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Spring has finally arrived and avid runners are signing up for races, lacing up their shoes, hitting the great outdoors and setting their goals. With the eagerness that comes with sunshine and warmer temperatures, having a workout where nothing seems to go right can sometimes take a bite out of your confidence. There are many reasons why someone in the middle of training for their next big race will have an off day, or even a few off days. Tough runs happen to the best of us and even pro runners have their bad days. It’s important to remember that workouts that athletes struggle through can often teach some very valuable lessons.

Before hitting the panic button, check the list below to discover potential outside elements that may be affecting you:

  • Adequate Sleep – We all have busy lives and unfortunately, sleep tends to be one of the first things that can fall to the wayside. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will help immensely and is one of the easiest on this list to address.
  • Overtraining – Allowing adequate recovery time is essential for optimal performance, it’s how our bodies heal and become stronger. When faced with the fact that you may have overtaxed your body, know that you can take days off and you’ll be a better runner for it.
  • Hydration – Running in unpredictable Canadian weather can make staying hydrated a challenge. Chilly spring mornings can be particularly deceiving where many runners overdress, think they don’t sweat as much, and may feel less thirsty. No matter the time of year, if your weight drops after running or other strenuous exercise it is mostly water weight, so you need to replace it.
  • Sickness – This happens to all of us now and then and while it can be a frustrating hiccup to your training, take the days off you need, and ease back into it with some short runs when you’re on the mend.

Our bodies are complex organisms so what happens if you’re unable to pinpoint why you’re continuing to struggle? Mental toughness is just as important as physical fitness, after eliminating outside stressors, it make be a good idea to look inward. Combating negative thoughts can be as easy as:

  • Picking a new route – If you’re tired of doing the same thing every day, change the scenery. Map out a run in a different neighbourhood or find a local trail.
  • Finding a running partner – Exercise can be better with friends! Be sure to recruit someone with similar fitness levels and goals.
  • Keeping a training journal – Mark down the good runs with the bad. Keeping a log of your runs will help you figure out what went wrong and may prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.
  • Talking to other runners – Whether in person or an online running forum, sharing your setbacks with others who can relate or who can offer advice can be a great motivator and stress reliever.

Once you’re back on the move, remember to occasionally slow it down and enjoy the simple pleasure of running. Take in the scenery, let your mind wander, and enjoy the runner’s high.

If you want to join a race but don’t know where to start, Ottawa has some excellent local races from spring through to fall or check out some local races in your community.

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend – May 28-29, 2016

Canada Day Road Race Ottawa – July 1, 2016

Canada Army Run – September 18, 2016

Terry Fox Run Ottawa – September 18, 2016

For a more comprehensive list check out Run Guides – Ottawa.


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Fallowfield J, Wilkinson D. Improving Sports Performance In Middle And Long Distance Running: A Scientific Approach To Race Preparation. Chichester ; New York;: John Wiley; 1999.

Fordyce B, Renssen M. Your first 10K race: racing in intuitive. You should run according to how you feel. In Fordyce, B. (ed.), Marathon runner’s handbook, Champaign, Ill., Human Kinetics, c2002, p.58-81 [e-book]. ;: 2002.

Ley A. Youth Training: Race Week Strategies. Triathlon Life. Summer2011 2011;14(3):5.

Meyer N. Nutrition Intervention and Race Preparation. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. March 2014;18(2):23-29.

Sullivan J, Murphy B. Sweat Is Not Enough: Mental Preparation for Better Running on Race Day. Marathon & Beyond. September 2008;12(5):41-44.

About the authorMichelle is an information management specialist with many years focusing on sport and fitness research and education. Michelle has been sharing her expertise with SIRC for over 3 years.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.