So you've stalled out?
Sometimes we all need to take a break from things that we love, and exercise is one of the most common and easiest things to walk away from, then never find the motivation to get back into. Even Olympic athletes need a break every once in awhile, but they have no choice but to get right back into the swing of things since their life has been dedicated to one sport. Most of us have a lot of trouble convincing ourselves that we have the energy to hit the gym when it's dark when we leave for work and dark when we leave to go home, and granted, there are days that require a post work nap, but the more you skip the gym, the less energy you'll have overall.
When you live in an area where it's dark and it's cold, it's often flat-out miserable during the winter months, but I use the same approach to get myself moving that I suggested you try - sign up for a race. Invest money in something and force yourself not to waste it. I've read a lot of running articles in my down time and found out that during the winter months, it's best not to push yourself, don't run for time - run for practice. I hadn't been in the gym and I wasn't training, but I ran my first race of 2013 in January, and guess what? Even though I was using it as a practice run for my upcoming half marathon, I wasn't happy with my time or myself. I was done for the rest of the day, which normally doesn't happen to me after a 5K, I knew that my lack of training had caught up to me after only a few weeks off. I told myself to get to the gym, but kept finding excuses why I couldn't make it. I ran a 2nd 5K in February and struggled again, that was it for me. I hit the gym, but found out that I just didn't want to be on the treadmill, I knew I had to train for all of the races I had coming up, but had no desire to do it.
I had already committed myself to 2 half marathons, and had to hold myself accountable for training, but how do you do that when you have no desire to run any time other than race day? I made a compromise with myself - go to the gym. Running isn't the only cardio available so if you don't want to be on the treadmill, run a mile, then hop on something else. This is how I fell in love with the C2 rowing machine. I would force myself to do at least 10 minutes of cardio, then allowed myself the treat of rowing. I didn't get overheated, but I was working so much of my body that I was still just as sore. I wasn't as worn out as when I'd run 5 miles, so I started using the weight machines, then finishing up my workout by walking at a steep incline. The point of all of this is that I found a way to train even if I didn't realize it, and I started to enjoy the gym again. Some of you may love the treadmill, some of you may love the bikes, elliptical or stair machines and I'm sure some of you hate all forms of cardio as much as you hate finding out your grandma's a card shark 5 minutes into a game of Old Maid when you're 5, but find what works for you. Who knows, in a few months, you may despise the machine that you once loved so much, but unless you're a fan of plateauing, you need to change up your workout to better yourself.
You don't have to be in the gym for hours at a time to get a good workout (contrary to Jersey Shore beliefs), and your legs and arms don't have to feel like rubber for days afterwards. If you can't stand being in the gym, or despise the way it's making you feel, you're not going to want to go: you'll find excuses. Spring is here! So if your allergies allow it, get outside, hit a trail, and run/walk (Run/walk = run as far as you can go, walk a little to recover, then pick up & run again, repeat). There is nothing wrong with going 6 miles and walking 5 of them, you're still putting in the miles. You'll be able to increase your training the more you stick with it, so if you're not where you were at this time last year, who cares? You know what your own goals are and you only have yourself to blame if you don't achieve them when it comes to running. Maybe this year just isn't the year that you set your PR or run as many miles as you want to, but guess what, there's always next year, just stick with it and you'll surprise yourself.
To sum it up, "don't beat yourself up if you've slacked off." Life takes a lot of crazy twists and turns, but the beautiful thing about running is that it's always there waiting for you when you're ready. Sign up for a few races, give yourself a goal, maybe it's running a certain distance or being under a certain time or even just running on a regular basis, but make these goals REASONABLE. You're not going to take off a few months, then come back out of nowhere and crush your old records. If you can't train the way you used to, find an alternative, mix things up, maybe a traditional gym isn't the place for you anymore. It's all up to you and being happy, if you're miserable you're going to find reasons not to exercise, and that's not what we're trying to promote here. Find your happy place and ease into it, Rome wasn't built in a day and Michael Phelps wasn't winning gold medals a month after he got into the pool (at least we don't think so). It might take you a few tries to get going again, but once you do, you'll be glad that you did.
Check out the previous articles in this series here: