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I just read the most recent article of Ask Coach Jenny on http://www.runnersworld.com called “Do You Make These 5 Running Mistakes.” The whole article is in response to a reader’s question regarding her loss of joy in her running program that she had previously loved dearly. This definitely rang a bell with me. Coach Jenny’s response about possible mistakes you could be making in your running routine has nothing to do with posture, foot strike, splits, stretches or anything like that. She’s talking about how we, as runners, can often get worn out by burning the candle at both ends with the stress we are putting on our bodies through mileage but as well with all of the other unavoidable stressors life has to offer, like work, family, finances, etc…And being runners, we tend to try to just keep pushing through the difficulties like we have something to prove, rather than sometimes slowing down and making sure everything is in balance and OK.
I recently experienced a similar sort of darkness with my running. A hobby that once brought me sheer and utter joy, is now, often a daily task that I manage to complete and strike off my to do list. But, what do I do if I don’t want to let my relationship with my running turn sour? It’s so much a part of my identity that I don’t want to give it up, but there has got to be a way to get that “loving feeling” back, and I think Coach Jenny has some great ideas for how to do this.
In her article, Coach Jenny lists a few things that might be sabotaging our relationship with our runs: Mileage, Speed, Terrain, Elements, and Recovery, and after reading through her fixes to the threats that each one of these pose, I have a new found hope for my daily run. I think for any kind of physical training, you need to consider what your body can honestly handle, and if you are building on that to achieve certain goals, there needs to be a gradual training plan, and this needs to be combined with regular check-ins with your mind/body.
How has this has affected me? Well, after running the Great Eastern Half Marathon in November and the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December, traveling internationally, dealing with copious amounts of jet lag, working like crazy, followed by more international traveling with lots of family events around the holidays, I was exhausted and gave myself a complete sabbatical from running for 1 month. But, when I hopped back into my trainers on January 1st, I was not at the level of performance that I was at the month earlier. Bummer.
Over the course of a few weeks, I pushed myself to get back to my optimum pace, and distance that I had so easily done just 6 weeks prior, however I ended up exhausted, mentally worn out, and gave myself the start of an over-use injury with one of my knees. Worst of all was that, I didn’t even enjoy the runs. So, while I’ve been nursing this knee injury, I’ve cut my mileage and dedicate my runs to finding joy again in my beloved sport. I downloaded a ton of new music that I love and only listen to when I’m running, I’ve tried to cut down on treadmill runs and go for beautiful runs in parks, and I have stopped looking at pace and distance and am listening to my body about what it can handle.
I am making an effort to quiet that inner voice that says, “ok, minimum 1-1.5 hour run, go!” or “Come on .5km faster. Pick up the pace!” I chucked all that out the window (for the moment) and am going back to the beginning. I love running. I love new trainers, putting on my swanky workout gear, tying my hair up in a ponytail and then braiding it so that my hair stays intact even during good sweat, feeling the sun on my skin, enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and letting it inspire my day, and the amazing feeling after it’s all over of just having given my body an amazing workout. So, I have challenged myself to stop challenging myself so much, and at least for a little while, just enjoy the ride.