On The Run

Sluggish On The Run? This Might Help!

Over the last couple of months, my runs haven’t felt great. They’ve been slow, sluggish and greatly lacking in the va-va-voom factor! This has affected my enthusiasm for running and although I keep going, I don’t get excited before a run and often feel frustrated afterwards.

I briefly mentioned this in my last post and concluded that it must be mental exhaustion from a very tumultuous year. But since then, I’ve introspected a bit more and if I’m completely honest… I’ve not been taking care of myself as I should be. I keep asking my body to churn out weekly 20km long runs without nurturing it the way I should be. I don’t sleep enough. I don’t eat right. I hardly drink water. And my idea of recovery is a cappuccino. It’s time for me to get back to basics. If you’re having similar struggles, this may be something you need to hear too.

1/ Sleep More. When my kids were younger, I longed for time alone so once they were in bed, I would sit on the couch and do… well, nothing much! But it would satisfy that craving of being alone for a bit. My kids are more independent now but this habit has continued. But the truth is, I can’t expect to run well with such limited sleep. I didn’t have to go very far to find research to support this. This article highlights that “A common side effect in many studies has been that runners have a higher perception of effort for a given level of exercise. In other words, lack of sleep makes everything seem harder — especially running.” It’s time for me to set a more consistent (and earlier) bedtime routine that allows me to wake up easier and enjoy my runs in the mornings. Are you getting enough sleep to ensure optimal running performance?

2/ Eat Better. I’m doing a lot of big runs and I’ve developed a terrible habit of simply eating more chocolate or crisps the day before a long run as “fuel”. This goes against everything I know I should be doing. Last year guest blogger Naѐma wrote a great post about the importance of nutrition when marathon training (and running in general). She highlighted some of the key points we should consider including ensuring the right carbohydrate-protein mix, being mindful of runger tendencies and ensuring effective pre- and post-run fuelling. I will need to work on ensuring that my runs are fuelled by good food and are not just an excuse to eat all the junk. I know this is a huge contributor to my sluggish runs. Do you take shortcuts when it comes to good nutrition? Are you fuelling yourself with good wholesome food?

3/ Drink More Water. This is such an obvious one but something I’ve never been any good at. I think I’ve gotten away with it for a long time but with my increased mileage my body is finally telling me something has to change. In Naѐma’s guest post she eloquently stated that even a 2% dehydration can affect your body’s ability to perform. This is why “it is so important to stay hydrated, replenishing water and electrolytes throughout the day and most especially during and after those longer runs.” While on the run, I’m good at hydrating, it’s all the other times that I really need to work on. Are you staying hydrated before, during and after your runs?

4/ Have An Active Recovery Routine. My idea of recovery is to slump on the couch after a long run and sip on a well-earned cappuccino. That’s great but it often means I do very little stretching, foam rolling or walking to ease out the muscles. This Healthline article highlights that “active recovery is often considered more beneficial than inactivity, resting completely or sitting. It can keep blood flowing and help muscles recover and rebuild from intense physical activity.” The article highlights that active recovery helps to reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles, eliminate toxins, keep muscles flexible and reduce soreness which all help you maintain your exercise routine. Are you incorporating an active recovery routine after your runs?

How often do we hear that we need to listen to our bodies? Well, mine has been talking to me for a while now and I haven’t been listening. Instead, I’ve kept asking my body to hit out 50+ km weeks without doing much to take care of it so that it works and performs as it should. And when it doesn’t… I’m the first to complain! Of course, I realise these may not be the only factors contributing to my poor runs – but these are all glaring (and dangerous) omissions on my part. Thinking about the basics was a big eye-opener for me and I hope you also found this useful!

Are you listening to your body? Do you find yourself taking shortcuts in these areas too? What are some useful strategies you’ve found help in these areas?

I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By MileCoach Debbie RunsConfessions of a Mother RunnerRuns with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.

35 thoughts on “Sluggish On The Run? This Might Help!

  1. Ah yes I resemble this post…nutrition is my weakest point. I try to focus on getting the good stuff in but it’s all too easy to get “busy” and start eating a bunch of junk. I’m really working on sleep as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I seem to sleep a lot better in South Africa. I think it’s because there’s a lot less noise here in Cape Town. And since the curfew at 9pm, it’s even quieter. I just checked my Garmin app – my average sleeping time over the last 7 days is a whopping 8h 42mins!

    But I could do better with nutrition and hydration. Thank you for the reminder, Shathiso!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Back in 2019, I had that prolonged RA flare. Not so much pain, it was more about fatigue. I changed my diet then, eating more plant-based. I don’t know if it made a difference then, but I do notice now when I stray, like at Christmas with all the sweets. I have a lot more energy when I’m running too. Still working on sleep–that is definitely a challenge for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember when you changed your diet. What’s frustrating me is that these things are relatively “easy” to fix but I just seem to resist. But I’m on my 3rd 500ml bottle of water today so let’s hope I keep at it! Good luck working on your sleep.

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  4. Well, I’m all about active recovery! Like you said, studies show the muscles recover better when in motion (at least that’s definitely the case for me). I finally have the hydration down pretty good, but my sleep is jacked. Well, my sleep works for me (right now), but I know I’m probably not getting enough…I’m just not tired LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am pretty good at listening to my body — and good at ignoring it, too, LOL! I think we all get off track sometimes.

    These are all great tips, Shathiso, and even when we know it, sometimes it’s just important to be reminded of it. Hopefully you’ll have more spring in your step soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In fairness, a lot of sluggishness can be attributed to our constant 100% humidity LOL! Also, having to wear too many clothes when it’s cold.

    But yes, what you say is definitely valid, and we should do better about listening to our body and fueling it properly in all the ways!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing tips! The active recovery is one I struggle with; after my past few winter long runs, I’ve taken a quick shower, but then curled up on the couch on a blanket for far too long afterwards with no movement. Even a walk would have helped!

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. These are all great tips! The only one I can say that I do do is staying hydrated. Working from home these past couple of months helped. I had a glass of water in the kitchen and would get up to drink. It also forced me to take a break from my computer (even if it was just for a minute or two). And because I was drinking more water I also had to use more often the bathroom. Now that I went back to school I still drink a lot of water and tell my kids that I am taking a bathroom break. I need to do better about nutrition. There are days when I get enough sleep and other days when I don’t get enough and then struggle to make it through the day.

    Thanks for linking up with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I struggle with fueling properly. I tend to want to eat everything in sight after a long run. Hydration and sleep are no problem for me.
    Good luck. Hope you feel stronger with these adjustments.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Really, really good tips. The sleep one is so important and something I know I must try with but so often don’t. I’m also trying harder with strength and stretching at the moment myself. We took from running to keep us going, now it’s time to give back to it, I feel!

    I hope putting your principles into practice helps you feel more comfortable on your upcoming runs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is time for us to give back to these bodies that keep us going! I’m really hoping I can just stick to these basic principles. I’ve started on water and already feel a difference just in my normal work day. This should transfer to running! Let’s see. Good luck with the improvements you’re trying to make with sleeping and stretching!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. For the last year, I have focused on all of these elements and it’s helped tremendously. Changing my eating style and keeping track of what and how much I’ve been eating has been a game changer for me. Sleep is also huge! Hope you are able to get on a better routine for yourself and reap the benefits

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah and so glad changing your eating style is already showing huge benefits for you! I just know that’s what will also make a difference for me. I started on improving my hydration this week and I know its just been a few days but I can already feel I’m more energised.

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  12. This is so great and so true! It’s easy to fall into bad habits. I’m glad you figured out what is happening and hopefully your runs are much better now. I also seem to have a hard time getting enough sleep and I notice a big difference when I don’t hydrate well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These things all seem so simple but its funny how easy it is to neglect them! I started with hydration this week and I can already feel the difference. Now I just need to continue and seriously tackle the other elements as well. But I’m really hopeful as I don’t like how my runs have been feeling lately.

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  13. Yes to all of these! I tell my athletes that you can’t foam roll your way out of poor sleep or nutrition. Nothing matches those for recovery!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Good common sense advice.
    I’m really good with hydration, ok with food but horrible with sleep.
    I’ve never been a good sleeper and actively work to do what I can to improve it.
    Let’s just say I’ve been much more successful at running!
    It is so important to do some recovery work after a run. And I’m working on it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you’re able to find a strategy that improves your sleep. Not always easy though. At least for me once I get to bed I sleep easily so I need to just focus on making it a habit to get to bed early. Let’s keep working at all of these, we’ll get there!

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