Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Deslumpification, Or, How to Get Your Mojo Back

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." -  Henry David Thoreau
"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."  - William James
Last month I lost my running mojo.

I don't know where it went. Perhaps it got knocked out of me when I was pounded to the ground at the climbing gym, left concussed and confused. Perhaps it was the nefarious flu bug who carried it off to some other poor soul. Perhaps it was all the busy-ness I've been feeling that suffocated the oomph out of my spirit - but something happened. Or perhaps it began much earlier, back in November, 2011, during a race in 80+ mph winds. Perhaps my mojo blew off to Kansas like so much tumbleweed and I began to notice the annoying ache in my foot. Was this the foreshadowing of dark days to come?

Whatever the cause, and whenever it happened, I slipped into a slump. It wasn't the first time and, no doubt, it won't be the last time.

Runners experience these up-and-downs because, well, we're just human beings. We experience these in life, why expect anything different in our running-life. What's important is to be mindful that this too shall pass. Slumps happen, and often times at what seems like the worst possible moment - like, just when you're feeling strong and on top of it all, ready for a breakthrough - and then, bang, slumpsville, or worse injury, or worst of all, both.

Well injuries are one thing, but slumps seem so unnecessary, so stupid. Can't we all just keep pushing and improving and pushing and improving until the bitter end? Well...no. No, most of us can't - or at least we won't.

So what's a slumping runner to do?

Some recommend a break, and that may be called for depending on the situation (for instance if you are experiencing overwhelming fatigue, moodiness, sleep irregularity, elevated resting pulse, susceptibility to illness, muscle soreness that just won't be shaken). But a break is not always the answer. Sometimes it behooves us to push on, doggedly, even through the hard, tedious, unmotivated runs that we drag ourselves through.

I believe that you have to be out there on the good days and the bad days, and the really really sucky days, to capture, to stumble upon, those magical days that you might otherwise miss. Sometimes a change happens, for no apparent reason, when you're least expecting it - and you would never know if you weren't out there.

Being a runner is not all about loving it every single moment - just like a good marriage, or friendship - it's not all good all the time. If those are your expectations, you're in for a big let down, and you'll probably give up when perhaps you don't really want to. 

There's gobs of advice and suggestions for upping one's motivation: Sign up for a race, join a running group, explore new routes, get a partner, plan an exotic running vacation, etc...But the fact remains that for most of us we must find our own reasons for going on, getting out and doing it - and these suggestions may work for a while, but it's unlikely they'll get you through a real, robust case of slumpiness.

For me it is pure habit that gets me through it. Habit takes a long time to develop, and if you quit every time you hit a rough patch, then you won't develop the habit to keep running, to just do it every day. Instead, you will develop the habit of quitting when you just don't feel like doing it - and that's okay, if that's what you're after. It's not what I'm after, and I believe it's not what most runners are after. If it were we wouldn't complain about slumps - we would welcome them into our lives like an old friend, use the time to do something else, and then pick it up again when the mood strikes. But no. Most runners hate the slump.
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London
Running is not a state of being - it's a state of doing. You are what you do, and you must accept the ups and the downs. And though the ups are a whole lot more fun than the downs, they are all part of the journey.

If it were easy it wouldn't matter so much. If it does matter, then that means you're a runner - and you should just go for a run.

And so, sunk deep in slumpsville, I head out for a 22 mile run. All my long runs thus far, during this training cycle, have been painful tests of perseverance, and so I venture off with a nagging feeling of fear and dread. But surprise, surprise. As I trot along a dirt road, who should I run into but my mojo. Before I know it she has attached herself to the soles of my feet like Peter Pan's shadow.

And, I can fly... 


  1. This makes me feel so much better since I am also in the midst of a major lack-of-running-mojo. All of my long runs have felt nearly torturous, and I've almost come to dread what is usually my favorite run of the whole week. But I know if I keep pushing through I can get back to that place where running feels easy and light and beautiful again.

  2. Nice post. It is always gratifying to know that we all suffer from the same slumps, bad days, good days, etc. Thanks for sharing and glad you found your mojo!

  3. This is so good to read because I fear that when I return to running post-injury that I'll have lost my mojo. I'm so glad to know I can get it back, but also that I'm not alone. Welcome back, Mojo!

  4. Well put as always. This is my favorite line: "Being a runner is not all about loving it every single moment - just like a good marriage, or friendship - it's not all good all the time. If those are your expectations, you're in for a big let down, and you'll probably give up when perhaps you don't really want to."

    I love it that you had one of those transcendent runs in the midst of this slump. Being a realist, therefore, does NOT mean one doesn't love or crave (or deserve) those runs where you fly.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is exactly what I needed to "hear." I guess I'm a runner because I'm not going to let a little lack of mojo prevent me from getting out there. Run, run, and run some more until it comes back.

    Thank you!

  6. Thanks for sharing. Great article and one that is real and honest.

  7. This happened to me a few years back to a huge degree. I was actually ready to quit all together. I do know how I came back - I stopped worrying about it, started focusing on enjoying my fitness life, started going to the batting cage, riding my bike, hitting the boxing bag and anything else that looked fun and one day it came back. It sucks when it is gone but having gone through it and knowing it will come back is a huge help for that next time. Thanks for sharing your story.


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