When you think of the word “run” what comes to mind? The first definition of the word when googled looks like this: ‘move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time.’ For some reason this makes me think about my schedule and how busy I tend to stay. I feel like I’m always running… to/from somewhere or something, toward a goal, away from emotions, etc. I can tell myself all day long to “slow down” but my mind tells my body that there’s no time for that! Everything must be done NOW! So, when I recently injured myself (training) by not listening to my body, you can imagine how I felt. It’s like everything came crashing down. The truth is, running for me is symbolic of the life I lead. I run fast, I run hard, I take on more than I should, and just keep going and going. At times, I so desperately need to rest but can’t seem to bring this thought into fruition… not until I’m FORCED to.
Run: move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time.
Some people run for exercise, some run for fun, for many it is a form of therapy while others may see it as a way of escape, or their much-needed alone time. Similar to snowflakes, runners are never identical (it’s winter – that’s the analogy I could think of). What goes through our minds is never exactly like the person next to us be it on a treadmill, the road, a trail, the beach, etc. Even if two people run for the same “reasons”, the outcome is not likely the same… Running is a very personal, intimate thing no matter what your reasoning.
2016 was a marathon of a year for me personally and there were several times I thought rest might be a good idea, but could not find a great enough reason to actually do it! A new relationship (which requires way more time and energy than I assumed), commuting, full-time job, going back to college, training for a half-marathon, and attempting to maintain a social life finally took a toll on me. How many of us do this? We think things are going well and that everything is under control and then BAM, on your very last leg of whatever race you’re running in life, you break down! LISTEN! There’s a reason your body sends you signals!! It is okay to admit you can’t do it all. It’s tough, but it’s a crucial part of your well-being.
I just sent the email – for me, the race is canceled.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’ve been training for the past 12+ weeks for my first half marathon. Although I trained a few years ago, I only made it up to 8 miles before sciatica became an issue and I had to take several months off of running to visit chiropractors and figure out a P.T. regimen that worked. This time, I was a little more prepared, but still too stubborn for my own good. I made it up to 10 miles, the last long run before the race. Around mile 7 my hip was hurting pretty badly so I started overcompensating with my gait to keep the pain at bay. By doing this, I injured my ankle due to stepping wrong over and over, for 3 miles. I should have listened. I should have walked. But… as I mentioned, I’m stubborn.
So, just weeks before the big race (on Christmas Eve to be exact), my training for this particular half-marathon ended. Not without a fight, I might add. I bought everything I could think of to help me heal faster, I stayed off my foot, I took ibuprofen like it was candy, I used so much ice, practiced the R.I.C.E. method, asked every athlete I know, went to the local running store, cried… a lot. But, in the end I realized that no matter how much I wanted this, I could not will it to happen. I must accept that this is not the time. Although this has been very difficult and disappointing, I’m of the belief that everything does in fact happen for a reason. Sometimes that reason is because we bring it on ourselves, but it’s still a reason and I must let go of the frustration.
After what seemed like the longest introduction, I’ll get to the point. Here are a few things I learned and hope to pass on to you so we aren’t ALL learning the hard way!
- Take the training seriously. If you choose a plan, stick to it. Even if that means you have to do “cross-training“. By only doing one exercise (running) over and over, you’re not developing the strength you need for endurance. And you’re neglecting important muscles necessary for health and vitality. It’s okay to run a lot, but be sure you’re doing other things to mix it up.
- I personally do Pilates and have found it super helpful! Pilates: a system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness.
- Weightlifting is also extremely beneficial and not just to aid in running. You can google “benefits of weight lifting” and find a plethora of legitimate reasons to start a regimen NOW. Here’s a quick guide from ACTIVE
- Eat right. This one is tough for a lot of people. Just because you run doesn’t give you a free-pass to eat all the junk you want. Yes, you’re burning more calories and yes, you need more fuel but think about that for a second. FUEL your body with essential nutrients and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel on your long runs. Junk is OKAY in moderation, but don’t make it your main source of nutrition, because you’ll be severely lacking.
- WATER! I’m sure most of these sound obvious, but reminders are a great way to stay accountable. There’s nothing like being 5 miles from home and realizing that you’re dehydrated. I don’t generally carry water with me on my runs so I make sure I’m hydrated beforehand. If you have to run near bathrooms, do so. It’s not the end of the world if you have to stop to “go”.
- Be sure to listen to your body. Those subtle annoyances will turn into big problems if you don’t listen. If your ankle is bothering you, really pay attention to how you are stepping. Stop and walk if you need to. Yes, that’s the worst feeling ever while you’re in the moment, but trust me, it’ll hurt far more than your pride when you’re out for an extended period of time. If something feels “off” with your stride, that should not be ignored!
- Proper shoes are SO much more significant than anything else you wear during your run. If you have access to a store that provides a Gait Analysis, that will help in determining the most appropriate shoe for your foot type. Some places even videotape the analysis and you can see just how your foot strikes.
- Sleep. Ahhh, one of my favorites. Our bodies need rest in order to function. Chances are it’s not your full-time job to run so make sure you’re not overdoing it with little-to-no rest. This is extremely important. The risk of injury increases when you’re not properly rested as well as many other possible medical issues. Please pay attention to your body. If you’re exhausted, don’t run. Don’t push it. Your shoes will be there tomorrow.
- Accountability. Not all people will feel it is necessary to run with someone else, and that’s okay, but some type of accountability or goal seems to help keep you going. I have two friends running the race I was supposed to run and we would periodically check-in on each other’s progress. On long runs, I had the pleasure of running with the most amazing running partners and it actually helped me not think so much about the run itself. It helped tremendously pass the time, which is something I struggle with (maybe I’m crazy for signing up for a half marathon after all!). Whether it be a friend you report to, a running partner, a calendar you mark your progress on, or some type of app keeping track of your runs, accountability is an amazing tool when training for anything.
- Warming-up and stretching are SO, SO crucial. I used to be the type to ignore this and boy, have I paid for it dearly. This should be just as much a part of your training as the actual run itself. The warm-up before and stretching after are not going to be the same for everyone, but everyone should do them! I urge you to find a routine that works for you and stick to it. If you don’t think you’ll have time to stretch after your run, cut your run short. Yes, it’s that important.
We could all use a little more balance.
Make your health your priority. No one else will do this for you. Can you run without following these guidelines? Sure! Absolutely! People do it every day, although unwise. I am not saying it is impossible, I’m just saying that to achieve optimal performance while remaining safe and injury-free, you’ll want to adopt some guidelines. These are a few that I’m personally working on and I hope they help someone else!
My half-marathon training adventure definitely taught me a lot. I learned from each experience and I will be doing it again in the near future. Although there were tough parts including ice baths, waking up WAY too early on the weekends, runner’s trots (yeah, it’s a thing), foam rolling, and times when I thought I just couldn’t run any more, the fellowship with my amazing running partners was definitely worth it. From the few short runs during the week I got to do with my coworker and friend to the crazy early weekend mornings with the best running partners a girl could ask for, I was definitely blessed. Ultimately, the injury will put me back for a little while but it will NOT stop me from completing a half-marathon. It is in my stars. I will do this. Resilience will win!
Run healthy, friends!