. Being kind to yourself is key. Dust off. Get back on the wagon.
— Brad Stulberg (@BStulberg) December 18, 2021
Stulberg suggests considering what you would recommend to a friend feeling the same way. Self-reflection is challenging and it can be hard to determine whether you’re letting yourself off too easily. Inevitably as non-professional athletes, we make mistakes, and Stulberg suggests using kindness to ourselves when recognizing those.
Remembering that running (for most of us) is hopefully a life-long practice is key. In his conversation with Roll, Stulberg emphasizes the importance of learning what works best long term. That balance between consistency, dedicated workouts, and knowing when it’s time to take an additional day (or week) off, is best figured out through practice over time. As we gain experience, we learn what our bodies need and feel more confident as we make adjustments.