May 18, 2016

The comparison trap

There's a famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt that you've probably heard...
"Comparison is the thief of joy." 

I generally subscribe to this idea and when it comes to running, I am pretty good about this. I don't often compare my efforts or times with others. That's not to say that I am not intrigued when a fellow runner smokes a PR. In that case, I want to know how they did that and what tools or techniques they used that I could employ with my own training. I love learning about other runners's training and races but don't pay too much mind to how I stack up. But...when it comes to myself, I am playing the comparison game all day long....all day e'ryday.

Normally this trait works for me. It helps me stay motivated and focused. It keeps me from skipping runs in favor of happy hour or laying on the couch in front of the TV. But in the case of coming back from injury, it can be challenging.

I've had to put my focus on time goals and pace on the back burner. It has been quite humbling to slog through 1-2 mile runs and feel winded and sore afterwards. I have focused primarily on the distance accomplishments and slowly but surely, I chipped away at my endurance. Last night, I ran 3.5 comfortable miles and realized that I felt the most comfortable when I was running at a faster clip during the last half mile. Progress. Slow, but it's happening.

When I am out running, I often find myself daydreaming about my PR races, about times when I could run 8:30 pace for 8-10 miles, and about days when I ran blazing fast (for me) 800s on the treadmill. On days when I'm struggling to hit sub-10 pace on a long-ish run, it can be a big giant piece of humble pie. I find myself feeling frustrated sometimes. Sometimes the frustration translates to speed and other times it just translates to pissed off miles (real talk here).

On some level, it's been a good learning experience for me. It's teaching me to love running again, simply for the love of running and not for a race or a time goal. I'm re-learning how it feels to run...how some days you feel like you're flying and other days, like you're running in concrete. I'm finding my paces again, both fast and slow and everything in between.I'm figuring out how to incorporate speed work into my training again, but without overly taxing my body....yea that's basically an oxymoron.

I have learned at least a dozen times to be patient when I'm out on a run. The speed will come. This season is about focusing on healthy running and continuing to focus on strength training. I have more excitement about my upcoming 10k, the Chick-fil-A 10k, than I have in a really long time. Sometimes a break is good, even if it's not by choice.

Ok, so time for your input my friends. What is the best and worst thing about coming back from an injury or a long break from running?
{Christine}

27 comments:

  1. I hear you, Christine. Coming back after an injury is always a challenge and questioning sanity and myself is always lurking. For me I always just try to remember to be kind to myself and my body. I focus on the chirping of the birds and the feel of the ground beneath my feet and try to remind myself how I missed it while I wasn't able to do it. Oh, and to breathe! Getting back into the runner's breathing pattern is always interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Meridith! I'm trying to enjoy running for the chance to be out in nature and smell the roses so to speak :)

      Delete
  2. Glad you are feeling excitement again as you train for your upcoming 10K. If you can continue to find ways to do that even through the "not so good runs", I think that is key!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great point! It feels good to be excited about racing again

      Delete
  3. Coming back from any break is always difficult. All you can do is remind yourself that your body learned to do this once already, and though it'll take time, your body will get there again. Even though it often feels like you're the only person who has had to go through this, just remember that we've all faced obstacles and setbacks, and that one day you'll be back where you were. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Muscle memory is a beautiful thing...hopefully my legs remember how to go fast someday ;)

      Delete
  4. The worst thing? For me, that's having to be patient while I work to regain my former speed and endurance. I'm not a very patient person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me neither!! Rebuilding my endurance suuuuuucked. I'm in a much better place now and that has helped with my ability to enjoy running.

      Delete
  5. I've had a few injuries over the past year -- shin splints, patellar tendinitis, and have now been sidelined for about a week and a half so far due to a (hopefully) mini hip injury. And the thing I realize each time is how much I take running for granted when I'm healthy. Each "forced" break therefore makes me appreciate the fact that I WILL be able to run again when I'm healthy, and in a weird way makes my mental relationship with running healthier. When I'm sidelined and see people out running, it seems like my immediate reaction is, "That looks so great! I want to go do that too!!" And while losing some of my running fitness each time sucks, I've gone through it enough times now to know that I'll get it back, and hopefully continue to improve.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Becca! I think this forced break was really good for my relationship with running. While coming back has been tough, I really enjoy it so much more now. Hope you are feeling better soon and can get back to the roads!

      Delete
  6. This post perfectly describes me and the place I'm in now! The worst part about coming back from a break Is the fact that i want to be in the same exact place I was in before. It can be discouraging, but I like to take progress (even if it's slow) as a small victory!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here! I think it's easy to get caught up in thinking about past fitness levels or speeds. You'll get there...promise! I never thought I would regain my endurance but slowly it's come back.

      Delete
  7. I feel this way now, but instead of coming back to running, I'm burnt out from back to back training cycles. I've lost focus on an end goal and slower runs make me sad and nostalgic for PRs. Anyway (!), I know you're making positive progress towards speed and new PRs post-injury. And I think it is very important to focus on self instead of the "other."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great comment, Elizabeth! The other can take so many forms...and it's easy to lose focus on the moment and yourself. Every run I'm slowly getting better about being more present but it's tough. I think my injury break forced me out of a bad relationship w running from too many training cycles and years of only taking short breaks. Silver lining?

      Delete
  8. I always try to remind my clients and trainees that you have to take yourself where you are NOW. Not when you were 15 (or whenever you were at your fittest). I constantly have to remind myself that I am coming back from injury--I need to thankful for any and every mile, regardless of the pace!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great point, Susie! I need to remind myself of those things more often. And yes I am with you on appreciating running-definitely grateful for every run even if they aren't as fast as I would like.

      Delete
  9. Thankfully, I've never had to take a long break due to injury -- only short ones.

    One of the best things about it was that when I finally did run a half after that injury, it was a PR. I almost didn't sign up for one because it seemed I was never pain free on a run. That half still stands as one of my best half experiences!

    The worst part was having to start all over again. It's hard! Except we don't really start all over again -- because I can remember the first time I ran a whole mile. I couldn't believe I'd done it! So while it feels like starting over again, there's still some muscle memory in there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point, Judy. I think my muscles are slowly remembering what I want them to do. ;)

      Delete
  10. "Humble pies a pastry that's never tasty" -Les Parrot

    My hardest part is building up that endurance again. You know you could run it before so it's getting that mind set that it's okay to build up to it again.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Being injured taught me to listen to my body. I may be overly cautious now and not chasing any PRs, but at least I am injury free which allows me to keep on running.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's taught me to be a lot more in tune with my body too.

      Delete
  12. I too am in the same comparison trap of comparing my runs now to those a year ago. It is tough I hope you and I can both realize how blessed we are to just be running again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right back atcha girl! Hope your road back goes smoothly...and happily!

      Delete
  13. It really is hard to avoid the comparison trap. We always want to do better, which can be a good goal but we need to be realistic and build back up. I hope your come back happens soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Realism is so important. Slowly I've found a more realistic approach to my current ability. Great comment, Coco!

      Delete
  14. This is such an honest, heart-felt post. Comparison really is something that's best to avoid, but it can be hard not to. I used to compare myself to other runners constantly and it always made me feel worse about myself, and jealous toward them-- definitely not healthy. I think in your case, comparing only to your recent past is good- like the progress you make on a daily and weekly basis. It took me years to finally be able to stop comparing myself to other people and to my "PR" self (and I talk about this extensively in my book.) Anyway, I have added you to my blog feed, so I look forward to hearing more from you.

    ReplyDelete