January has been kind of a quiet month on the running front. I can count on my hands how many times I have gone for a run and I can count on my other hand how many miles I have run on each of those runs. My motivation has been lagging a lot. I blame it partially on the rough Nebraska winter weather– as I write this, I can hear the wind blowing a sustained 22 mph outside my window and, even though it is somewhere around 50 degrees, in a matter of hours, the wind chill will be 20 below zero and snow flakes will be dizzily whirling around. That’s the Midwest for you. But I also realize that I am walking the fine line of burnout.
The burnout I feel is mostly self-imposed. I have been running consistently since 2007 and my pace never really seems to improve. That’s frustrating because, if running were a foreign language, I could probably fluently give a State of the Union speech. And while I have been able to run farther, that’s not the part I mentally focus on when I run. I remember a few runs when I did somehow manage an 8:00 pace or less pace and that was a great feeling. So call it carnal– man has always been obsessed with flying, so of course that’s the part that I think about when I want to go run. But it’s hard to run that fast, and that’s where the mental part comes in. Last time I ran for three minutes on the treadmill at 8:00 and it was terrifying. I thought I was going to fly backwards into the elliptical behind me if my heart didn’t explode first or my lungs didn’t fuse through my skin just to have somewhere else to expand. The thought of running for miles at that pace felt impossible.
It’s not that I don’t want to run. I do. And I can’t imagine letting this part of my life go and I am not ready to give it up. Especially now that I haven’t been running, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle have been REALLY obvious.
Here’s what I have missed in my month off from running:
- Having a more svelte figure. The scale has gone up 5-10 pounds. This really wasn’t a shock to me– when you are training for a marathon, you have to give yourself enough fuel to get through the daily runs plus enough for recovery. Post-marathon, your body still craves all of that fuel but you’re not burning it off, so you have to gradually readjust your diet back to a normal level of calories in, calories out. It has happened before after other races I’ve run and it’s a quick fix. But it still sucks when it happens.
- I don’t sleep as well at night. Running truly knocks you out. And it’s probably the best sleep EVER. Deliriously brush your teeth, stumble into bed, and the next minute, you’re groggily slapping your alarm to submission. I’ve definitely noticed that I toss and turn through the night more often.
- Being mentally quicker to the draw. Weird, right? I just told you that running makes you exhausted. But when I run, I’m just much more aware through out my day. And I’ll admit here that some of my best professional work or blog writing has come during a run!
- I’m achy all over. Isn’t that weird??? Most people think running is horribly painful and yeah, it sometimes does come with its aches and pains and stabs, but have you ever felt apathy pain? It’s MUCH worse. I feel like I have aged 10 years since my training ended. My body is LITERALLY aching for a run and it’s deceptively making me think “nah, my body hurts too much to run.” It’s a vicious cycle.
- I’m BORED. Yeah. Bored as hell. I’ve had enough of this hibernation— the only marathon I’ve been having is with Netflix. And my crochet hook. And with co-workers at the bar. I’m not doing as much laundry, I’m not soaking for hours in an Epsom salt bath, I’m not foam-rolling my epidermis off, I’m not doing anything. There is no structure to my day without a run.
So, after all of that, you would think that list is enough to get my ass to the gym, right? (It is, actually, I think I’m gonna go for a 3-mile treadmill run and maybe some miles on the spin bike!) But what has really gotten me to refocus on running again, on a more global level of “just run” and not “run X miles at X:00 pace,” is that I deserve to run.
I deserve to run.
We often don’t think of ourselves as deserving to do hard work, do we? We don’t deserve to slave away on a work project– we just deserve the promotion that comes with it. We don’t deserve to be misunderstood by our significant other– we just deserve that they “get” us. But just like finally being in charge at work or being in a loving and safe relationship with someone, hard work has joy, too. Because what are you doing if you’re not busting your ass to get ahead at work? You’re wasting your intelligence and talents on complacency. And what are you doing if you’re not communicating your feelings to your significant other? You’re contributing to a misunderstanding that could tear you both apart.
You have to do the hard stuff because you deserve to work. You deserve to use your talents and intelligence and you deserve to communicate your human emotions. And running? You deserve to move freely and with the feeling that you are flying.
So, that is what is helping me get back into running after a dull 4-week break. I deserve to run because I deserve the joy that keeps me coming back for more. Otherwise, I’m letting the weight creep on or I’m tossing and turning at night or I’m achy all over or I’m mentally lethargic. So, even if I am not running the pace I want to run at or think I should be able to crank out easily, I deserve not to do all of that to myself.