How to Deal With Running Setbacks

By Nike Running

How to Deal With Running Setbacks

What to do if you can't go as far or fast as you planned.

If you can't run as far, or as fast, as you planned—don't worry. Just keep trying. The key to keeping up your running routine isn't perfection, it's consistency. In this article, Coach Bennett explains why doing something, no matter how small, towards your running goals still counts. So don't beat yourself up when you don't nail it every time. Instead, try to give yourself credit for getting out there in the first place.

Runners love a training plan—it provides structure, motivation and goals. But most runners make one huge mistake when it comes to their plan: They take it way too seriously.

"Every training plan is written in pencil", explains Nike Running global head coach Chris Bennett. "They're meant to be erased and adjusted".

Coaches know that a training plan is a best-case scenario. If you could nail every run and workout, sure, that would be ideal. But life inevitably gets in the way.

Still, whether they're coming back from an injury, trying to run daily or hoping a race goes a certain way, people often set their expectations too high, and then can't forgive themselves when they hit a roadblock.

"If the only thing you can do is two laps around your street, do two laps around your street and be proud of that"

Nike Running Global Head Coach, Chris Bennett

How to Deal With Running Setbacks

On those days (or weeks) when you can't run the run you want to run, the right response is to simply run the run you can run. These five tips will help you reset your perspective.

01. Don't Beat Yourself Up
Think about the last time a friend bailed on a run. Did you yell? Tell them how much their training would suffer? Probably not—you're not a jerk. When you can't or don't do the run you wanted to do, pay yourself the same courtesy, says Bennett.

"You have to be kind to yourself", he says. "A lot of people associate kindness with weakness, but being kind to yourself doesn't take away from your running, it adds to your running".

This also means not expecting too much from yourself when external factors are at play, Bennett says. "In times of great stress, your body is in a weakened state", he says. "If you push too hard in training and combine that with great stress, it can lead to sickness or injury". In other words, if you're dealing with something tough, it may not be the time to go for a PB or log extreme workouts—embrace the easy stuff, knowing that it's the best thing you can do for your body.

"In times of great stress, your body is in a weakened state. If you push too hard in training and combine that with great stress, it can lead to sickness or injury".

Nike Running Global Head Coach, Chris Bennett

It takes strength to know when a certain workout is going to be too much and adjust accordingly, so be proud when you do it. You're leaving your ego at the door and running for yourself, not the metrics on your watch or the stats you'll share on social media.

02. Ditch the All-or-Nothing Mentality
If you had only five free minutes in your day to run, would you do it? Runners have developed this idea that if a run isn't at least 30 minutes or 5K, it's not worth it, says Bennett. "They think, 'why would I run for only five minutes?'" he says. "Well, because the alternative is running for no minutes".

On days when you're choosing between a quick run or not running at all, take the active option. "Those zero days suddenly become five-minute days and 1-mile days and 5K days", says Bennett. "That all adds up".

What's more, logging any amount of time can make you feel better than you would if you didn't run.

"You don't need to run every day to be a runner every day"

Nike Running Global Head Coach, Chris Bennett

How to Deal With Running Setbacks

03. Work on What You Can Control
Just because you can't run the run you want doesn't mean you can't improve your performance. Instead, focus on another aspect of running.

If you can run (even for a few minutes), work on your form. Take note of what your shoulders, arms, hips, knees and feet are doing: Is your chin leading your chest? If you can do that, then your feet are probably landing under your hips. Are your shoulders relaxed and low, with your arms driving back and not swinging across your body? Are your hands relaxed and sliding past your hips? These form checks can help you identify weaknesses or imbalances that you can work on off the road, says Bennett.

If you can't get out for a run, practise taking deep belly breaths; this will help you the next time you're running. Taking controlled, deep breaths into your belly helps you get more oxygen to fuel your muscles. Inhale, filling your belly and allowing your abdomen to push out. Then relax and exhale for a few seconds. Try to repeat this for a few minutes. These deep breaths will help slow your heart rate and calm you down when things get tough—on a run or in life.

04. Celebrate the Small Wins
Running isn't just about the fastest times or longest distances. Set little goals and reward yourself for achieving them.

Setting new metrics for success will help put what you get out of running in perspective and make you love it even more.

05. Focus on the Long Term
Let's face it: Sometimes a training plan can go completely off the rails. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, take the change of course as an opportunity to focus on the long term and approach your training from a different angle. Whatever your new routine, stay consistent, and when you can, build your way up from there.

"Consistency is key, but consistency has never meant constantly. In fact, consistency is all about flexibility", says Bennett. "If you can't run for 50 minutes, maybe you can run for 15 minutes. If you can't run at all, maybe you can do some drills, dance, walk or write in your running log".

This kind of flexibility won't just better your fitness, it will also keep you mentally engaged with the sport, says Bennett.

"You don't need to run every day to be a runner every day", he says. "And if you're not running, you can still get a lot of the great stuff that a run gives you".

How to Deal With Running Setbacks

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