04 June 2013

Rhythm, Breakups, and Balance

Last week was difficult. My ladies track workout was solid on Tuesday, but the tempo run on Friday was a horror movie, and my long run didn't quite happen. I seem to have gotten out of the rhythm of running. First I was sick, then exhausted, and now I'm officially having my real experience with burnout.

I used to hear people talk about being burned out and I thought they probably just weren't that into running. For two years I was so obsessed with it that I couldn't imagine not wanting to run every day. When I was injured, I'd go crazy because I couldn't run. When I could run, I'd think about running all day, checking and rechecking dailymile, training books, or logs. I'd calculate splits and projected race times until my head spun, but I never got tired of any of it.

Maybe it's because I've been running 6 times a week. Maybe that's too much. I used to run 4, then 5, and then last fall I started running 6. I loved it. I was less sore and more energized (mostly). And I wasn't injured. I thought I had it all figured out.

Maybe it's because last week I had a major GI "event" right in front of the local high school. At 7:20 when all the kids were getting dropped off for school, I dropped my own kids off. Sadly there was no pool. I jogged to the track bathrooms which are always open. They were locked. I attempted to clean up in the woods. It turns out leaves do more smearing than wiping. And they are so brittle this time of year! I tied my shirt around my waist and regretfully decided to run home in my sports bra, but I couldn't decide if I should jog back by the high school - the shortest but most crowded route - or go a longer but more sparsely populated route. I jogged back and forth on the same stretch of road four times while I waffled. I finally made it home and rushed to work. I was so mad at running.

Maybe it's because we went to Woodstock (NY) last weekend and there weren't any good roads to run on. (Or maybe I didn't find the good roads because I was already burned out.) It was either a narrow shoulderless rural highway or a nice road that went straight up a small mountain. For once, I didn't want to run on vacation.

Maybe it's because it was so humid last week. Every run was done in 95%+ humidity, and my respiratory system didn't seem to be acclimating. I felt like I was running at 10,000 feet, but without the nice scenery.

After my failed long run on Sunday, during which my ankle hurt and my stomach rumbled and I ran laps around the block so I wouldn't be too far from the comfort of my own bathroom, I was feeling really dejected. Was running breaking up with me? My coach recommended a week off, and I was elated. I knew I wanted a week off before she suggested it, but I was too scared to even say it out loud.

It's definitely the right call. I'm loving it. I'm walking to work, meditating, reading, and sleeping in (until 6am!). Today was gorgeous running weather and I didn't care that I was missing it. I'm supposed to run a half marathon in July but I think I'm going to skip it. I was supposed to start marathon training yesterday for Baystate, and I don't care. And somehow, shockingly, it all seems right.

I think I'll be itching to run by next week, but maybe I won't be. Will that be the end of the world? No. Because before I was a runner, I was a person. I think I'm still a runner, but maybe I'll become a less obsessive one. For the last couple of years, I thought balance was overrated.



  1. I think these sentiments are normal for many runners. I'm finding I'm liking some of my "down time" and I'm not "as obsessed" now that I'm a more experienced runner. I used to feel that I cannot EVER skip a run and it would mean I wasn't awesome enough or serious enough or as dedicated as others. Then I started realizing over time that if I don't have enjoyable running and it is all just grueling, then it's not right for me. My best and favorite runs are the carefree ones. The ones without a plan, just running for fun. Sometimes those runs will turn into 6 miles without much thought. After going through RRCA certification, I've understood more how important it is to have true training cycles and then down time. Unless of course one is being paid to be a runner and this is their career, then that's all a different matter :)

  2. It sounds like a week off is just what you needed (and maybe more than a week?). I love your perspective, as I am also someone who can be a tad (or more) on the obsessive side when it comes to running! I made myself take last week off entirely after my marathon, and it honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

  3. Beth! You had to mention "more than a week". You read my mind I think. Although that sounds kind of good, it also sounds like a big long fitness-losing break. I guess I'm still obsessed. :) I've just decided that a week off is okay. More than a week and I might go crazy. So might my family.
    Christina -- you bring up a good point. The longer I identify as a runner, the more relaxed I am about the whole thing. I've noticed a big change from when I first started running. Every day off I would feel like I wasn't really a runner because I was taking a day off. Now I know I'm a runner, even though I'm taking a week off.

  4. Oh my goodness! That sounds really rough. Good call on taking the week off. I hope you better soon!

  5. Aw, I'm sorry for all of the above. I hope your running mojo comes back though!

  6. Green Girl - The week off is the perfect thing. Yoga, massage, walking, more time to read and play with my family - it's very nice.
    Kristy - I think my running mojo will be back soon. I now realize that I need more significant breaks after big races. So I'm learning, and that's really great.