A blog by runners. For runners.

Is it time to (strategically) lower your standards?

Is it time to (strategically) lower your standards?The majority of runners are pretty much in charge of their own performance. We plan our own training; we keep our own score. We get ourselves out the door on days when people shudder just thinking about going outside.

If we didn’t routinely set high standards for ourselves, none of this would be possible. We would never improve or progress if we didn’t push ourselves to stretch our own limits.

And yet sometimes it becomes important, even necessary, to lower your standards.

It can be difficult to accept and even more difficult to implement, but it can make the difference between a successful race and an injury – or a good training season and a burnout.

There are some signs to look out for that might indicate it’s time to lower your standards (just for a little while, anyways):

  1. Life is crazy. Perhaps you’ve just started a new job, moved, had a baby, got a new client, etc. Life can throw lots of things at you, and it’s important to be flexible – not rigid – with your expectations of what you can accomplish in your training while everything else is going crazy.
  2. You’ve been sick. It’s fairly straightforward that you need to be gentle with yourself when you’re recovering from an injury, but you also need to be cautious about your training expectations when returning to running after any other sickness. Often it will take a while before your body adjusts back to the intensity of running, and there is nothing wrong with that.
  3. You haven’t been able to run for a long time. Again, this is not just after an injury, but if for any reason you haven’t been able to run for a while, whether it’s due to traveling, work, or anything else – save yourself a headache and expect a bit less of yourself for a little while. This will help you to ease back into it without beating yourself up.
  4. You’ve been running too much. Researchers estimate 61 percent of all serious runners will go through a period of overtraining at least once in their running career. Signs of overtraining include insomnia, extreme hunger, mood swings, headaches, and exhaustion. Basically, when you start to feel worn down, it’s time to give your body a chance to catch up with your expectations.
  5. You’re experiencing racing thoughts, anxiety, intense self-criticism, or depression. Runners can experience problems because of our tendency towards self-criticism. If you’re noticing you’re not feeling happy anymore when you run, perhaps it’s time to adjust your expectations so you can have a few “wins”.

How to do it
Strategically lowering your standards doesn’t mean simply going on absurdly easy, boring runs – it just means taking the level you expect to accomplish down, just a notch. For example, running 7K instead of 10K probably won’t make a massive difference to your training, but if you feel happy with your performance, speed and energy levels when you’re done, you will be much more likely to look forward to the next session (instead of dreading it).

So do yourself a favor and go easy on yourself when life demands it of you – and you’ll perform and feel better in return.  

Written by Varia Makagonova.