The ghosts of past running successes behave a bit like the spirits that seep from the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie—they mesmerize and inspire with their beauty at first, but turn ugly and destructive on a dime. For veteran runners, PBs can be similarly two-faced—they can serve as sources of pride and nostalgia–or be gruesome, gnawing reminders of how much slower we’ve become.

Whether it’s due to aging, injury, or just falling out of a regular running routine, there come times when reality doesn’t allow us to keep pace with past glories, even if just temporarily. While that’s not a problem in itself, persistent reminders of faster times can make running less enjoyable and hobble our motivation in the present. If you find yourself haunted by the spirits of past running successes, consider these tips to exorcise your exercise demons.

Switch up your running app

Running tech continues to evolve in its capacity to capture our running data—and then to rub our noses in it, if we let it. Nothing is quite so disheartening as feeling strong and refreshed after tackling a favourite route, only to have your fitness app chirp that it was your third slowest of 56 similar efforts. If your app is too quick to shove your older, quicker efforts in your face, it may be worth switching up your app, either by changing your user settings so that details of past runs aren’t so intrusive, or by switching to a different app entirely. The latter is the surer option for cleaning the slate, as you won’t have an immediate way to compare your runs to those of years ago.

Scrapping your app outright is another matter. If you’ve been using the same app for years, it likely doesn’t just store your fastest times, but also some great running memories, including photos and running journal entries that are worth keeping. Uninstalling your usual app should be fine—it can always be reinstalled—but you likely don’t want to go as far as killing your account and risk losing access to information you’ll want to revisit later.

Woman running

Change course

Switching up where you run might be the better alternative for those attached to their current app who don’t want to give up the specific features it offers. Straying from familiar routes and distances offers the benefit of a fresh start without having to switch up the tech you already use and enjoy.  It’s also good for old-school runners whose best times for a given route or distance are chiseled into memory. Shifting your regular running route a couple of blocks over and lengthening the distance by half a kilometre will help you sidestep comparisons to past runs without pulling you too far from your usual stomping grounds.

gps watch

Use a new yardstick (or metre stick)

If your tendency is to compare your runs based on pace, and you’ve always stayed true to either imperial or metric, jumping ship to the other measurement system can be an easy and surprisingly effective way to free yourself from pace anxiety. There’s an especially strong placebo effect when switching from imperial to metric, when 10 minutes/mile becomes 6:14/km. But even when switching the other way, using fresh figures to frame your pace can go a long way in avoiding unwelcome comparisons to past runs.

runner at sunset
Photo: Unsplash/Pablo Garcia Saldana

Explore different kinds of running

Consider a more literal approach to covering new ground by delving into different types of running on unfamiliar surfaces. Making a move from the road to trails, or trails to the track, will not only hinder unhelpful comparisons to past running performances, but may also help add a fresh, new dimension to your running.

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