As a runner, do you feel that on most days, you go out on that pavement, or treadmill, and pound it with all your might? Like it’s the easiest thing in the world? Then, on other days, you feel that you start your run and find yourself stopping every few seconds to walk. In those situations, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Why am I suddenly struggling to run?”
It’s like your legs don’t want to cooperate. Instead of gliding over the pavement, your legs now feel heavy and unwilling to budge. If you’ve ever been in this situation, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Many runners, newbies, and professionals, go through this phase where they feel that they’re not performing at their best.
While it may be expected, it’s certainly not something you want to ignore. So, to help you get to the bottom of this weird phase, we rounded up some of the possible reasons for making your legs buckle under the pressure.
Let’s take a look.
Struggling to maintain your average running pace is something every runner has had to endure. The problem is not many people even understand why this happens. What causes this sudden drop in stamina, endurance, and power. Sometimes, even the will to push forward and complete the run just isn’t there.
The truth is running is hard. This is a physical activity that seems to work all your systems at once. The two most important are muscular and cardiovascular. Wondering why you lose your breath so easily when you run is a normal issue that comes up every once in awhile. The reason is probably that you’ve neglected to boost one of these two systems, or both. You also could have some other issue, like a cold or other ailment, but we’ll rule that out and look at the first two options here.
First, it’s vital to maintain your muscular strength because strong muscles protect joints, thus, reducing the risk of an injury or sprain. Then, there’s the cardiovascular system. Keeping your heart and lungs strong means you can run faster and longer.
Depending on your level of training, if you haven’t prepared your cardiovascular system before each run, you may feel like your heart is about to pop out of your chest within mere minutes of running. You may also be at risk of suffering from more pains, aches, and muscle cramps. Not only that, but you may even start to feel nauseous, lightheaded, and off-balance.
So, if you’re new to running or have made a comeback after months of inactivity, it’s best to take it slow and use the walk-run method. This is where you run for 15–30 seconds and walk for a couple of minutes. As you become stronger and reach an intermediate level, you can run for 2–5 minutes and walk for one. The more experienced you get, the longer your runs will be.
Effectively, you’ll be able to run for up to 10 minutes or more, then walk for 30 seconds to a full minute. As your body adapts to the strain and demands of running regularly, you should struggle less and less with each run.
Many factors go into how your body functions on a daily level. This explains why some days you feel lethargic and sluggish, whereas, on other days, you readily jump out of bed with the excitement of a 6-year-old kid! This means your body functions differently each day.
Sometimes, you go on a run and feel like you’re doing worse, not better. You may then start comparing your average distance to other runners and wonder why some people can run so far and you can’t? That should mean that if they can do it, so can you.
Although, this isn’t a fair comparison because your body will give you a different reaction every single day. It’s important to factor in all the different variables that could have contributed to this before you start marking yourself off as a bad runner.
For argument’s sake, let’s look at how far the average person can run? The average person can only run 1 or 2 miles without getting significantly winded; and honestly that is for the average person who is in relatively good shape. Someone who is out of shape can most likely run around a half of a mile before needing to rest.
Yet, so many things go on behind the scenes that determine this distance that there’s no way you can fairly compare your running distance to anyone else’s. Some of these factors include how much sleep you’re getting, the types of food you’re eating, and how you’re spending your rest and recovery days.
That last factor is critical when you’re thinking about why your running performance has been on the decline. As a matter of fact, studies show that recovery days help your body adapt to the repetitive stress of running. They also sharpen your focus and boost your physical strength to prepare you for your next workout.
Another reason your running performance seems to be waning is its psychological aspect. Did you use to love going out on your weekly runs only to feel empty and tired just thinking about it? It could also be that, along the way, you lost your reason for running, and now, your runs just feel meaningless.
Therefore, understanding why you fell in love with running in the first place can help you rekindle your passion for the sport. It can also give you a whole new reason for running that you never thought of before.
Last, but certainly not least, is the sleep factor. Many runners underestimate how much sleep can affect us both physically and psychologically. Low-quality sleep is often a sign of lack of sustenance, which comes from not eating the right types of food.
Not getting the proper amount of sleep could also be caused by overtraining. Yet, you won’t be able to achieve anything as a runner if you’re tired and achy all the time. So, the best way to get your 7–9 hours of quality sleep each night is to create a sleep schedule. Start by trying to turn off technology an hour or two before bedtime. It might be hard at first to keep your hands, but it’ll be worth it once you’re finally able to get your running mojo back.
To the untrained eye, it may appear that the sport of running is simple enough; it’s basically just walking, but faster. Yet, there’s more that goes into running than just that. The important thing is to give your body time to adapt to the physical and mental demands of running.
Also, make sure you’re eating enough foods to fuel your body and keep it going. Of course, this begs the question, “How long should I be able to run without stopping?” An average runner should be able to run for about 10 to 15 minutes without stopping. To do this, you need to give your body enough fuel to run.
However, what really makes a huge difference is eating the right kind of food. This includes carbohydrates to power your runs and proteins to maintain muscle strength. Also, don’t forget to add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables as a natural source of minerals and nutrients. So, the next time you ask yourself, “How long should I be able to run without stopping?” keep these factors in mind.
Drinking lots of water and other hydrating beverages is also equally important. Keeping your body hydrated makes sure your body temperature is well-regulated. It also helps boost your overall energy, minimize cramping, and reduce your risk of injuries.
The best way to stay hydrated without getting a tummy full of slushing water is to drink about eight ounces of water about 20–30 minutes before your run. You can also do this during your warm-up.
Then, during your exercise routine, you can drink anywhere from seven to 10 ounces of water every 10–20 minutes. Finally, when you’re done with your run or workout routine, drink another eight ounces of water within the first 30 minutes.
It’s worth mentioning that if your workouts usually last longer than an hour, you’ll need something besides water to keep you going. Beverages like sports drinks, fruit juices, and sports gels are great ways to stay hydrated while replenishing your body with much-needed electrolytes and carbohydrates. They’re also designed to give you a quick boost of energy, while replacing the fluids and glucose content you lost during your workouts and runs.
Another reason why your runs seem to be getting harder, not easier is boredom and routine. The main reason is that running is generally considered an individual sport, which means it can get lonely at times.
Even if you’re rocking your headphones and hitting the pavement along to the sound of your favorite tunes, seeing the same route day in and day out can be pretty mundane. The good news is that there are many things you can do to spice things up and make running more fun. For starters, you can always try to take a new route. You can also join a running group or even sign up for an upcoming event, like a 5K race.
If you find yourself suddenly struggling to run, keep in mind that the trick is to pace yourself. Plan your exercise routine, and work on all aspects of yourself. Going too hard or too fast, or focusing on only the physical aspect of running, will only slow you down.
If you’re in it for the long haul and want to keep making progress, you have to learn to listen to your body. Equally important is to have a trustworthy training plan, eat right, and just remember to have fun!