Monday, March 13, 2017

Knowing When to Take a Break (And Being Okay with It)

If you happen to follow me on social media, you've already heard the news that my running streak came to an end at 115 days. I have a lot to be thankful for. Running every day got my body moving, cleared my mind or allowed me to focus, encouraged me to explore new places and new ideas, and realize that my body is capable of more than I thought.

I didn't hadn't planned out when I was going to stop. It had been in the back of my mind for a few days but it wasn't until sometime between 4:40am when the alarm went off on Friday and we arrived at the gym 20 minutes later, that I made the decision not to get on the treadmill that morning.

Running in Washington Park Denver

It was surprisingly easy, but still a difficult decision. My weekly mileage hasn't been extraordinary, but for me it's been really solid the last few months. Long runs have been a bit longer and logging 80+ miles per month in my Compete journal on a consistent basis has come with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Not to mention the faster times on my watch.

The reason I'm taking a few days off is because I've had a nagging ache in my right shin for a little over a week, which I'm pretty convinced is actually connected to tightness in my right calf, an issue I dealt with last year. It took me out of the BolderBOULDER and resulted in downgrading from the 10 miler to the 10k during the Garden of the Gods race. With two races coming up in May - including the Colfax Marathon relay with my Oiselle teammates - it was clear a few days off was necessary.
I did what's often so hard for us as runners to do. I listened to my body.
With the end of my running streak I don't feel like I've failed. I'm not ashamed. And I don't feel like any less of a runner. In fact, after this experience I feel more like a real runner than ever before. (Let me be clear here: in no way, do I think it's necessary to run every day to be a 'real runner'. If you run, you're a runner!)

Rocky Mountain National Park valley view

It does sting a little to know that I'll log less than 10 miles this week, and maybe next week too, but I'll get over it. I've seen it before and I'll see it again.
I prefer to focus on the longterm. My goals for this year (as nebulous as they are right now) and healthy running in the years ahead.
The intention I set last week in my journal was "Do what feels right." So in making this decision, I don't feel badly or like a failure in calling it quits. I did what felt right.

What I'm focusing on during my little break:

  • Cross training (bike, elliptical, hiking)
  • Strength training
  • Core work
  • Rolling out and stretching
  • Resting 

Whether you're pursuing a run streak or only running a few days a week, it's important to listen to your body and take a break if you need one. In my experience, pushing through rarely works in my favor. Usually, it ends in a stress fracture or other overuse injury. And usually at the worst time.

South Table Mesa group hike

A group hike at South Table Mesa near Golden was the perfect diversion from running on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Amanda Brooks (of Run to the Finish)

Five reasons why you might need a break from running:

  • You have a nagging ache or pain that doesn't go away after a few days of extra rolling out, stretching, or ice
  • Running has become a cause of stress or anxiety
  • You've had several unusually difficult workouts in a row
  • Fatigue and a lack of energy is an every day occurrence
  • You're nursing an upper respiratory illness

With our Type A personalities, always going after goals and not wanting to divert from training plans, focusing on the long-term and setting new, short-term goals (like getting healthy and stronger) and leaning on your support system can help get you through your break.

When have you had to take a break (of any time period) from running? * What goals are you focused on right now?

Reminder: I am in no way a professional, all of my advice, ideas, and recommendations are rooted in my experience as a runner and through research. 

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