People are attracted to running for various reasons: they want to lose weight, they want to live healthier lives, it’s cheaper than a gym membership, you don’t need a lot of gear, they enjoyed running when they were kids, or they want to run a marathon before they reach a certain age. People who continue running, past the 5K’s, 10K’s, and half marathons, those who run longer distances and think nothing of going out for a Saturday 20 miler, are a particular breed of crazy.
Those are my people.
We have no problem pushing ourselves to run longer and longer distances, and then test our training in a race. We’re goal oriented and enjoy making plans. It’s our days off, when we should be giving our legs a rest, that we struggle with.
Today is a rest day. I have two scheduled each week, Mondays and Fridays. After giving everything I’ve got on the five days I run each week, I always look forward to the rest days.
It’s the unscheduled rest days that I struggle with the most. I suspect that’s true for most runners.
I run with a group of very experienced, serious runners. They train hard and race to PR. Many of them win races and place in their age groups. Every single one of them could write a book about how to train for a marathon and what not to do to get to the start line uninjured and ready for your best performance.
That doesn’t mean we follow our own advice.
Last Saturday at breakfast after our long run, my friend Kurt made the statement that runners are bad about doing two things: not resting enough and racing too often.
I actually think I’m pretty good on both fronts — but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it. I’m one of those strange birds who likes training more than racing. There is nothing like having a great race, where everything comes together — weather, training, nutrition, energy, course, mind — and you feel great from start to finish and pull off a PR. But I’ve had some pretty lousy races, too, and I struggle with getting past all the uncontrollable variables and still enjoying the race.
I’m in awe of people who race every weekend. I just don’t feel that urge. I like having two or three goal races per year and building up to and looking forward to that day. I like longer distances, and they take longer to train for. And I’m certainly not winning any races these days, so I don’t have the incentive of being first across the line each weekend to spur me on. The older I get, the less I care about speed and more about endurance and strength.
I used to love getting medals, but now they just sit on the wall in the back bedroom, pretty much forgotten and not all that important anymore. It’s rare to get a race t-shirt that’s made for a woman, so that’s never been a big draw. Now I’m all about the experience itself being the reward.
As for rest, I think I’m pretty good about listening to my body and taking a day off when I need to — even though I hate missing a run on the training plan. And I rarely take a complete rest day. I usually do yoga, which seems to give my legs the rest they need but also works out some of the kinks from the week’s training and loosens them up for the weekend long runs.
However, I was surprised at how frustrated I felt when I ran my first 50K a few weeks ago and had to take more rest days than any of my other friends who ran it. This is where age comes to play. It just seems to take me longer to recover these days. When yoga doesn’t help, I know it’s time to back off and give myself a complete rest day.
Post-race, except for the quads, I felt great. I was still floating on my happy cloud of accomplishment a week afterwards, and I wanted to run, dammit! My quads had other ideas, though, and every time I ran more than a few miles they tightened up and let me know I needed to be smart. A week later they finally felt good enough for a trail run, only I never seemed to warm up and felt fatigued and grumpy the entire run. This was another signal I needed to listen to: recovery takes time, and the body knows better than the mind.
So I backed off and lowered my mileage, and within a week I was back to normal. Lesson: rest is good, and recovery takes time.
We’ve all known people who didn’t give themselves enough time to recover and wound up battling one injury after another. We’ve probably done it ourselves. When you truly love running, and have your next race planned before you cross the finish line, it’s hard to not keep pushing yourself.
Just don’t forget to sometimes give it a rest.
Looking back on this past year of running, I realize it was a step back kind of year for me, sort of like how Stella lost her groove. While other people and blogs are celebrating running 1,000+ miles, I barely cracked 886. In retrospect, this was the year I ran less, got slower, had a few minor injuries, and overall didn’t enjoy running as much as before.
Kind of like not seeing the forest for the trees, I couldn’t see the joy because of the pain.
The year started with a marathon in Death Valley in February. Even though I was excited to be running in the desert, I barely slogged through the training. Mostly I remember my friend, Hari, dragging me on 9 mile tempo loops around the lake after work, cursing him under my breath for making me run faster than I wanted. The race in Death Valley was one of the highlights of the year, as tough as it was, and it made me realize how much more I enjoy running smaller races in scenic locations than huge marathons in big cities.
After Death Valley, however, I truly lost my running mojo. Without a new goal race in sight, with no training plan, I became untethered. I ran sporadically, making excuses for my lack of enthusiasm for all things running, and just kind of checked out for awhile. This coincided with the decision to quit teaching, and I’m sure a general lack of direction was the culprit. It was all mental, but the body didn’t have any trouble following the lead.
Then there was the summer. The summer of unrelenting heat. The summer that almost swallowed up the rest of the year. The summer that nearly killed all desire to ever run again.The hottest summer on record in Texas history.
I decided to run the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa and rounded up a few friends to go with me. We started training in June and trained right through the hottest temperatures any of us have ever run in. I avoid summer races like the plague, but a bunch of us let Steph talk us into running a 15K in July, the Too Hot to Hold. We knew it was crazy, but we ran it anyway, just for fun (and the hat and the tech shirt). We made friends with the heat for that one morning, and were surprised that it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Little did we know how much worse it would get.
At first it was a game: let’s see how hot it gets before it kills us! Eventually it became nothing more than depressing. Day after day after record breaking day of temperatures too crazy high to run in, we kept on running anyway. There were days I simply couldn’t talk myself into running after dark when it was still in the 100’s, and I think I reached my temperature limit at 105 degrees. Speed work and hills were out of the question for me. It was hard enough just to raise my foot off the ground for an easy run. Long runs at 6am when the temperature was already in the 90’s made me want to cry. The summer became an ultramarathon of heat, and the finish line kept getting pushed farther and farther out of reach. There was never a break, month after month of heat, and no one complained louder than I did.
Letting the heat get to me led to wildly inconsistent training, which probably caused two minor injuries that plagued me until the end of the year: ankle tendonitis and piriformis syndrome. One week I would pull it together and run 35 miles, the next I could barely rouse myself to run 10. The ankle tendonitis is an old friend, greeting me whenever I ramp up the miles too fast, kind of like shin splints. The piriformis was a completely new ailment, and reminded me a lot of plantar fasciitis because of its tenacity in holding on.
In the end, I decided to run only the half in Tulsa, which was a good decision for me. The weather was cold, the race somewhat small, and I ran the entire 13 miles with Heather, and with Bill, Hari, and Liz always close by. Afterwards, I felt as if I had been kissed by the running prince, waking me up from a long slumber of running malaise. I don’t know if it was running in the cold, running only a half marathon, or running with my friends, but suddenly I looked forward to running again.
The piriformis pain was still an issue, though, and I decided to start doing yoga again to see if that helped. I had done yoga almost daily years ago before I started running, and it was my favorite part of the day. It was the same this time as well. I do yoga almost every morning now, and sometimes after a run. It’s made a huge difference in alleviating sore muscles, I don’t feel as stiff in the mornings, and I feel more relaxed–and stronger–in general. I also realized this week, for the first time in months, that I hadn’t thought about my piriformis once during or after my last 10 mile run, and that it no longer hurt.
Yesterday I ran the Bold in the Cold half marathon in Grapevine with around 13 of my running friends. Heather, Hari, and I had already decided that it would be a training run for us, so we kept it at training pace for most of the race. At mile 7, though, at the top of a hill, I suddenly felt great, and Hari and I stepped up the pace for a few miles. It was good to know I still had some speed in my legs, and I loved that feeling of flow that only comes when you run fast.
Next up: the Eugene Marathon at the end of April. It looks like there will be a Dallas invasion for the marathon, and I am so excited. For the first time in a very long time, I’m actually looking forward to training for and running another marathon. I’m determined not to let the heat get to me this spring.
Looking back, it wasn’t that bad of a year after all. There were challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle. This summer may have turned me into a madwoman, but we all suffered through it together, and it made us that much tougher. I got to run a marathon in my favorite setting, the desert, and I rediscovered the benefits of yoga.
Even though it was a step back kind of year overall, it eventually led me to a renewed excitement about running and reminded me why I run in the first place: because I love it, and because it’s what I do. Nothing more, nothing less than that.
7/22/11 – YOGA
Still felt under the weather today so I decided to try a new yoga video I bought some time ago, Yoga Conditioning for Athletes (with Rodney Yee, Gaiam). It was exactly what I needed.
Before I was a runner, I was a walker. I used to walk 3-4 miles most days after work, then come home and do 20 minutes of yoga with Rodney Yee. I loved walking (still do), but the yoga workout was my true favorite.
When I started running almost six years ago, I pretty much stopped doing anything but run. I still walk, though mostly if there’s a dog attached to a leash in my hand. I’ve been easing my way back into yoga now, after six years of telling myself I was going to, and for the first time today I feel as if I’m getting back some of my flexibility.
Aside from the stretching and lengthening of shortened muscles from running, I simply feel great after a yoga workout.
The Gaiam yoga videos are my favorites, especially the ones with Rodney Yee. Here are the videos I use the most:
- P.M. Yoga – very relaxing
- Stress Relief Yoga – gentle, easy stretches
- Power Yoga for Flexibility – also includes PY for Strength and Stamina, both good workouts
- Yoga Conditioning for Athletes – great for runners
- Yoga Burn – somewhat challenging
- Ali Macgraw: Yoga Mind and Body (this is not a Gaiam DVD, but is a great workout)
Here’s a good article on Yoga as Cross-Training.
Stats: Yoga – Conditioning for Athletes DVD – 1 hr