Tips & Techniques

The Training Slump is a Real Thing

Megan Sloan 
March 9, 2023


Can we take a minute to talk about how much WORK it is to train day in and day out for a race? Putting your body through the rigorous cycle of training day after day can be a huge mental and physical drain. But I have news for you, you aren’t alone. 


I have been running for as long as I can remember. I entered my first race sometime in grade school with my mom. We ran a local 5k together and by the time I graduated college, I crossed the finish line of a marathon. And really, I’ve never looked back since. So I guess you could say, the training slump hits me from time to time as well. 


What is a training slump?


Have you suddenly lost motivation to train? Does lacing up your shoes for a run seem daunting? Are you struggling to hit paces that normally come easy to you? If you’ve answered yes to any or all of these, it’s very likely that you are in the middle of a training slump. 


So what causes this so-called “slump?” 


  1. Overtraining! You may be training TOO much. Yes, there is such a thing as too much training. If you are not allowing your body to recover in between sessions appropriately, you may not be seeing progress. Mentally and physically, this can take its toll on you. Remember, a good rule of thumb is to have only 2 hard efforts per week throughout your training cycle!
  2. Lack of Sleep. That’s right, if you’re not getting enough ZZZ’s, your body will not be able to recover quickly enough. Muscles repair and regrowth best when you’re sleeping, so it is imperative that you sleep enough to allow yourself to perform and feel your best during training. 
  3. You can’t remember the last time you took a complete rest day. Your body deserves to rest after all the hard work you’ve put it through. Active recovery can be great, but sometimes full blown RnR on the couch is what the body needs. Every person is different, but most people will benefit from 1 rest day per week. 


How do we get out of this “slump?”


  1. Step away. Sometimes it’s truly best to just completely step away from training for the time being. “But Megan, I have a race coming up in 2 months, I CAN’T just STOP!” Actually, you can. And you should. There are times when you need to allow your body to regroup a little. A solid 3-5 day break in training (truly, NO activities) can be just the reset the body needs. Let your body sleep in, go to bed early, and spend a little extra time with your family. No, you won’t lose fitness. In fact, it’ll likely help your fitness! 
  2. Sometimes you need a running buddy! If you have a friend you can schedule a run date with, do it! Accountability can completely change your mindset and make getting out the door easier. 
  3. Mix up your workouts. Cross training is always something I suggest, but it can become more necessary than you realize! Allowing your body to move in different ways can be a great way to shift the slump. 
  4. NEW GEAR! Now, this wouldn’t be my first suggestion, but sometimes treating yourself to some new gear is just what the doctor ordered! Getting excited about a new pair of running socks can boost motivation to get you out the door.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “There’s no way doing those things will help fix what I’m going through!” And I’ll be the first to tell you this: 6 weeks before I ran my fastest marathon, my coach put me on a 4 day workout ban. You can imagine my surprise and frustration. I had been dealing with a nagging hamstring that wouldn’t let me do what I wanted, my legs were constantly heavy and felt flat when I ran, and I just couldn’t find any sort of speed. I was on the verge of tears daily. It was then that my coach insisted I be put on a “workout ban” for at least 3 days to let my body reset and allow some for some extra rest. I was floored and I believe I fought with him over it. But at the end of the day, I knew I had a coach for a reason so I listened. Once I was allowed to return to running, I found I had a bit of a “pop” in my legs. Fast forward to race day and I ran an 11 minute marathon PR and qualified for the Boston marathon. Not allowing myself the little rest and reset it needed could have been detrimental. I could have potentially continued to dig myself into a hole and lose fitness. 


The line between working hard to build fitness and digging a hole into burnout is a fine one, so be sure to tread lightly and listen to your body. After all, you’re the one that knows it best.

Meet the Author
Megan has been apart of the Smith Physical Therapy & Running Academy family since March of 2021, taking the title of Director Special Programs, Run Coach, and Running Technique Specialist. Megan has been coaching runners since 2014 and enjoys working with runners of all ages.
You were made to move!