Hi! I’m back with a rather unusual and long (but not unusually long, if you know me) update post where I try to help you (and myself) work through what I’ve learned over the past month and a half of silence.
Lesson #1: I can give up running. It’s not that I want to give it up now, or ever, but I’ve realized that if I couldn’t run all of a sudden, I can survive. That being said, lesson #2: it takes a lot to stop being a runner. I’ve been injured, I haven’t been training, I’m barely running, but I’m still a runner! I will always be a runner as long as it’s a way I look to spend my free-time and my number one hobby. And I don’t need anyone to agree with me for me to feel this way.
This may sound kind of bland for you, but it’s big news to me, and it’s a good intro to where I’m at now.
The graphic update:
It took a while for the 18 miler right before (or at the peak of) my injury to stop making every run after that look like a smidgen. Now, a 6 mile in my plan is tower that gets called a “long run.”
I go out for 1-4+ mile runs. Usually, I’ll still do a short warm-up run for strength-training. I’ve pushed myself for longer runs over these past two weeks, but still need to be careful about doing them too soon within one another.
Most of these runs have been fast. Fewer runs and fewer miles while still riding off some marathon fitness mean that almost every run has felt fresh. Giving myself the freedom to run fast when I feel like it, not when the plan tells me, means I never know how the run will end up. I also had some really great runs. For example, that “race” on the 27th was a run that started off so fast, I decided to see if I could hold it for a 5k. Turns out, I still have a 22:09 5k in me. And it was fun!
On the other hand, I can’t expect to log any PRs based off this… but I’m not looking to do that right now anyway, and it’s still a log!
The verbal update:
On the physical front, it seems like my body’s mechanics finally caught up with me. I have a wonky back (probably not helped by my notoriously poor posture) and wonky feet (definitely not helped by breaking toes and playing barefoot soccer). When I saw my doctor at the end of March, she did the normal “does this hurt” tests and listened to my symptoms. She figured my back was the problem, took an x-ray, and prescribed shoe orthotics and physical therapy visits. At the time, I was surprised that she didn’t x-ray my feet, and I didn’t think to tell her that while nothing she did to test my feet hurt, if I turn my foot on it’s side, I felt a pain there. I guess I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be turning my foot like that anyway, and that was the problem.
Since my doctor said my back was the problem and I had the go-to to continue running, within reason, I did get off the running break (it’s not in the chart above, but I did take about two weeks off running). I still have the pain in my foot though, and I haven’t been able to get the orthotics or PT yet, because my job status changed, and therefore also my insurance, so I think another visit is in order.
Tl; dr: I’m able to run, but I’m still having problems where my foot doesn’t feel great after every run, so I’m technically still injured and not diagnosed, and I need to see my doctor again.
On the mental front, I’ve had some major improvements. I can almost say I’ve had a complete lifestyle change in the opposite direction of running, and it’s, um, life changing.
I guess the best way to explain my running plan right now is “whatever works.” If my foot feels okay, I have time and I’m running just to run, I run. If it doesn’t feel okay, or I really have another priority, or I’m running just to burn some calories but for no other mental/physical benefit, I don’t run.
This is where the huge shift is. I looked at what running did for me in the past and what it actually should be doing for me. For the past ten years, running:
- Kept me sane, gave me alone time and a chance to do something unacademic
- Required me to constantly chose between running, family, and work
- Allowed me to procrastinate on my academics
- Helped me get some really great ideas for my writing
- Helped me control my weight
- Kept my immune, cardiovascular, and neurological systems in top-form
- Gave me massive appetite and excuses, so I often overate and/or ate unhealthily
- Gave me a natural high, gave me reasons to be proud of my body
While many of these are good reasons to run, what I needed running to stop doing were 2, 3, and 7.
I guess I should mention that what I was going through with my running was a huge (many times helpful) distraction in my life. However, for the past few months, I’d been given many hints that running was maybe not working for me in the same way anymore. It would distract me from my struggles with finances in Berlin, working part-time while working on my dissertation, remaining active in uni life, and it was fueling some efforts to meet a body-image ideal I’ve been chasing since college.
So, while I say I need running to stop doing things 3, 2, 7, I realized I needed to stop blaming the activity and look at the choices I was making when I went out for that activity. I realized I made those choices because a) I had set a goal (sometimes not reasonable given my other responsibilities) and would sacrifice too much to meet those goals and b) I was unhappy about something that I could look toward other solutions to help fix. Running is not the cure-all for my life.
Since March 9th or so, I haven’t been following a plan and therefore I don’t wake up with the mentality that running is my priority for the day. This may be self-understood for many, but there are many of you reading who may know exactly what I’m talking about. The pressure of getting the run ticked off the list for the day, getting that workout in, is something any of us striving for a specific race or running/health goal can feel. I had been feeling that way since before summer of 2015 and that was too long.
I’m going to just tell you a little bit about what I went through to get to where I am right now, but I also realize my post is already getting long enough as it is… you could just skip to the end, if you want.
I didn’t realize that I was putting myself under this pressure of constantly being in training until this latest injury. Since setting my goals in summer of 2015 to PR in the 5k, then PR in the half and full marathons in the winter, I was on a running high that made me want to keep training and keep racing, so I signed up for races in the fall of 2016. But when I broke my toe last summer, I still didn’t use the break (literally and figuratively) as a chance to step back. instead, I stepped up my cross-training to fully replace marathon training. This meant 2 to 4.5 hours cycling a day. I’m not even a pro runner! It’s not like I had that kind of time, but I couldn’t shut off the voice in my head saying I needed to get back into training in time for a fall marathon. So I went from crazy cross training right back into my training plan, where I left off, started too fast, too soon, and then injured myself again. When I realized I really couldn’t get the fall marathon anymore, I still totally wanted redemption. So, I signed up for two marathons in the spring and got back into training. Lo and behold, I got injured again. It took me a while, but that was finally the smack in the face I needed. I realized I couldn’t train anymore, and needed to reassess what running does in my life.
So I did.
Since following the “whatever works” plan, I’ve been logging a heck of a lot less miles. But I also have much better feelings associated with my runs, and many more good ones. Somehow, I also haven’t miraculously gained 5 hundred pounds or lost my fitness. Sure, I couldn’t run a marathon right now and I’ve gained about 5 pounds. But those five are only seven above my medically ideal weight anyway, and they’re easy to hold with my normal eating habits, so I figure they’re healthy. And I’m not gunning for a marathon or any PRs now anyway.
It’s finally pass the date of the main goal race of the year, and I’ve decided not to run the marathon in June. I have an annual company 5k I’m still doing in June and a campus 10k in July that I signed up for the sake of having some running community event to attend, but I’m not training for them specifically and I’m going to try and keep all other races off the schedule until I’m secure in dedicating time and energy to training again.
Right now, I’ve pushed running back into it’s spot next to reading fiction not related to my dissertation, watching movies, blogging, and random adventures out in Berlin. Just where it should be.
I’m still keeping track of my running, because it’s a nice way to check in with what I’m doing with my time and how my body it feeling. But I haven’t decided if I still want to do a blog post every week or not.
That being said, all of you who are pursuing goals right now, more power to you! I’m still an avid cheerleader. :-) And I still live vicariously through you.
Cheers, and happy running. -Dorothea