Rekindle Your Love of Running

At first, you couldn't get enough of each other. The grass was greener, the sky was bluer, there was a bounce in your step. You were running on air.

But as the weeks turned into months, and the months dragged into years, things changed. One day, it hits you: You've lost that spark. You're going through the motions. The thrill, as they say, is gone.

So where did things go wrong? And more important, can you rekindle the flame?

Of course you can. And in this Valentine's Day month, we have dozens of great ways to help you put the sizzle back in your running.

More: Spice Up Your Running Routine

Remember: Relationships go wrong for lots of reasons. Happens all the time. The good news is: With a smidgen of effort, you can get things back on track. You can fall in love with running all over again, and you can keep the flame burning for years to come.

The ABC's of Love

Most passionate relationships follow a predictable arc, and your relationship with running is no exception. "One model is the ABCDE-you start with Attraction, then Building the relationship, then Continuation," says Linda De Villers, Ph.D., author of Love Skills. "D and E are the ones we try to avoid: Deterioration and Ending."

Cathy Hastings, Ph.D., agrees. "It's a good analogy, because most people who begin running fall in love with it," says Hastings, a longtime runner and marriage therapist in Lancaster, Pa. "You're on a high, and it's really similar to the beginning stages of a personal relationship."

Then reality sets in. "You feel aches and pains in running just like you do in a relationship," Hastings says. "There comes a time when people either choose to bail out, or realize that their relationship will take work, so they have to stand back and take stock. You need to decide whether the positives outweigh the negatives."

More: Beginner Runners and the Aches and Pains of Running

Of course, those who see running as strictly a physical thing-who were never interested in a serious relationship at all-will likely bail out. For them, running is just one in a long series of dalliances that started with Little League and will probably end with croquet or shuffleboard. In contrast, we'll assume that you, as a Runner's World reader, are interested in commitment. Your challenge, then, is keeping your running fresh.

It'll take some work, but what long-term relationship doesn't? Whether you're talking about running or romance, here's what you need to keep your love alive:

Communication

In any relationship, problems rarely arise without warning. Learn to listen-really listen-to what your body has to say, and you may prevent a full-scale blowup. Watch out for these early indications that trouble is brewing:

  • You're feeling pain that goes beyond the normal aches. If so, don't ignore it or mask it with painkillers; and for Pete's sake, don't try to "run through it." Instead, ease up on your running and maybe take off a day or two. Or even a week.
  • You're always pooped. This clearly means you're overdoing it. "A healthy relationship leaves you energized," says De Villers. "An unhealthy relationship leaves you drained." Maybe the two of you just need some time apart.
  • You find yourself making excuses not to run. Face it: If someone offered you $100 to run every day, you'd definitely find the time. Rather than hiding behind excuses, ask yourself, Why am I really avoiding running?, and figure out your problem from there.

Respect

Running is wonderful, but if you don't respect its power, it can lash out in painful ways. Acknowledge the rigors of the sport, as well as your own limits. Translation: Don't over-reach. If the farthest you've ever run is 8 miles, don't attempt a half-marathon tomorrow. If you're accustomed to running every other day, don't go daily all at once. If a bunch of Kenyans move in next door, don't join them for an "easy 20-miler." Show running the respect it deserves, and it will treat you right.

More: 7 Ways Runners Can Avoid Overtraining

Spontaneity

Familiarity doesn't have to breed contempt. "You must be creative enough to break out of ruts," says De Villers. "If a relationship has become too predictable, that's where the contempt comes in." You know all those vacation days you've amassed? Why not use one some random weekday, and go for a long, relaxed run? Sleep in a bit and hit your favorite trail or route while everybody else is stuck at work.

More: 3 Outdoor Workout Routines For Fitness and Fun

Romance

If your running has gone blas?, what you need is a little spice. Whisk yourself away for a short running vacation. Or just take a few minutes during the day to fantasize about the run you've lined up after work-what you'll wear, how you'll look, and how good it will feel.

Quality Time

Too many runners heap on the miles, setting themselves up to see running as nothing more than a number in the logbook. No wonder they fall out of love; what kind of relationship is that? Three "mindful" miles-spent deeply breathing in the sweet spring air, watching a flock of geese winging overhead, marveling at the sheer physics of human locomotion-beats 6 miles of head-down slogging any day.

More: Distance Running: How Many Miles Should you Run?

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