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What to do when you feel crap at the start of a run

Published 23 September 2019. Written by Chris Worfolk.

Woman running with headphones

Do you ever start running and think to yourself “I’m a minute in and I already feel terrible: this isn’t going to be my day!” If so, you are not alone. I feel like this every Saturday morning. The good news is that it does not necessarily mean you are going to have a bad run. In the article, I will explain why.

Feeling terrible

Every Saturday morning, I get up and set off running to my local park for parkrun. I usually get about two hundred metres from my house before I start thinking about how tried I feel already. I check my watch, and I am only running six minutes a kilometre; way below my 5km pace. I start to think I am going to have a bad day.

Experience has taught me to be cautious of these feelings, though. I can feel this way at the start of a run and yet by the time I get the park, I feel better and manage to run a fast 5km. Or, just occasionally, I keep feeling crap.

But what can we do about it when we feel this way?

Are we still warming up?

The first thing to consider is whether you are simply in your warm-up phase. When you first start running, especially in the morning, you will still be feeling lethargic when you begin. Your body needs time to get the blood pumping and ready for action.

Therefore, we can use cognitive reappraisal. We interpret the signals from our body as “I feel sluggish because my condition is poor today and I am going to have a bad run”, but we could equally interpret those feeling as “I feel sluggish because I am in the warm-up phase of my run and will feel better once I have completed my warm-up”.

We could also apply some mindfulness here. When we break the initial thought down, we find we are jumping to conclusions: “I am feeling sluggish therefore my condition is poor therefore I am going to have a bad run”. Instead, we could simply notice we are feeling sluggish, label those feelings and decide not to follow through to conclusions that may or may not be the case.

If the feelings persist

If you are still feeling crap after your warm-up (the first 15 minutes), then maybe you are just having a tough day. In this case, it may be time to switch up your plans.

Not all of your runs can be fast runs. Most of your training wants to be base miles and working on aerobic endurance rather than top-end speed. So, maybe it is time to decide that this will be an easy run for getting the miles in without doing yourself any damage.

Or maybe you repurpose this as a simulation training run. It is challenging to simulate those last 10km in a marathon or ultra without going out and running for hours. But, if you are feeling tired early on in a run, this is an excellent chance to simulate the fatigue at the end of a long run and develop your ability to push through the discomfort and keep running.


Feeling crap at the start of a run is common. We are typically lethargic when we start exercising, and we can use cognitive reappraisal to challenge those feelings that it is going to be a bad day. On the odd casino when we genuinely are having a bad day, we can choose to repurpose our run as easy miles or simulation training.