I had a bit of an “a-ha!” moment recently, and while it may seem trivial and a little like, “No shit, Sherlock” to most people…it’s kind of done a 180 on how I approach both my training and my running.
It all started when I first heard my new favorite quote/life mantra:
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
(First heard from this girl, originally coined by this guy.)
Simplistic and to-the-point. But when you think about this idea a little more closely, it starts to highlight some of the things in our lives we’d rather hide away from.
It got me to thinking about the things I always wish would change. Obviously, I eventually landed on one of my favorite parts of life: running.
“What do I wish would change about running?”
Well, a lot. I’m constantly thinking about the things I want out of running. I want to BQ, I want to be faster, I want to stop getting injured, etc. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: What have I changed to make these things happen?
The answer? Not much.
Let’s take the “stop getting injured” thing for instance. The last four injuries I’ve had were all due to overuse. They were injuries caused simply by wear and tear over time, and all of them were—in that regard—completely preventable. So why, then, did I keep getting hurt after my first 4-month of no running due to an overuse injury?
Well, because I was stuck in the habit of working my body too hard.
When I get hurt, I convince myself that I’ve learned my lesson…I’ll never overtrain again, I’ll stop working out so much, and I’ll start taking more rest days.
4 injuries later, and that lesson hadn’t sunk in. And it’s because I, by habit, overtrain. I wasn’t changing any of my habits, so why should my body stop responding in a deconstructive way?
Let’s take a look at my most recent injuries (knee bursitis, IT band syndrome, and ankle tendonitis—yep, all this year). What was similar about all three instances?
1) I was marathon training
2) I was over 50 miles per week
3) I was running 5+ days a week
The body is an incredible thing, and it can teach us a lot. Clearly, my body had been trying to teach me something about how it handles the above factors…and it only took me 3 different overuse injuries to figure it out. It seems so simple, so logical, however for me—and I’m sure for many runners—hindsight is always much more crystal clear than foresight.
Because running is a habit. We develop habits, and we stick to them—because they’re familiar. They’re comforting. Because we know we can do them and they satisfy us.
Running and exercising excessively became habits of mine…and unlike picking split ends or biting nails, the addictive nature of endorphins make these habits a lot harder to let go of. And why let go? These things are good for us, they make us happy. What’s the harm in continuing the habit of excess exercise?
Well, a lot actually. And it’s not just the tangible problems (injuries), either.
Now that I’ve kind of figured myself out, and I’ve recognized that injuries aren’t going to change if I don’t change, I’m realizing all the other problems that resulted from always wanting high mileage and high intensity workouts. Burnout, anxiety, chronically tired, isolated, etc.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
As someone who is constantly striving for the betterment of my own life and the lives of those around me, I’m all about constructive changes.
Constructive changes in the form of listening to my body instead of pushing it, taking rest days at least once a week, and realizing that there’s a lot of goodness out there that doesn’t come in the form of sweating for hours on end.
(And seriously…rest days have become the best days. Ever. How did it take so long?)
It’s a work in progress, and obviously I still and will always love me a good hard workout, but I’m feeling much better than I have in a long time thanks to this recent influx of “moderation.”
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I had two significant PRs recently in conjunction with the extra rest and breathing room I’ve allowed myself. My body seems to be responding appreciatively to the changes I’ve made…and as a result, I’m reaching new levels that I didn’t really think were possible before.
Because I truly believe when you become proactive in making real change happen, the things you always hoped would happen seem to follow closely behind.
I love running so much that I want to do it as much ans as long as possible. I would so much rather choose to not run an extra mile or an extra day for the sake of safety rather than let my body choose for me in the form of a disabling injury.
My body’s been choosing my breaking point for me for too long, and I’m deciding to regain control over the situation.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
And on that note, here is my PSA for the day:
Runners, take rest days. As someone who went weeks, sometimes even a whole month, without resting once, I really do know what I’m talking about here. I get it—you crave a workout, you love your workouts, you don’t feel right without them.
But guess what? You’re a human and an athlete—and your muscles and bones eventually will not tolerate incessant beating. Exercise necessitates rest…and you are undoing all the work you’ve put in by not letting your body recover. No progress can be made with continual wear and tear, so ask yourself why you’re really avoiding rest if your intent is to be fitter and stronger.
I was that type of runner and exerciser for so long, and while I’m still working out all the kinks, I’m recognizing just how much more harm I was doing than good.
Take care of yourselves. Take care of your bodies. I know so many runners in real life and through blogging who are constantly complaining of fatigue and lack of improvement, and I cannot emphasize enough how much rest and letting yourself of the “I must always exercise” hook will better your running and your life.
And to sum up this somewhat nonsensical ramble of a post, here’s another quote to chew on, which does a much better job of getting to the point than I do.
“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”
– Julie Isphording
I would HIGHLY suggest replacing a running day or two with strength training. I think you’ll find that by strengthening your muscles outside of running will help prevent injuries in the long run…I’m no expert but I’ve always operated well on the run 3x a week plus strength train regimen 🙂
I have!! Started doing actual strength classes instead of pretending to know what I was doing on my own 🙂 Good tip.
Your PSA totally resonated with me! Loved this. We always need to remember that for our health, our running, and our sanity, rest days are a must.
I swear I’m going to pin this post up above my desk. I am lucky that I have had few injuries, but I suffer with the same unwillingness to take rest days. You’re right. It’s SO hard to stop doing something that is your passion and that you genuinely love. But, like you said, you can’t get stronger if your muscles can’t repair themselves. Well said Robyn!
Obsessed with this post, OBVIOUSLY. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Repeat repeat repeat.
With all that being said, what’s your plan for change now? I’m thinking of doing the Run Less, Run Faster program when I’m able to train again. The only problem is that the program is based on knowing your own speed, and since I haven’t run in so long, I’m confused about what my targets should be!!!