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How To Get Out of a Running Slump

Race season is just beginning. Don't let a slump keep you from participating.

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    We’ve all been there before. Your stopwatch shows a higher number than you’d like to see, and you’re not even close to the finish line. Yet again. No matter how hard you work, you can’t seem to get out of the slump.

    Enter the negative thoughts and frustration.

    Slumps are a natural part of any athlete’s life, whether professional or recreational. In individual sports like running, they can be especially common and difficult to get through. Despite the difficulties, however, slumps do not last forever.

    “It’s a normal process of any competitive experience an athlete goes through,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fishbein, a sports psychologist in Deerfield. “What’s more important is how you deal with adversity when it hits.”

    Fishbein said that athletes in individual sports like running face a tougher battle against slumps because they have so much time to themselves when they run. All the alone time can manifest in bad thoughts that might weaken your confidence or darken your mood.

    Fishbein has some tips for how to avoid getting lost in a slump. Every slump is unique, but these tips apply to most runners:

    • Set small goals that you can complete during a run
    • Take a break for a few days
    • Don't push yourself too much
    • Change up your route and/or distance
    • Focus on something outside yourself, such as the surrounding landscape or other people
    • Create a rhythm you can run to with music and/or breathing

    A more individualized approach to getting out of a slump is to take a look at what’s happening in your life outside of running. Stress from other areas of your life can easily get in the way of your running performance. In this case, Fishbein recommends trying to compartmentalize.

    His biggest piece of advice for all runners, especially the more serious runners, is to take a rest. When you start running again, your body will be rejuvenated and you can have a fresh start.

    “This is hard for runners to do, but take a day or two off and see what the benefits are,” Fishbein said.