June 24, 2016

Taking a mental health break from running

At times, running can become a chore.  Sometimes you don't feel like following a plan. Getting up a o' dark hundred is no longer appealing. Has this ever happened to you?  Over the last 8 months, I have run 3 marathons with a 4th to come in less than 4 months.  In other words, I have been "in marathon training" for a long time.  While running is a passion and I love racing and training, the last few months have been a struggle with my mind and body.

Taking a step back, certain things came into focus including long term health and a body that did not feel constantly worn down. Here are some things that I have done to make the month of June a good one in terms of fitness and well being.


1. No coached running for the entire month.  While I do not suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) it was hard to break from my group runs and take my time doing what I wanted when I wanted in terms of running.  Each week I have stayed focused on keeping up running, but just not in the competitive setting that I normally embrace joyfully.  My body and mind needed time off from speed work at the track and Tuesday night practice which could vary from tempo runs to timed sprints.

2. Reevaluate your long term goals  Taking a break has given me a chance to reestablish what I hope to accomplish with running over the next few years.  My goal is to run into my 70's and to be able to do that means staying healthy. and fit for a very long time.  Goals should evolve and while my main focus is the marathon majors, I won't quit running marathons once they are checked off my list.  What works for me may not work for you, but having a short list of goals with some to complete in a month and some in years works best.

3. Choose your races carefully  A few years ago, running one and maybe two races a month was something I enjoyed and looked forward to between training runs.  While this may be optimal for some in terms of their pocketbook and running stamina, it got to be fairly taxing for me.  I prefer to run fewer races with some aggressive time goals versus many races at training pace.  Figure out what works best for you and don't be lured into something because your running pals are involved.

4.  Do a few different activity to test your muscles  This week I tried a deep water aerobics class and while some consider this a senior activity, it can be quite a challenging workout.  Try being in deep water for an hour with no flotation belt.  Classes are another good way to test various muscles groups and summer time is great for swimming and biking.  Since my break, I have really enjoyed being outside including golf, walking the dog, swimming, and biking.  My bike won't break speed records, but if you work up a sweat, even on a beach cruiser, it is getting a job done.

5.  Decide when to get back in the game  While one month may be enough for me, I will probably take a break after my fall marathon (Chicago) to regroup again and make my plans for 2017.  Everyone has outside diversions from their race calendar, so decide what is important and figure out when to get yourself focused on your next big goal.  A special race, a PR goal or something else may give you the push to get back to serious training.

Being enthusiastic going back to a training plan will be key for my success at my fall races.  Hopefully by July 1st, I will be ready for that challenge. My Chicago training plan will be finalized soon and then it will be time to get busy running, cross training and including all those extras such as stretching, rolling and some Yoga.

Have you ever taken a much needed long break from running with a plan?


32 comments:

  1. Sounds like you're approaching it perfectly Pam! Listening to your body and mind is so important!

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    1. It absolutely is and having fun is important too.

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  2. I totally understand your feelings on this. I was running "only" 2 full marathons a year (+a whole bunch of halfs) for a couple of years but I had aggressive time goals and trained that way as well and yes, it definitely took a toll mentally and physically. I love your perspective on this and attention to the bigger picture. You are wise to shift gears.

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    1. Thanks Marcia. It sometimes is hard to change your mindset, but in this case, I definitely feel like it is the right approach.

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  3. It's like you know what's going through my head right now. Nothing on the calendar, terrible foot issues, and lack of motivation are all reality for me right now. Sigh.

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    1. I'm so sorry about your foot issues Wendy. It is hard to be out of sorts and lack of motivation is something we all deal with from time to time.

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  4. Like you, I want to run forever (forever meaning being "able" to run as long as I have a "desire" to run). I still miss running marathons, but I am very happy to be able to run halves and shorter. I consider it a gift!

    I hope your month away from your running group allows you to enjoy running for the sake of running with no strings attached. Heading into your next marathon training cycle refreshed will be really good for you.

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    1. You did your fair share of big marathons Deb, but I can understand missing them occasionally. I know that I will change gears once I complete the marathon majors. But I will want to run Boston at least one more time. :)

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  5. I have definitely been lured into races because of FOMO and others running them. I still run a lot of races (note: there is a difference between "racing" and "running a race"), but I've opted to volunteer more lately and I still get a lot of enjoyment at the event, seeing others be successful and cheering them on, registering them, making sure they have water, medals, shirts, etc. My mind just needed a mental break from running races because even if I go into one as a tempo run, it is still a mental workout as much as it is physical. I know those practices you guys have are pretty hardcore, too, so smart to back off for a little while and give yourself a break between races and marathons.

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    1. Amy you are definitely the exception to running all the races. Because you plan each race carefully, you do not overdo it by racing them all. I think there is also the habit of runners to "run all the races" and they never improve. That would be very discouraging to me.

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  6. We all need breaks from things every now and then, and it sounds like this break was well timed for you. I'm sure you enjoyed the time you didn't spend running to do other things in your life.

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    1. It has been fun running when I want to and at the speed I want to. Of course, as someone competitive, I still have done some good training, but it has been on my own terms which has been very good for my psyche.

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  7. Great post. I think this is an excellent idea, particularly if you will be following a day-to-day plan leading up to Chicago. I really love that you look at things long-term and not just your next PR. When you're still running at 70, you'll be glad you thought about that early on!

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    1. I hope you are correct. I look forward to wearing a number on my front and back at Boston once I am 70. Did you know that anyone over 70 gets a bib with either M-70 (for males) or F-70 (for females) to wear on the back of your shirt? I think that is cool and definitely want to join that group. I even saw runners with M-80 and F-80. It was very impressive.

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  8. Taking a break -- or a few steps back -- can be good for you mentally and physically. It's especially good if it leaves you eager to get back to it when you do.

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  9. Useful post! I get used to trying 3 of steps that you mentioned above. ^^ the result is not bad.

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  10. We are all different, and that's what makes life interesting.

    Darlene loves to race & it makes her happy to race every weekend (sometimes twice in one weekend). It would exhaust me and open me up to injury. She almost never takes a break, and I always take a break after a half -- I'm usually much more happy with running after a little break.

    I, too, hope to keep running the rest of my life. I also suspect as I "run" out of halfs to do in driving distance (soon), I'll be forced to drop from 3 x year to 2 x year, but you never know.

    I hope you come back to running feeling renewed!

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  11. Yes, after very tough, long training cycles I like to have a month or two with no set plan from my coach.

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  12. Breaks are always nice and much needed every once in a while! Enjoy!!

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  13. Breaks are a must when our bodies and minds are needing it! I love the summertime when I am not training for anything and can just run for fun.

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  14. That is a lot of awesoem running! But I am sure it does get very tiresome between all the training an travel. It is good to take a break and recharge! Especially voluntarily, I only get breaks when I am injured...I am re-evaluating right now about what I really want to do :)

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  15. This is so weird, I see that you posted this on Friday but it is just NOW showing up in my Blogger list!
    I can totally relate to how you are feeling. I've pretty much completed all the races I've ever had a desire to run and now my goal is to fit racing into my life instead of re-arranging my life to fit racing! -M

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  16. Yes, while right now I'd love to be in this situation. I have been in it in the past, when I used to travel to run 1-2 marathons a month. You really can hit a burn out factor even if you are loving what your doing. Your approach sounds great, I hope it gives you the mental health break you need right now, so you can feel a bit more refreshed in upcoming months for it!

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  17. I always try to take periodic breaks from training but this summer I'm actually taking a full break from running. It's been refreshing and I'm enjoying other activities. I'll pick it up eventually but it's been nice. You need that mental and physical break sometimes.

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  18. I've been taking a break, but I can't say it was planned or needed. Its just laziness. In your case, though, stepping back sounds like a good thing and you'll come back stronger.

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  19. I took a break after Paris and it took about 2 months to get my mojo back. I didn't want to get up early, I had a small injury, and I was tired. I am now back in full swing for NY training and happy to have found the mojo has come back. I find training in the summer so much easier than in the winter, then again, we don't have humidity here.
    All this said, I completely understand your POV. With 2 marathons this year it is a huge time commitment and life commitment. Hope to see you back in the blogging world soon !

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  20. I have definitely taken full breaks (no running) and mental breaks from training. Sometimes you know you need it and sometimes your body/subconscious tell you. I think marathon training is especially tough - I am about to do my third in 12 months and will be ready to take a breather from that kind of training. You make a great point though about finding out what matters to you and sticking to that no matter the distractions and temptations. Really well put!

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  21. Just what I needed to hear! Taking a break and dialing in the recovery weeks really helps me too!

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  22. Sounds like a good plan. I am thinking of taking a break from the marathon in 2017 and work on other distances/triathlons.

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