Everyone has a bad run from time to time. We're not machines, and there are lots of things that affect us both mentally and physically. So, before you beat yourself up about it, we run through some of the main reasons your run can be affected.
The main points to consider are:
- Were you dehydrated?
- Have you had enough sleep/rest?
- Did you have the right fuel?
- Did you wear the right clothes?
- Was there extreme weather?
- Was the route hilly?
- Were you mentally tired?
- Did you go out too fast?
Were you dehydrated?
We know that even being slightly dehydrated can have a massive influence on your running performance. If you were dehydrated before or during your run, this might be the answer to why you didn't perform as you had hoped. This may also be linked to the weather and if you were sweating whilst you were out. Once you sweat, you lose some of your body's electrolytes, which need to be replaced to maintain performance.
Are you not getting enough sleep?
Setting off on a run when your body is tired can make it difficult. Your body needs rest and recovery time to perform at its best. If you're running when you haven't had enough sleep or have not given your body enough time to recover, this might cause your bad run.
Did you have the right fuel?
Fuel for running is crucial. You must ensure you give your body the proper
nutrients before and after running. Let's say one day you eat fresh chicken pasta for lunch, and the next you eat junk food and then go out both days for a run in the evening. You will notice a massive difference in your performance. This is because your body will find it much harder to process junk food, so when you run, it won't have processed enough of the fuel it needs to help you perform.
The other thing to consider with fuel is if you need any when you're out on your run. This depends on the intensity and length of your run and what and when you've eaten before you go out. If you're going out for more than 90 minutes, your body must take on some carbs to maintain performance.
Did you wear the right clothes?
Nothing is worse than wearing something that gives you slight discomfort while on the run. Everything is magnified when you run, so wearing something that is too big, small or doesn't feel right can influence your running performance. It's, therefore, essential that you don't try and wear something new on race day; if you do have something, especially for your race, make sure you try it out first.
The other thing to consider when choosing what to wear is whether you have the right clothes for the weather. Sometimes it will feel pretty chilly when you set off; before you know it, you're too hot. Layers help here, and lightweight running clothes can help psychologically and practically (if you feel like an athlete, you're more likely to perform like one).
Was there extreme weather?
It doesn't even need to be 'extreme' weather. If you're setting off when it's warmer or cooler than you are used to or expecting, it can significantly influence your running performance.
Did you run a hilly route?
Even a very slight incline can feel very steep when you're running. Are you exploring a new route, or have you run this in a different direction? Hills can significantly influence your performance, and it's not only whether you are hitting a hill; it's at what point of your run you've arrived at one.
That being said, hills can be a significant part of your training to build speed into your running and to vary your intensity.
Did you start the run already mentally tired, or are you experiencing stress?
Mental fatigue and stress can play a more significant role in your running than people realise. Running can be a great way to relax, deal with stress and anxiety, and work through issues, but that's not to say that this won't negatively affect your running performance. Take it easy on yourself if you're not in the right headspace, and don't underestimate its impact on your running.
Did you go out too fast?
A common issue that can affect all levels of runners is pacing control. You may have set off quicker than you should have done or your body is comfortable with. If you have, all sorts of things can happen in the body, from a heart rate higher than it should be to your muscles running out of steam to your breathing being erratic. If you've gone out too fast, this might be the cause of your "bad run".
Don't think of it as a "bad run", and try and see it as a development opportunity. Every run is different, and several factors can affect whether you feel comfortable, and it's all part of being a runner. Hopefully, reading through these, you realise that these can affect every runner regardless of age, fitness or experience.