I’m taking a hiatus from Training right now.
That’s Training with a capital T, because I’m still running, and lifting, and swimming, and skiing, and dancing to “Uptown Funk” like a spaz every chance I get. (I hope that song isn’t too obnoxious and overplayed by the time our wedding rolls around in late May.)
I’m active. I just don’t have a Goal Race. I’m not planning any Big Workouts. I don’t want to Compete.
I’m having some inner turmoil about this. I’m an editor at a running magazine. I’m writing a feature about hiring a coach and working with her for a year. (Which, for the record, was a positive experience!) I’ve been Training for the better part of the last five or six years. And I just don’t want to do it anymore. Here’s my attempt at figuring out why:
Burnout. The most obvious and likely culprit. I hoped—nay, expected—to totally ace Wineglass and then take a month or two to relax and regroup. Instead, when it didn’t go my way, I chose to try again. Soon. I didn’t want to waste my fitness and I knew I could do better, but my heart was never really in it. I still ran a great race in Phoenix—I absolutely couldn’t have gone any faster on that course—but I didn’t have much fun, prepping for it or racing it.
Painful realizations. As much as I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing 20 miles with 14 at marathon pace, my last training cycle (plus the time off I’ve had since it ended) made me realize something that hadn’t previously occurred to me: Intense marathon training leaves me too wiped to do or to enjoy other things in life I’d like to do/enjoy.
For example: It’s amazing how much I’ve gotten done around the house during this hiatus. I spent a Saturday ShopVac-ing and organizing a particularly filthy part of the basement. That doesn’t sound fun, I realize, but it kind of was. It needed to be done, and I did it, and now that room looks awesome. (Well. As awesome as a grody, unfinished, freezing cold basement room can ever look.)
And that’s just one example of a Life Thing that not running so much has freed me up to do! I can think of at least two others! Behold! There’s more to life than running!
Soul searching. On that note: Why do I run, anyway? To stay healthy and fit, for one. But beyond that, why?
When I met my coach after the race in Phoenix, she said, “You have to choose a goal that inspires you.” And that made my head explode. It sounds so obvious, but it got me asking myself, “Is training to run a fast marathon so I can qualify for and run Boston still inspiring me?” No! Not really! It’s making me feel frustrated and self-critical and all kinds of other negative emotions. And, because I’m not a fan of enormous, crowded races—hey, NYC Marathon!—I don’t think I’d even enjoy running Boston very much if I did get in.
So, what was the appeal of Boston to begin with? I wanted one of those blue-and-yellow finishers’ jackets. I blogged about that ages ago. And why did I want one of those jackets? So I could wordlessly communicate, “I am a faster and better runner than you are.” I run races partially to compete with myself but also to say to the world, “Look how fast I am! I could maybe beat you! And you, I could definitely beat you.”
Which makes me sound like a jerk! And I am kind of a jerk! And I don’t want to be a jerk anymore! What’s with this need to compare myself to other people? That is a part of my personality I don’t like, and training and racing seems to fuel it.
Doing other things. You know what’s kind of fun? Swimming. And skiing. I’m not very good at either, but that’s part of the appeal. I can get a good workout just because my body is doing something it’s not used to doing. And I couldn’t really do either of those things while I was marathon training.
Also, I miss feeling strong all over. I used to take these strength classes at the gym that are totally butt-kicking but will make you look and feel SO RIPPED. And I stopped doing them because they made me too sore to do hard running workouts. That is silly, and that is why people who run all the time at the expense of other activities get hurt.
The place where we’ll be honeymooning is in a remote part of Bermuda, and I’ve heard the roads around there aren’t so great for pedestrians. Why should I spend a single minute on the treadmill in the gym when I’m in BERMUDA? (As I would feel compelled to do if I were really training.) Especially when we can use the resort’s stand-up paddleboards for free? And I could do that with Paul, instead of by myself?
This has turned into a ramble. I am trying to justify to myself why it’s okay for me to not run very much right now, or ever again, if that’s what I want.
I think I fear falling back into college mode, where I’d run maybe three miles a couple times a week and do nothing else except eat pizza and drink beer, and I wondered why I was a disaster, health-wise.
But health and fitness are more important to me now than they were then. And I do enjoy exercising. I just think the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite, extreme direction for me for a while. It’s time to find some balance.