Funny how little things change. Six years ago I wrote about needing a break from the thing I loved most- running. What started out as a forced recovery from injury has become a yearly tradition. Each year during the holidays I take a break from running. Sometimes it’s physically necessary. Sometimes it’s mentally necessary. It’s always a good decision. This year I took over a month off to recover from a hysterectomy. For the first time in almost 8 years, I have nothing planned. No races. No training cycles to jump into. I’ll admit it feels freeing to do what I want. I’ve been showing my spin bike a lot of love. The road will be there when I’m ready, just like it was after I wrote this post.
Taking a Break
Too much of a good thing can be, well, too much.
Take chocolate, for example. Most definitely a good thing, but in high doses can cause even the biggest Willy Wonka fan a stomach ache. Ask my brother.
One Easter, when we were younger and ignorant of food pyramids and nutrition labels, my brother decided that if one bite of chocolate was good, the whole basket much be sensational. Halfway home from Grandma’s house, he was singing a different tune as we made an emergency roadside pitstop. I won’t go into details, but I’ll just say that he rarely overindulged on candy after that.
I may not have a problem abstaining from baskets full of chocolate- although it is still a fantasy of mind to live in a house made of donuts- I can, and often do, overdo my running.
When I feel great, I can’t help but throw a few extra runs in during the week or add a few miles onto the end of a recovery run. It’s a great problem to have seeing as there are many who struggle to find the desire to exercise and get healthy. I have tasted the sweet nectar that are the running endorphins and I am hooked.
While this may not seem like a big problem, there are some pitfalls from too much running.
The most common result, injury. I’ve had my fair share and won’t give you my laundry list of running woes, but I can honestly say that I am slowly learning the benefits of recovery. Slowly.
Then there’s burnout. A very real, very common problem that usually comes by way of sneak attack. One day the road beckons to you, calls you, tempts you, and lures you. The next day it taunts you while you stare glumly at the running shoes that have now become your most feared possession.
I’ve been there. There have been many days when, I hate to write this down in permanent form, but I don’t like to run. I can sense the shudders in the running community, but it’s true. Running is hard and takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally.
This typically happens to me near the end of fall at the end of race season. I have yet to do a Turkey Trot of any kind for the simple fact that I can’t stand the thought of pinning one more bib number to my shirt or setting one more alarm for yet another pre-dawn wakeup call. Even short recovery runs don’t hold the appeal they once did when burnout sets in.
That is why I have declared December to be my holiday from running. Don’t fret. I’m not saying I won’t run, but I am saying I won’t run with a purpose. There will be no runs which I don’t look forward to.
If I feel like a two mile run around the block, great. If I feel like a 20-mile run, even better. If I feel like going to a spin class and bagging the run altogether, well, happy holidays to me! My pace and duration shall be dictated, not by my Runner’s World Smart Coach, but by the holiday music on my iPod.
I need this. A break won’t just rejuvenate my exhausted legs, but will make my heart grow fonder of the sport I plan to participate in until I’m 90. But I won’t make it to 40 if I keep pounding out the miles, slogging away at the roads until I’m worn down and nothing more than a drone.
Yes, my gift to me is to run, or not run, however I want. Come January 1, I’ll revisit my goals, but today I don’t have a plan, and I’m a better runner for it.