Category Archives: Balance

When It’s Better Not to Run

No, this is not a post about not running while injured, when it’s dark out, when it’s hailing, when you’re burnt out, right after a big race, or when your running shoes resemble flip flops.

Those are all reasons not to run, but this post is about when it’s better not run when you just as easily could run.

I will be the first person to admit that I can over-exercise. I’ve gotten much better about it, and I’ve learned that a rest day can be a bff, but generally speaking I would say that I could loosen the reigns on how strict I am about fitness. I am not in any way saying this to show off or boast about how much I exercise—because frankly, I’m coming to a point where it’s a quality about myself that I’m growing to be less proud of. Which is so contradictory to what Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook/blah blah blah always preaches about “getting it done” and “sweat once a day.”

In a nutshell, after years of constantly feeling the “need” to exercise and beating myself up over any rest I took, I’m beginning to seriously re-evaluate my priorities—and in that process, my death grip on my exercise security-blanket has really started to loosen. And you know what? It feels great.

And yes, I’ve written about this before and I’m sure to write about it again—but hey, I’m a work in progress.

I’m really back and forth sometimes between maintaining my title as a “runner” and just being “normal.” Because let’s be honest…runners are not normal. Admittedly, it baffles me that people who I love and respect are equally as happy and upbeat about their day-to-day lives without running at all. Furthermore, I’ve realized that over time I had become so dependent on running that I’d lost touch with all the other aspects of life that can be just as rewarding.

And I really don’t think I’m alone.

There is a sizable demographic, particularly within the running blog world, that is quite the opposite of lazy. We plan out workouts a week ahead of time, we track our progress, speed, and miles, and we live for the content feeling every day that we’ve logged a good workout. And rightfully so, because there are few better feelings than knowing you’ve poured sweat hours before most people are even at work.

And all of these things are okay…because of course, exercise is so powerfully good for you.

But the fact of the matter is that there can always be too much of a good thing, and exercise is no exception. It’s really hard to see this—because  a) we’re in a country with an obesity epidemic and b) endorphins feel so damn good. But when exercise-induced highs start to take away from other parts of our lives, a red flag goes up.

My red flag went up a long time ago. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally begun to admit to it, internalize it, and slowly but surely—hold up my white surrender flag.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post—when it’s better not to exercise.

I had the perfect opportunity to practice this kind of decision this weekend. And I use the word practice because it is something that is still very difficult to do.

I spent Friday through Sunday morning in Colorado for a Film Festival that my mom is the Executive Director of. Yes, she’s super badass.

Mommy on stage.

In normal RB protocol, I would have planned out ahead of time exactly which hours I would have available to run. And truthfully, I did pack all my running gear with the intention of keeping on track. But when the hour presented itself to knock out some miles, I simply chose not to. And you know what? It was such a good choice.

Part of being at a Film Festival requires you to watch several movies, literally, all day. You wouldn’t think it—but this requires A LOT of energy and caffeine. When I laid in bed Saturday morning (my intended run time) and thought about the day ahead of me and the option for 1.5 hours of more sleep—the decision seemed ridiculous. I came to Colorado to be at my mom’s film festival…why would I want to inevitably sleep through parts of it for the sake of a run?

Films!

I know this sounds silly…because there are so many people who would have understood this kind of prioritization much earlier on. But for me, it’s hard—and it’s taken a while.

There are so many times when I choose running over other activities (namely sleeping) in order to maintain my sanity throughout the day. In many ways, I love this about myself—but I’m finally realizing that over time, the exhaustion and pressure of uber-prioritizing exercise completely negates the  highs we get from it. In other words…it has the opposite effect of exercise.

Here is what I’m finally getting: missing one run does not make one. little. difference in how complete of a person I am. It’s how I choose to react that makes the difference—and in that sense, I’m choosing to stop reacting so much.

Because as much as I adore running, and as huge of a part of me as it may be, it’s not everything. When we spend so much time building our identities as “runners” we lose touch with all the other elements that make us who we are. And when we drift too far away from those things—it becomes harder to regain a sense of self when, all of a sudden, we can’t run.

It’s why when we’re injured, we panic—without running we’re lost. Of course, I am the guiltiest of the guilty in this regard, which is why I’m choosing to practice a different form of discipline. And in that respect…by relaxing our running and by taking on some more rest, our susceptibility to be injured goes down and we’re left with not only healthier bodies, but more well-rounded senses of self.

I’m not currently injured. I have zero desire to become injured. But if and when it does happen again (and I’m going to go with “when” on that one given the nature the beast), I want to be more armed with experience and amo for getting through it. The experience, in this case, being the familiarity with not running sometimes. And the amo being the ability to let other wonderful things build me up while running might be down.

I am a runner, through and through. I would venture to say that there may never be a point where I am not a runner—because that’s quite unimaginable. I love it, and it seems like the more I do it—the more I love it. But one of the biggest parts of being a runner is respecting the fact that it’s a sport that requires a great deal of discipline—and with that discipline comes the need to rest.

Rest has been my most underrated part of my participation in this sport, and I’m finally realizing that I’m honoring my title as a “runner” more so when I accept rest instead of resisting it.

So sometimes, it’s better to not run. Not because of anything particular, but because when we pair running with the other great things in our lives, it makes the sport much more fulfilling and exciting.

champagne and cupcakes post Friday night gala FTW.

When I got home on Sunday, sleepy and happy from my quick CO trip…I couldn’t wait to slip into  my running shoes. And when I took off on a long, leisurely jaunt around West Seattle, my thought wasn’t “Dang I need to make up for the past two days,” it was, “I loved spending every minute I could this weekend with my family.”

So sweaty. Seattle decided to be humid and hot to kick off November. I forgot BodyGlide also. Mistake.

I’m a work in progress—as we all are. Some days are better than others, but overall I would say that I am finally getting the balance thing.

I encourage everyone who takes their exercise really seriously to continue to do so—but not at the cost of losing your health or all the other great things about you.

Sometimes the better decision as a runner is to not run, and you know what? It’s okay. Running will always be there, so don’t stress out if you take a time out every now and then. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Diagnosis and “Getting It”

The best news of all: my ankle is not falling off.

And, according to my X-Rays and my highly optimistic Ortho-doc, I have no signs of stress fracture, and my bone structure is “ideal.” Essentially, this was equivalent to hearing, “Robyn, you have perfect hair, teeth, and generally perfect everything in life.”

Good bones=happy runner.

To bring you up to speed, after many days in a row of running, peak marathon training mileage, and a very unhappy 20-miler-turned-17-miler, my ankle was in a lot of pain for no obvious reason. I was limping, I went to Urgent Care (fail), and I panicked about how I could actually pull off a marathon in a month.

Obviously, I wanted to call in a pro ASAP.

The diagnosis I received at my 9 am appointment yesterday morning went something like this:

“Suck it up. Load up on Aleve. Keep running. You’re a huge wimp and don’t understand that running is painful sometimes. Why are you here?”

Okay, it was *actually* closer to this (although the above is in essence what I heard):

“I think you’ll be fine. Get back out there, keep up the pain killers, heavy on the icing, and tell me if it gets worse.”

If you’re thinking, “Wow Robyn, that’s pretty much what every runner would want to hear in your scenario…so did you jump up and down in excitement and make out with the dude while lacing up your Brooks?”

No kissing or lacing up, but yes—you’re right. This is an ideal diagnosis. Particularly for someone like me, who would be grumpy with even the mention of “toning it down” or “taking it easy.”

However, while I am relieved—I’m also going to be a little more careful than Dr. “All Runners Love Me” told me to be.

You see, the reason I went to the doctor was to determine what this pain is not as opposed to what it is. Hopefully, the diagnosis was right and this isn’t something serious (i.e. stress fracture, etc.) BUT, that doesn’t mean that it’s not something to take care of.

With every little ache and pain, we runners spend so much time agonizing over, “What is this?” “When will it go away?” “Can I run through it?” I’m a HUGE culprit of doing this (perhaps THE culprit), no thanks to the magical powers of the interwebs, but here’s the fact of the matter:

If something hurts, you shouldn’t run on it.

I realize my circumstances are a bit different, considering I have 26.2 miles of running to do on October 7, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to try and be bigger than the pain. I’m fortunate enough to have done enough training that waiting out this issue a little while longer (yes, longer than even the “professional” said to do) won’t do much damage. In fact, continuing to run on my questionable ankle would probably undo the strides I’ve made so far in my training.

So I’m sitting it out for a little while longer. I’m definitely not going to pretend that I’m completely calm and collected about this, or that not running is anything but easy.

I’m back-and-forth between being sensible and being irrational. But, I’ve been here before—and I know that the truest test of an athlete’s will and determination are the times that set them back. So yesterday, when I was at work going back and forth as to what I would do for my workout later on, I stopped myself right in my tracks.

And here’s what I asked myself: Is delaying the healing process, which will ultimately get me to the start line in Chicago, for a random Tuesday sweat session worth it?

Absolutely not.

So, I defied my habitual inclination of working out my stress away, and here I am today—no less in shape, in tact, nor capable of living. I am, however, with a more rested and better-feeling ankle.

{See Mommy, I’m growing up.}

I’m realizing that the way we handle injury corresponds directly to the reasons we run in the first place.

The fact of the matter is this: I don’t run to hide my feelings. I don’t run to justify the things I like to eat. I don’t run to prove anything to anyone.

I run because it’s what I love to do more than anything else, and sometimes that love needs to be shown in the bad times and not just the good.

Run love is not just about logging miles, clocking lower times, and registering for races. Run love is also about give and take. We take a lot from this sport—the endorphins, the pride, the toned legs, and the runner’s highs. But how much do we give to it? We give our early mornings and cash in shoe replacment…but I’m realizing that giving back to this sport should be about respecting it—and our bodies—more than anything else.

Running is tough, running is hard, and running wears us down. In order to give to running as much as we get from it—sometimes we need to back off. We don’t prove anything by running through pain or by exercising when we know we should be resting. All those things do is show that we’d rather let this sport abuse us rather than build us up.

If you hadn’t guessed, the “we” pronoun I’ve been using is a lot of me talking to myself. You, dear reader, just got to come along for the ride.

So what is this very long-winded explanation of my injury trying to say? Well, I think for the first time—I’m getting it. I’m getting the give-and-take of running, I’m getting the “rest” thing, and I’m getting that the truest test of myself as a runner comes from how I handle the lower points.

So I’m taking it easy, I’m hoping for the best, and I’m thankful that I’ve *mostly* been able to learn something from my former habits that resulted in mistakes.

Embracing the Lazy

G’Day ya’ll.

Wow, two lingos I never use all in one greeting.

Call it an off day, I don’t know. Except it’s not an off day—today’s very on! Complete with a 10 mile (!!!) run, oatmeal, and too much coffee. It doesn’t take much to make this bird a happy camper.

I’d like to talk today about being lazy. Interesting, I know, with this being a running blog and all…but stick with me. You see, I am someone who really has a hard time being lazy. I don’t like rest days, I like bulking my schedule up with things to do, and I generally get hard on myself when I’m somewhat less than productive.

Call it Type A, call it crazy, whatever—I actually think many runners are the same way.

However, I’m starting to realize that there is a big difference between the runner definition of laziness and actual laziness. You see, as runners—we tend to get down on ourselves for every day off and every workout that feels lackluster. It’s in our nature, because for better or for worse, we expect ourselves to perform with a certain caliber. This is part of the reason runners end up burned out and injured (yours truly included).  And all for the sake of not feeling lazy or less-than-perfect or whatever other super logical reason we come up with to feel at the top of our game.

Recently, I’ve been learning to embrace my off days—and in fact, I’ve been looking forward to them. I know to some of you, this might sound really ridiculous, because duh—who doesn’t like a day off from exercise? But honestly, it took me a while to get to this point…but slowly but surely, I’m accepting that rest is equally as important in a training regimen as the actual training itself.

So, as someone who’s just now getting used to the off days and the designated rest—how do I differentiate between runner laziness and actual laziness? Because despite my preference for hard workouts and miles—goodness knows I can rock the couch and seasons of shows on Netflix like it’s my job. Which can definitely be a good thing, but it can also be just regular ole sloth like behavior.

Take yesterday. I was planning on swimming after the work day—but as the end of the day drew nearer, I was feeling less and less inclined to go. Ordinarily, I would decide that this meant it was time for a rest day (because that’s normally what it means), but I had one last Friday. No, after some scrutiny, I realized that my distaste for going was due more so to my aversion to getting wet and the call of the unopened, neglected jar of PB sitting in my fridge.

The reason I didn’t want to go was just good old fashioned laziness, and I kind of loved it. I liked the feeling of just not wanting to workout, it felt normal, and I thought it was a good indication of my ability to embrace how necessary rest really is for athletes.

That might sound twisted, and it might not completely make sense, but it really made me glad to feel my reigns loosening a bit. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from how strict I’ve been in the past, and events such as the Tacoma Marathon, it’s that taking this whole running thing so seriously is the surest way to take the fun out of it.

I’m realizing that being lazy doesn’t make me, or anyone, less of a runner—and it’s runners who should probably learn to embrace laziness more than anyone else. Sure, you should probably not derail too heavily from your marathon training program during peak weeks, but if you miss a speed workout because you’d rather watch Friends reruns and spoon feed yourself Nutella, then it’s okay.

I know, I know…easier said than done. And I’m still figuring it all out myself, but I think I’m finally coming to a happy place in my approach to running. I’m going to embrace that lazy is acceptable, even encouraged, from time to time—and in that regard, taking running less seriously may just be the best way to get the absolute most out of it.

Can you embrace laziness? Have you had to differentiate between regular laziness and “runner laziness”? Can you watch 5 episodes of Gossip Girl in a row as joyfully as I can? I’ll answer that last one—no one can.

Getting Uncomfortable

TGIF

I really feel like I’m saying that a lot more frequently than normal. Again with time dwindling away…

Where does it go?!

Actually, I think I only feel like this because I always posts on Fridays, therefore my forced Friday acknowledgment makes the time seem to go quicker.

That’s my justification.

Hello! Welcome to the end of the week, and another round of “I have too many other things to say there I’m not doing Friday Favorites, AGAIN.”

Sure, I could save up all of my running-related thoughts for posts in the future, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily like to wait on the things that are currently going on in my brain. Also, I never “draft” posts—that would be way too productive. I’m sure you thought I spend days ahead of time writing my posts, given their not-at-all rambling and stream of consciousness nature.

Sorry to let you down. I fly by the seat of my pants and often have typos.

So, despite my lack of dedication to Friday Favorites and my fear of the speed of time, I am generally feeling rather cheery today. Superb workout (including RUN!) and my beautiful, tall, law school attending bestie Anna is coming to visit for the weekend.

Friendship! This is actually one of the few “nice” pictures we’ve taken.

Anna and I get along for a number of reasons, but mainly because our friendship takes little effort; it’s easy, it’s fun, and it has no filters. We also enjoy many of the same things, namely being active and food—sometimes in that order, sometimes not. With that said, our weekend will consist of some hiking, some Ikea browsing (also known as people watching, impulse buying, and getting lost), and food consumption.

There, that’s more accurate.

Additionally, I have some pretty exciting endeavors/news in the works. Exciting is relative, meaning it might only be exciting for me, but I am PUMPED for some things going on in the near future. More on that on Monday! Let’s just say I spent the better part (aka: all of) yesterday morning plotting/emailing/texting/Tweeting with Nicole about some pretty sweet and sweaty plans. I love having people that can share in my athletic delusions ambitions.

Oh, you want a hint? Here.

I’m in this weird balancing act right now of settling into a routine of not running as much, trying new things, and wanting really bad to run again. The thing is, though, it’s becoming just that: a routine. And truthfully? I don’t hate it.

Yes, I love running all the time. Particularly long, salty-sweat face runs that leave me in a heap of endorphin-filled giddiness on the couch, whilst stuffing oatmeal in my face and planning my dessert for the day.

Running is the best. DUH.

But, I have to say I am really digging discovering all of my body’s short-comings and working on them.

Do I have calves that don’t fit into most boots? Yes. Do I have quads that could likely strangle someone? Yes, not a pleasant thought there. But other than that…I’m realizing that I have a lot of room for improvement in terms of my strength, and it’s both humbling and exciting to figure that out.

Case in point: the current state of my rear. It’s sore. It’s been sore since Wednesday. I definitely have not been massaging it in public.

With the exception of some occasional leg lifts, I rarely did any kind of glute work when I was logging heavy miles. This isn’t awesome…considering the strength of your rear muscles and the propensity of getting injured are directly related, but the truth is I never had any interest. I might love a long, exhausting run or a sweat-covered spin bike, but honestly…I actually shy away from things that I know will be hard. Once I am confident in doing something (such as the aforementioned cardio activities) I have no problem hopping right into them…but give me something I’ve never done before and I curl into a ball of stubborn reluctance.

And thanks to my new-found need and interest in testing out my weak points, I’m realizing that being a good athlete isn’t actually about focusing all our energy and attention into the things we’re good at. Sure, if we’re good at something—we want to capitalize on it, but being a good athlete is actually more about finding the areas we need to improve on more than the things we already excel in.

I am so guilty of getting into a place of routine with my workouts. I know they will be fulfilling enough to tide me over, I know that I will get through them no problem, so I’m content with never changing them. Sure, a 10-mile run every Tuesday is a great workout, and it kept me in great running shape, but hand me a pair of hand weights and make me do single-leg lunges? I turn into a crying toddler.

Do you see the imbalance? I think a lot of us do this…and although it’s great that we can excel and be great at certain things, that does not excuse us from making our bodies work hard in other capacities.

Which is a very wordy, roundabout way of bringing back to where I am now. I don’t think at least one of my muscle groups hasn’t been sore in the past two weeks. I’m doing exercises that I have long proclaimed to loathe, simply because they are hard. I’m accepting that not being the best in a class is okay, and I’m letting instructors give me advice.

And I’m loving it. I love being sore, even though it necessitates doing things that are uncomfortable or even painful. I love feeling that there’s a lot of room for improvement, and I love my new mentality of “all-around” fitness as opposed to the one-dimensional cardio focus that I tend to hide in.

This whole way of approaching my physical health hit me right between the eyes this morning when I thought about trying to run. And while I bellyache about not running, and all I seem to think and talk about is when I can run again…I somehow felt reluctant when it was go time. Was it because the walk/run is annoying? No, I’m getting to be okay with it. Was it because the weather was bad? No, no rain.

It’s because I knew it would be hard. Hard, sure, because of my persnickety IT band, but mainly just hard, physically. Even in marathon shape, you can’t go a month with minimal running and expect to just jump back into it effortlessly.

A part of my brain, the newly-developing humbled part, knew this as I went back and forth with the running decision. All of a sudden, my go-to, default mode of exercise has become a little more difficult to force out…and it scared me. It scared me the same way squats and lunges always scare me. It scared me the same way biking scares me, and lifting heavier weights, and trying a new yoga pose scares me.

(Side note: Running is hard no matter what. I am simply speaking as someone who is normally in running shape and is currently out of running.)

Running has become a little more ambiguous than I’m normally used to. That bothers me a little, but I’m happy that running can slowly become a part of the mix of things that I’m working on getting better at. I am fairly confident that once my injury whittles away, my running is going to come back no problem—but for now it’s something I need to challenge myself with. And that’s okay.

What’s my point? I don’t really know…there’s a lot of rambling going on in there.

Ultimately, I think I’m realizing the importance of leaving our comfort zones. You might be able to bust out miles week after week, but are you actually challenging yourself to be better?

I encourage you to look at the fitness safe zones you stick to—and maybe try and step out of them a bit. Improving upon your weak spots isn’t going to take anything away from the things you’re already exceptional at, and in fact—it will probably make you better in them. Whether it’s adding speed work to your training routine (I’m speaking to myself when I say this one) or going to a weight lifting class for the first time—try getting a little uncomfortable.

You’ll be sore, you probably won’t be the best in the class, and you will probably utter many swear words during the process. But you will positively leave in a better space than you started off in. We cannot get better by sticking to the same routines—we plateau, we get bored, and eventually our fitness can actually decline. We get better by pushing our own limits, doing things that are hard, and regularly questioning how we can improve.

What kinds of things do you want to incorporate in your fitness routine? What do you actively avoid, for fear of failure or it being “too hard”? 

Run Love

So I’m not going to lie. Waking up to a Twitter and Google Reader full of “National Run Day!” hoopla stung a bit.

Okay, it stung a lot.

Did you know it was National Run Day? It is. Happy holidays!

As someone who is a lover of every last holiday, including the random, probably-made-up days our country tends to promote, National Run Day is obviously right up my ally. Normally, I would celebrate with a double-digit morning run, in my favorite running outfit, and probably blog all about being in love with running after visiting the local running store to geek-out over miles and gels.

I take my holidays seriously people. And when you give me an “official” day to celebrate running, I will enthusiastically twirl a baton and wave at spectators at the running parade.

However, this year…my celebration plans aren’t exactly going to pan out as I would like.

Honestly, I could run today. My leg is definitely feeling better every day, and after 68 minutes and 7.5 miles of run/walking on Monday, my hopes are much higher for a quick comeback. I have been spacing out my runs with several days in between since I started back up, allowing any soreness or knee kinks to completely evaporate before trying again.

The thing about an IT band injury is that you’re not necessarily making things worse by running on them. Running doesn’t feel too great, that’s for sure, but it’s still do-able. Running with this injury essentially just elongates the healing process, because it tightens the band, therefore straining the knee, and even more icing and stretching is needed.

So, physically, I could run today. My soreness from Monday is nearly gone, there’s good-ish weather, and of course it’s National Run Day!

The question, then, this morning became…should I?

I absolutely hate the thought of being someone who doesn’t pay tribute to their favorite thing on a “national” day of recognition. As pretentious as it might sound, if there are people out there today logging miles that hardly run otherwise, surely I must be out there as well.

I’m a runner, I should be running today, that’s a given. And I can run! (kind of) So why not?

Essentially, I was thinking that it was a dishonor on my part to not run today. Yea yea yea, I know it’s a fake holiday and running any other day wouldn’t be any less fun or sweaty. But, I was still feeling pulled to run. Just to know I did it. Just to know that I am still a runner who can run whensoever she feels.

But then I got to thinking:

“Okay Robyn, is going out and gimping out a few—potentially painful—miles really going to prove you’re a real runner?”

(I don’t really think in third person, just go with it.)

Part of my brain said yes. It said, “Go on! Prove you’re getting back in the game. Prove that even without running for a month, you still have it in you.”

But prove what to who exactly? To running? Because I’m mad at running? Because I’m afraid of running and feel like I have to redeem myself worthy again?

This is when the other part of my brain started to infiltrate my thoughts. The part that is sensible, rational, and dare I say—smarter. She helped me realize that running for the sake of running today wasn’t going to actually help anything. It wasn’t going to send positive recovery vibes to the universe or “prove” to anyone or anything that I am still a runner.

No, all it could possibly do was set me back.

And all at once, my sense of reason took over, and I realized the truth.

If I love running so much, why would I want to run when I shouldn’t be?

If I want to “prove” my love for running, what I really should be doing is the sensible, careful thing…which would be allowing enough recovery, not pushing my limits, and slowly building back my strength. Running now (when I probably shouldn’t be, for no reason other than pride) would only prolong my ability to run in the future that much further.

And do I want that? No.

The best way for me, then, to celebrate National Run Day—a day where running should be given all the love it deserves—is to sit it out. My biggest downfall as a runner, as demonstrated in the Tacoma Marathon, is that I abuse the privilege of running. I can never get enough of it, and instead of treating running with TLC, I play roulette with it and my body—leading to collapses and injuries.

In that regard, I don’t need to “prove” anything in terms of my ability to get up and run. That’s not the hard part for me. The hard part is understanding that running is not something to be careless about, and in fact it needs the same kind of essentials as the rest of us—including some time to step back, lay out, and sip a summer brew.

(Go with my metaphor on this one.)

My point is that run love is not all about logging miles and miles, day after day. That’s a huge part of it, for sure, but run love also includes the times when we know we ought not to run. I know that if I truly want to prove how much I love to run today, I should let other people pound the pavement while I save my body for the time when it really can run again.

If I wanted to wind up in the same self-destructive mindset that led me to my downfall in the Tacoma Marathon, I would go run today. However, I want to be smarter, and I know that if I really want this sport to be in my life for a long time, I need to learn when to back off and be less selfish. Because running today would be the selfish thing to do, and in honor of my unconditional, pure love for running—in an act of selflessness, I’m going to start releasing the reigns.

 

With all that said, Happy National Run Day! Despite injuries, racing casualties, missing toenails, and an always full laundry hamper—I love this sport so incredibly much. As much as I might have whined in the past month, and as frustrated as I might get about being injured, I still ardently believe that even on the sidelines—nothing can teach us more about ourselves than running. And for that, I am thankful.

Whether you’re running or not today, I hope you show off your run love. Or, if you don’t run, go on and wave at someone who is. I can guarantee they are happy to be doing it…or at least they will be once it’s done 🙂

And mark my words, once fully healed, I will be celebrating my own self-made National Run Day with many happy miles, and anyone who wants to participate is invited.

How are you showing your run love today? How do you show your run love everyday? 

Class People

I am going to be completely honest here and tell you that I really never thought much about exercise classes.

I always considered myself self-sufficient enough to take care of my own fitness, and in a completely judgmental and unfair way, I thought the reverse about people who went to classes. I’m a jerk, I know, and all I can plead is ignorance. I preferred keeping myself disciplined and designing my own workouts as opposed to someone telling me what to do. I figured classes were there for people who didn’t know how to exercise and needed encouragement and motivation from an instructor. Asshole, I know.

Fast forward to March 2011 (Or I guess rewind? Go with it):

Injured Robyn: Completely incapable of running, or even walking for that matter. Also, really effing grumpy.

Universe: “HA! Want to rethink judging those exercise classes, or drown in an out-of-shape pile of couch-sitting and Phish Food pints?”

Now, the Phish Food definitely happened, however at this point I realized that despite my aforementioned preference toward solo-cizing, in order to maintain a level of fitness—I would need to surrender at least some of my gym time to a professional instructor.

(Robyn, stop trying to make “solo-cizing” happen, it’s not going to happen. Thanks, Regina George.)

And you know what? I converted (ish). Spinning is a really darn good workout, and it necessitates a killer instructor who is kind of scary. Yoga is one of my most favorite things now, and not only does it make me stretchy and flexible (good for running), but it calms me down.

fyi: I NEED CALMING A LOT OF THE TIME.

Anyway, I am fairly certain that had I not been literally forced off the running-only wagon, I would never have found these other forms of sweating. Even when I was able to run again, I kept rolling on the cross-training bus, much of which included group-exercise classes.

Where am I going with all this? Well, if you haven’t been listening to my incessant blog rants, tweets, and merciful pleas to the universe(joke-ish), I am currently not able to run. I was robbed of a happy IT band in the Tacoma City Marathon, and since then I have had to be creative.

Luckily, thanks to last year’s injury, I was better prepared for how to keep myself in shape. (Dear world, if I must get hurt, let’s go for the winter months next time, cool?) In essence, I’ve been spinning and swimming like a madwoman. You would think I was preparing for a tri. Wait, am I? But, this time I wanted to actually try and take advantage of this temporary loss of my run love.

I committed to focusing the energy that is normally occupied with race registrations, long runs, and PRs on other aspects of my health—like  getting stronger and more bendy. I knew this would entail doing some of the things I normally avoid—such as venturing outside of the familiar spin room to—gasp!—another class. I have the yoga and spinning thing down…I’m a regular, the instructors know me, I’m comfortable with both. However these are the extent of my class experience.

My lack of attendance in other classes was due primarily to two things: 1) No time with marathon training and (honestly, more so) 2) apprehension. When I work out, I like knowing what I’m getting myself into. I like knowing beforehand that it will be worth my time, as in difficult and a good sweat, and I like knowing that I can get through it no problem. I didn’t really think that other group exercise classes would be beyond my physical condition, however as someone who is used to getting along no problem in a group exercise setting, I don’t like thinking of being the newbie who knows nothing.

Yes, I am psychotically competitive.

HOWEVER, I did vow to try. And try I have!

More specifically, I’ve been going to a “Maximum Sculpt” class at my gym, which was the least frightening choice when reading the online description. I knew the instructor, and the paragraph detailing what it included had enough familiar terms that I was comfortable testing it out.

It seems that I was not alone in preferencing this class—because when I arrived at 5:55 for a 6:00 am class, the entire room was full of everyone with their little stations of a step and weights and omg how much crap do we need??. So, obviously I pretended like I had been before, didn’t ask for help, and found the very last spot in the back of the room—which honestly I was grateful for.

And just like that, I was sweaty, tired, and humbled. Despite having a fairly strict routine myself, switching to something new proved that I have things I can definitely work on. My hammies were screaming after that first class, and lifting my arms to shampoo my hair was equivalent to bench-pressing BF.

Yes, you read that right—I do shower.

In essence, I was out of my comfort zone. And you know what? I’m totally digging it. As a creature of habit in all aspects of my life, I rarely stray from my normal routines—and exercise is perhaps the most perfect example. Because I can(could, sad face) run really long distances and lift weights on a semi-regular basis, I gave myself an out on not really pushing my body otherwise. I was so focused on running, and not having too sore of legs, that I was wary of ever doing anything else. And I didn’t care. I gave myself a get-out-of-jail free card and simply refused to try anything else.

Now, PLEASE remind me that I said this when I can run again, but I am realizing that we aren’t actually reaching our full potential by doing the same things over and over again. I know every exercise know-it-all preaches this, but I never really internalized it until I realized all the things my body couldn’t do. Naively, I figured that because my endurance was tip-top and I could run 26.2 miles, I had everything else in the bag.

Wrong.

Guess what? Running might be fantastic for many things, however just because you can run for three hours does not mean you have the fitness thing completely figured out. In that same breath, I am hoping to use this whole humbling I-actually-have-room-to-improve experience to teach me that while running might be my numero uno, I still need to focus on strengthening myself in other vacinities.

Running actually leaves a lot of our body parts quite weak, as I’m finding, and it’s due to these imbalances that a lot of injuries occur. Pounding out miles doesn’t always mean we’re getting better, and I’m recognizing the fact that the only way for us to get better is to do things that are uncomfortable. 

In this respect, I’ve sort of admitted to myself one of the biggest reasons I haven’t tried on any other exercise caps. It’s because I was/am afraid of it being hard. I know that sounds funny coming from someone who will willingly run 12 miles before the sun is up, however running is something that I know I can do. When I don’t know that I have the ability to excel at something, I get scared that it will be beyond my physical condition. Hence, the underlying reason why I never wanted to try out anything else.

Sure, it’s really easy for me to say these things when I don’t have the availability to run whenever I want, but it’s something I hope that injured and non-injured runners alike can recognize in their own habits. In running, in all physical conditioning, and in life, it’s the hard things, the things that are outside of our comfort zone, that actually make us better. It’s great to get comfortable…to know that we can knock out effortless miles day after day. But, that’s exactly the time that we should be looking at our weaknesses, and figuring how to improve upon those things. Plateauing is really easy when we stick to one repetitive routine, and it can be one of the fastest ways to injury, boredom, and actually losing our strength. I’m realizing now that I was absolutely plateauing when I was running a lot, and had I been a little less obsessive perhaps I would be in a different spot today.

So, I suppose for now—I am a “class person.” I am really, really enjoying getting my butt kicked by workouts, specifically when it’s facilitated by someone else. It’s good to see that despite having a lot of endurance strength, I have a lot of room to improve. Because despite how humbling it might be, it’s really exciting to see that I have a lot more potential—which gives me a lot of hope for my racing future, whensoever that may be.

I know I will always prefer to workout alone, but a little socialization never hurt anyone—and for someone desperate for another best friend while running takes a time out, a group setting could be just the ticket.

Now, talk to me: Are you a class person? Do you try to shake up your routine? Have you ever hit a running plateau?

Doing Things I Don’t Normally Do

I’m not going to jump to conclusions, and I’m certainly not one to live life in a “worst-case-scenario” kind of mind set. However, I am starting to internalize the fact that there will not be any running in my immediate future.

I am trying to live this day-by-day, mostly because I get too depressed if I think too far out, but also because I really don’t know how long this IT band issue is going to be, well, an issue. So, without a medically-officiated recovery timeline or any actual doctor advice whatsoever, I am deciding to do two things: take it one day at a time and  find the silver lining.

I will never, ever, be completely comfortable knowing that I’m unable to run. I am a runner, it’s so much a part of who I am, and when I’m unable to partake in my favorite activity, I feel scared and a little lost. I have come back from injuries before, I know I can and will get through them, but there is a stubborn seed planted deeply in my brain that cannot help but long for nothing more than a run. I know I am not alone in this type of thinking, and in fact I think most runners—once the sport gets under their skin—feel exactly the same way. I love running all the time, but nothing makes me really crave a run like being told that I can’t do it. 

So while the yearning and sadness is definitely there, I am finding that instead of drowning in a pit of “I’ll never run again” despair, I’m trying to take this as an opportunity instead of a set back. I think one of the biggest things we feel as injured runners is that all our fitness will evaporate if we take some time off, and we’ll have to start over as slow, wheezing couch potatoes. 

This is not true. Sure, you probably won’t be able to come back to running in marathon shape, maybe not even half-marathon shape, but it is absolutely possible to maintain your fitness and strength when you can’t run. I did not run a single step for three months last year…and four months after I was healed, I was running my first marathon. Please note that three of these months were spent training for the race.

I was certainly intent on keeping up my endurance during my injury period, which made the return to running much quicker, and I think it’s important for runners to remember that while the alternatives may not be as freeing or fun as a long, sweaty run in the sunrise—they will ultimately help you get back in your running shoes. And in fact—they can make your running better.

Which brings me to my current state of affairs. While I’m not sure how long I’m going to be out, and obviously I’m hoping for a short-term recovery as opposed to an extended period of time, I’m deciding to use this time to work on all the things I typically neglect. 

I’ve been finding myself doing things out of my regular routine recently, particularly exercise wise. And by “recently,” I’m being quite literal…as in, the last few days, seeing as I ran a marathon 9 days ago and only felt fully recovered this past weekend. The most effective “lemons into lemonade” mode of operation at this point is to do all the things I normally don’t do/can’t do when I’m logging heavy mileage. 

Although, Paul Rudd does give a viable option as well…

LOL

Anyways, bailing isn’t necessarily an option. I’ve invested too much money on running shoes, gear, and race registrations. Plus, I couldn’t give up even if I wanted to. So instead I’m focusing on these types of things:

-Leg strengthening

I think the last time I did anything close to a lunge was in high school track. Seriously. I never ever do any kind of weights regimen for my legs because I never want them to be sore for my runs. I always figured that I was getting enough leg strengthening through running, so I totally short-changed myself in the weights room department. NOTE TO ROBYN: Running targets certain leg muscles, but ignores others, leaving you SUSCEPTIBLE TO INJURY.

Okay, I did know this…I just figured spinning was making up for my lack of any hip/leg/glutes strengthening. And maybe it was helping, but nothing beats to power of honest-to-goodness lunges, squats, clams, etc. Give ’em to me baby, and please find someone to lift me out of bed when my legs don’t work afterward.

– Biking

I’m going to address this in an upcoming post, but my interest in taking up biking is reaching a peak. I currently have a nice little hybrid cruiser, which is fine for riding to the grocery store or around the neighborhood, but as for real-deal Lance Armstrong riding? No can do. I need to get a real bike if I want to be serious about this, and it’s something I’m committing to doing before summer really starts.

(This is your cue to keep me accountable!)

(I never ride my bike to the grocery store, or around the neighborhood. It sits by the side of my house 24/7. That previous statement was me pretending like my $300 Craigslist purchase was being used.)

– Arm, core, etc. things

I always like feeling strong, and although I definitely do arm and core strengthening work, my routine is somewhat hum-drum, and honestly…it’s probably becoming ineffective. Essentially, every other day I’ll do the same repetitions of the same exercises, with the same weight used, and I am fairly certain my body has become immune to it. I always loved the idea of really pushing my muscles to their potential and maybe achieving a bit more definition, however when all my exercise time is devoted to running—these things fall to the way-side. 

Look out Muscle Beach, I’m coming for you. Well, no, you’re in California, but you get the point.

-Yoga

I love yoga. I haven’t always loved yoga, and there was a period of time when I scoffed at all the asana-namaste-om-om-om-om-warrior 8 loving people out there. But a few good classes and magical instructors later, I was a born-again yogi, and I would really like to devote some energy into developing both the habit of going regularly and my skills on the mat.

Yoga is one of the reasons I think I’ve been somewhat injury-free for the past year, with the exception of these past two or so months (INTERESTING how the three weeks I didn’t go to yoga were directly followed by my knee bursitis). Frankly, yoga is normally done as a supplement to my other forms of exercise, and it’s really unappealing to go to a class after work when I’ve already spent two hours of my morning sweating. 

However, when I’m there, I love it, and not just for the sweet planks and stretching that happens. If you haven’t already taken notice (and if not I’m assuming this is your first time here—so HI!) I am a wee bit intense and competitive. Yoga takes me out of my “Must plan and get excited for everything that will ever happen ever!” brain for an hour and helps me focus on being in one place. I know this is the very basic level of yoga—being in the moment—but for someone like me, it takes a lot of effort and concentration to really get to that kind of present state of mind. When I do, though, I feel more grounded, centered, and calm—all good things.

Upping the yoga. Also, I stick mainly to level one classes…which is honestly due to laziness.  I know I can keep up with a higher level, and THANKS TO NOT RUNNING<—-did you see me say that??? I’m going to try and focus more energy on being hopped up on Zen.

What am I trying to say? Well, truthfully, I’m warning you that many of my upcoming posts are probably going to be complaining about being sore. That was the whole point of this post—warning you about my up-and-coming whine fest. 

…also a wine fest is something I don’t normally do that I think should happen asap.

Okay, that’s not really my point. Ultimately, I’m trying to spin this running-leave-of-absence into a positive. I know I am not always going to see it that way, and I am certain there will be some complaining along the way, but I’m trying. And for now, that’s really the best I can hope for.

On one final note, if there were ever a time to focus on all the other great things to do besides running, I think it’s right now. After catapulting myself into the ground during the Tacoma Marathon, I think this IT band rubbish may be a blessing in disguise. An opportunity to reconnect with the world outside of running, and to reestablish a healthier, less-medical-tent filled relationship with the sport I love so very much.

So running, you can sit on the shelf for now. And although I am going to stare at you longingly and lovingly, I want you to sit back and relax while I make acquaintances with things like heavy weights, side crow, and drenching every spin bike in my gym with glorious sweat. We’ll be back together at some point, and it’s going to be sweeter than ever. 

If you weren’t running (or perhaps you’re not?) what would YOU decide to focus more energy on? Rock-climbing? Zumba? Channel-surfing? Knitting? Having calves that actually fit into boots? Tell me!