I’m a big fan of Top 10 lists. My first creative writing assignment senior year was a top ten list of sarcastic suggestions to survive high school. Still one of my favorite pieces, tucked away in a scrap-book, a good reminder of how much I loved to write then (and still do now). I’ve wanted to convey how I figured out that I needed a running break and it only seems appropriate to tell you about the ten-ish reasons it was necessary. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to take a break, maybe you’ll see yourself in this list.
1. You go from running without music to SUDDENLY NEEDING ANYTHING TO LISTEN TO IN ORDER TO SURVIVE. My iPod had lain untouched, uncharged for months before early November. My summer training had been highly focused on time and pace and I simply didn’t have room for music, then I didn’t need it anymore. Then post-MCM, running without music seemed impossible. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts anymore. Bad sign.
2. You hate every route you’ve ever run. That loop you’ve been doing around your house for the past 6 months? The one you can make between 1 and 10 miles long? Every inch of it makes you want to burn your city to the ground. You know every crack in the pavement, every uneven sidewalk and every dog that is regularly unleashed. You hate all of them. Suddenly, driving an hour just to see something new becomes critical for your survival.
3. You dread the idea of putting on a sports bra. You know what’s great about yoga? I can throw on a tank top and walk out the door. Ladies, let’s be honest-running prep is not so easy.
4. You are using the word “weary” to describe yourself. I spent the first weeks post-marathon tired. Thrilled to death with my PR, but weary. Tired. My body was adjusting to a whole lot less adrenaline and I was simply weary.
5. YOGA IS THE GREATEST THING EVER. My first few yoga classes that took the place of my running workouts were amazing. I think the sheer “newness” of it made it wonderful. Now, a few weeks later, I know it truly is wonderful, but those first few classes were a breath of fresh air.
6. You remember how you used to have friends. I have amazing running friends. Love them, love their stories of victory, their tales of running heartbreak, our shared language. But post-marathon, I remembered how nice it was to see and spend time with my non-running friends. To go to a restaurant or bar and not plan my whole night around my run the following morning.
7. You are straight-up hurting. My IT Band was angry post-MCM. A change of shoe model, unexpected road issues and a lack of stretching and rolling had left my right band irritated. I wanted to keep running and was Google-ing solutions like a fiend. The reality? Rest is best. Ice and stretching important. Cue yoga and a nightly love affair with an ice pack.
8. You recall that you used to have other hobbies. For instance, I used to knit. The laundry basket full of unused yarn in my bedroom closet serves as a good reminder of that. I’d like to sit quietly and knit. I’d like to read a book. I now have the time to do so.
9. Your remember what it felt like to be in bed after 6:00am on a weekend. My weekends have been pretty consistent for the past year or so. Up early Saturday to get s*$% done, up early Sunday to get my long run in. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Then I laid in bed one Sunday morning and remembered how lovely it was.
10. You are not at peace with the idea of a break, until suddenly you are. The first few days I skipped running, I was antsy. I felt like a caged animal. I struggled with idea of losing what fitness gains I had made. I worried that my running would stop all together, that I’d be back to square one if I tried to start again. Slowly, and with some radical self-acceptance, I’ve grown to be OK with the break. It’s been over a week since I’ve run. 9 days to be exact. And I’m good. I’m focusing on strength training, light cardio and practicing yoga at least twice a week. My IT band is starting to feel better and I’ll be ready to go back to the road. Maybe soon. Maybe not. I want to be healthy when I start again. I’m willing to wait. And I’m ok with the wait now.
I’d love to hear about your breaks from running, or whatever sport you focus on. How did you feel before, during and after you took time off?