Learning from Bad Runs

Even though I love running, there are days where I want to punch it in the face.

Some weeks, I breeze through a longer run and then suffer through three miles. Sometimes I rock the treadmill and other times it feels so Sisyphean that I have to escape the gym immediately for fear of going insane.

I used to let the bad runs get me down, which was demoralizing and demotivating. It’s tough to go on the next run when the last one was terrible. But now, I look at bad runs to figure out what factors could have been prevented and what was out of my control.

I had one of these such runs on Saturday. The weather was beautiful, above 70 degrees. (Summer came reaaalllly early this year to San Francisco). I was running with my great running buddy on a beautiful route. We were running six miles, which isn’t an insanely long distance. And I felt like crap and had to walk more than once.

Though this information is specific to my Saturday run (and bad runs in general) it can also apply to any time you do a workout and feel less than stellar.

What happened?!


We weren’t prepared for the weather. We didn’t bring water bottles and there were no water fountains on the route. I had only had two glasses of water that morning and my muscles just couldn’t hack it.


Not Enough Fuel

I got up at 5:00 am and ate breakfast around 5:30 am. We started our run at 10:30 am. I could have used a snack closer to our start time to give me an energy boost. Next time, I’d grab some almonds or another piece of toast before heading out.

Muscle Fatigue

I did a pretty fast treadmill workout on Friday and some strength exercises. I didn’t stretch enough or fuel properly post-workout so I was sore at the start of Saturday’s run. Even though my muscles did loosen up a bit, my jello legs couldn’t get me up the hills at the end. I  had planned to take a rest day between runs, but Saturday was the only time Chelsea and I both had free so I figured I’d push it, and I’m paying for it now!


Neither Chelsea or I have a watch or a Garmin, so it’s tough to know if pacing was an issue. We discussed and didn’t feel like we ran out too fast, but it’s been a problem in the past, so it’s possible we started out too fast without a proper warm up.

Mental Blocks

Even with the muscle fatigue, fuel and water issues, I’m pretty sure 90% of the difficulty was mental. Because I knew I hadn’t fueled well and I was thirsty (and I had to pee) I used that as excuses to stop. The mantra “you are stronger than you think” to push through some of the walls, but I couldn’t break down all of them.


So after evaluating the reasons why I didn’t do so hot, I realized almost all of them were preventable. I can’t control the weather, but I can control my water intake. I can plan my workouts to incorporate more rest time. I can make sure I’m eating correctly before  run. The mental blocks are a bit tougher, but I could have talked it out with Chelsea so she could have encouraged me to stay strong.

But, more importantly, instead of feeling bad about it, I just said to myself, “That wasn’t so great, and now I know some reasons why. I’ll do better next time.” I didn’t let it get me down, I didn’t beat myself up about it. I won’t let it stop me from running my next run (which I would have done in the past).

Knowing that bad runs (or bad bike rides, or bad lifting sessions, or bad yoga classes) happen is one of the keys to being an athlete. And being able to look at the experience critically can help you perform better and get stronger because you identify areas to grow.

So don’t let bad runs get you down! Use them as motivation to kick running’s ass next time (or punch it extra hard in the face!)


2 thoughts on “Learning from Bad Runs

  1. Great suggestions! I like to apply the same thought process to other things (a work situation or overindulging with food) as well.

  2. Great post! I can definitely relate though I don’t love running as much as you do, but I have learned to love yoga! Have you checked out Yoga to the People yet? I love that place and the studio in SF is beautiful. It’s right across the street from the Burger King on 16th and mission at the top floor. Great blog and I hope you are doing well!

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