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Let’s talk about the running funk dip

Everyone is happy (literally) to talk about the ‘running high’ or how he or she has been bitten by the ‘running bug’! But let’s talk or rather write about the other end of spectrum, when things are not going as well and you feel in a ‘funk’.

Now this funk is not the dancing/musical funk, it is a feeling that you just do not want to run and when you do run, it gives you little enjoyment. I have had this a few times in my career and this has allowed me to spot the signs but does not make me feel much better at the time it’s happening, but knowing you will come through it, is the crucial knowledge of surviving the experience. 

Heading into the unknown

The first time it happened to me was back in the winter of 2009, coinciding with a stall in my career, not helped with an injury and my upcoming wedding! The combined circumstances led me to dread the next run. I decided mid indoor season (my favourite) to take an undetermined amount of time-off. This would be a huge ask as since 1989 the longest period of time I had missed was 2 weeks, so this would really test me both mentally and physically. The first few days of any rest are always the hardest but then you enjoy the routine of not running and the extra time you have for other things (like weddings!) is amazing! But, a very big but, there are huge drawbacks such as lacking endorphins and of course the additional weight gain! The 6 weeks I took off was not a planned number but on the way home from coaching one evening I saw a small Welsh valley hillside that needed climbing. I jumped out of the car and ran slowly to the top. With an amazing view and the long awaited legs and lungs burn, I knew it was time to start running again. 

That summer I raced quite well, but it was the next season in 2010 that I ran the Commonwealth qualifying standard. Despite the change in life of starting full-time work and a few other life pressures I realised the break had done me good. If I had not freshened up, I do not think I would have enjoyed my running as much as I did in the period after. 

The return of the funk

Fast forward to April this year, fresh from a World master’s title and Carlsbad masters 5km win, and there I was, back to disliking every run. I was goalless, carrying an injury that did not help and compounded by a very busy time with work and all the athletes I coach. Luckily, I knew the feeling and knew what to do! This time it was not 6 weeks but just a few extra days with cross training to stay fresh. Another thing I did was to change my normal routine and this was done using a NoblePro treadmill, as a change in stimulus and challenge is also important. Having a fantastic new piece of equipment and new ‘running toy’ to play with definitely helps, which can also be new shoes or a watch. I did not pop out of this funk or low straight away but could feel myself gradually feeling better.

Spotting the signs

These experiences have taught me to look out for similar signs or triggers in the athletes I look after:

  • Recently achieved or missed goal. 
  • No goal currently in place. 
  • Injury or illness concerns. 
  • Recent or forth coming life events (change in job for example).

Things to think about if you or someone you know hits a running funk: 

  • Remember it’s normal and always good to chat with others about it. 
  • Change or set goals. 
  • Take a rest or change of scenery. 
  • Change where/when you run. 
  • Reward self with something new- trainers, kit or equipment.
  • It will get better! 

So, whilst I keep enjoying my running, I will also keep watching out for the signs of any ‘funks’ and if needed adapt my own running or those I help. Remember that any slight blip is not necessary a long-term feeling as the highs and lows are nearly always just around the corner!

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James Thie
James Thie
Multiple World Indoor Championships and Commonwealth Games middle distance runner. Coaching the runners of the future.

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