No matter what level we run at, we've all had a day - a week, a month or even more - when we've felt we just can't carry on running. For whatever reason, we've run out of puff, and our trainers sit unloved under the stairs, gathering dust.
But how do you get your running mojo back? It's not always easy - but the first step is definitely finding out where it has gone! I thought I would look at some of the most common reasons your mojo might have left the building - and how to get it back:
One of the most common reasons for burnout is overtraining. Preparing for several races back to back, or constantly ramping up your workouts without taking a break can be exhausting, as well as dull.
Take a look at your training and race calendars to make sure you give yourself ample time to recover. Fitness builds during periods of rest, so constantly bashing out the miles may actually be counterproductive, and expose you to more risk of injury. Even top-level athletes can't - and don't - train full-pelt all the time, so make sure you build rest and recovery into your own plans.
Familiarity breeds contempt
It's good to have a 'go-to' route you can run without needing to plan too much, but running the same circuit all the time can be soul-destroying.
Enjoy thinking of new places to go or try a point-to-point: get a lift to another location and run home. If you usually run on road, check out the local trail options. Running on different types of surfaces and in different surroundings engages your brain in new ways, keeping you fresh. When you do run your usual route, think about timing yourself to watch your fitness grow, incorporate bursts of speed or most simply, run it in reverse.
It could also be that it's your body and not your mind that's bored. You may have reached a 'plateau', where you don't feel you're actually getting fitter despite your efforts. When your body has grown too comfortable with your usual routine, it's time to train smarter: mix up your workouts, push yourself a bit harder, cross-train or speak to a personal trainer for advice.
It's not me, it's you
Sometimes we lose our puff through no fault of our own. Has your regular training partner been away? Have your hours changed at work, or the kids been more than usually demanding?
Have a look at the factors outside your control that might be having an effect on your running and tackle them as best you can.
Join the club
If you're finding it a bit hard to motivate yourself, especially through the winter, finding a likeminded group of friends is a great way to lure your mojo back. You don't even have to join a 'proper' running club to get the benefit.
Look out for fellow runners wherever you are at your work, gym or even on the school run - and ask around your circle of friends. You'll find there are plenty of folk running on their own whose mojos would love the company too!
Run for a reason
Some runners find that their training 'drifts' when they don't have a goal. Signing up for a race - especially one of a new distance - setting a weight-loss target or aiming to raise a certain sum for your favourite charity can all help re-focus your mind.
Sort yourself out!
Sometimes, our training goes off the boil for physical, rather than mental reasons. Have you been putting off going for a run because of a sore knee? Do you have a cough that just won't shift? Most physical problems are best dealt with sooner rather than later - and with professional help.
Injuries can get worse if untreated, and if you are out of action for too long, your hard-earned fitness will decline. Bite the bullet and get to the physio, massage therapist or doctor. They may indeed advise you to prolong your break, but can also suggest cross-training exercises to keep your fitness up and help your injuries heal.
If you are avoiding your runs because 'they just don't feel like they used to', or, even worse, are actually uncomfortable, your kit might be worn out.
A trip to your favourite retailer for a new pair of shoes, socks or sports bra can help get you back on your feet. You'll be amazed at the difference a box-fresh pair of trainers can make to your spirits when you head out for your first run!
In short, thinking carefully about why you've come down with a case of the running blues will help you bounce back in full technicolour. But remember, that first run after a break can be hard, especially if your mojo's been on strike for a while. Don't be discouraged, and build up to fitness again gradually. You'll be back to your best in no time!