“A warrior doesn’t seek pain, but if it comes, he uses it.” Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior
I am convinced that whether it’s choosing to take time off running, or something really significant like an injury that requires longer time off, having a running break is not time wasted for a runner. After finishing a marathon training cycle in the spring, I was going into summer feeling pretty beat up, both physically and mentally. I had been focused on my last race and given it what I had at the time. I took the recommended seven days off from running immediately after the race, doing some walking and other cross training, but taking it easy (listen to this Tina4Real podcast for more on post-marathon recovery). My first run a week later felt heavy and sore. After a few weeks, I was feeling more normal in some ways, but something was off. I showed up for runs with my run group, but my heart wasn’t totally in it. We were now running during the hot and sticky summer months, which of course
feels requires some time to acclimate. I was doing some weight lifting trying to rebuild much of the muscle I had lost, having done little to no strength training during marathon training (This was a huge mistake on my part: see Kimberly’s post about how strength training helped her reach new levels).
We were coming upon a week long family vacation the first week in July, and I thought perhaps I needed a run vacation as well. I had just listened to the audio version of Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor, and was intrigued with her journey to reframe her negative thoughts. I had come upon another Tina4Real podcast where she recommended taking a week off running 18-20 weeks prior to beginning a new marathon training. My running coach Holly Kane said that taking a week off from the repetitive pounding gives the muscles, ligaments, and tendons time to properly heal, whereas only a day or two does not. It all seemed like the way to go.
Over vacation, I went for it. I did other things for exercise: lifted some weights, biked, walked the beach, kayaked, took a Barre class, did yoga on the beach at sunrise. It was lovely. I read books that strengthened a positive mindset. I took naps. I had already begun to practice meditation more regularly, but really decided to commit to it during this time, and beyond.
I came out of the week physically rejuvenated and feeling more positive about my training. I felt a new gratefulness for my body and its abilities to run and to do other activities that make me stronger. I remembered all the reasons why I started running in the first place. I was delighted when I went out for that first run…it felt harder, for sure. I am sure I lost a small amount of fitness during the time off, but the opportunity I gave myself to take the break allowed me to gain so much more.