A rest from running: my thoughts on taking time out

I vividly remember my first time running. It was a grey March evening and, despite never having run before, I had entered the Bristol half marathon that coming September.

During those summer months training I fell in love with running. Since then, it has been my go-to medication when life went pear-shaped, my shoulder to cry on when relationships failed, the ultimate pick-me-up.

But this summer me and my long-term love went through a rough patch. Running became difficult, it didn’t make me feel good, and more often than not our meetings ended with me feeling cross, despondent or gloomy. I started to hate it.*

Why? We’d been spending too much time together.

I’d always entered events as an end-game focus but this year I really noticed decreases in my performance during races and training sessions. I had a constant ache in my left hip and my legs felt like lead.

It became very emotional: I’d silently fume when people came past me in races, I threw mini-tantrums and envied others who performed well. It don’t feel comfortable writing that, but there you go. I was ‘well jel’ of others’ success because it highlighted the lack of mine.

I figured the next run would be the one where I would magically feel better so I kept going. But I wasn’t getting any better and couldn’t understand it. Running was my freedom was why did I feel so trapped?

Sometimes you need to take a step back, figure out exactly what the problem is and work on resolving it.

I would like to say I recognised this myself but I didn’t get there at first. The conclusion was drawn through conversations with friends who happen to be fitness professionals. I was, they said, displaying classic signs of overtraining (this is where too much exercise and not enough rest wreaks your body leading to injury, fatigue and decreased performance as well as in a mental slump).

They echoed the messages my body was sending and told me to STOP AND REST.

To quote Ross from Friends me and running were ‘on a break’. I stopped altogether and did other things to stay active. It was, I have to say, blissful.

Here’s what I realised. I’d forgotten the reasons why I run: to feel epic, joyful and happy in my own skin. I’d erased the basics of what it was all about and got entangled in trying to keep up. Running became a chore and the passion died a bit.

The break reinvigorated my desire. Just recently I woke up one awful, blustery, wet morning with an overwhelming urge to go for a run. So I did. We had a beautiful time together. I felt exactly as I did in those early days and afterwards I felt mega. Tired, but mega. And my hair was crazy, as this picture shows.

If you are the same as me, then make a decision now to stop! Our bodies say important things to us all the time. When it tells us it’s had enough we should probably take note, right?

* Yeah, yeah ‘hate’ may be a strong word but I really did.

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