Monthly Archives: May 2015

Taking a Break

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t run for 2 weeks. 11 days to be exact.

There are a lot of potential responses to a break from running. Sometimes I think I’m failing for taking a break, that I must no longer be a runner. Sometimes I get antsy and moody because my normal stress-reliever and energy-outlet has been nullified. Sometimes I worry over the loss of muscle and VO2 Max that I’m sure is happening.

But in my better moments, I sit with the break (and sit during the break) and enjoy it.

You might take a break from running because of an injury. That, in my book, is the worst kind of break. You want to run but you physically can’t. If you can, find another activity – elliptical, stationary bike, swimming – whatever you can do to stay active and pretend you’re close to that bliss we call running. Sometimes, though, you can’t even do that. In that case, take the injury as a sign that you are supposed to take it easy in the working-out sphere of life. Use the time to invest in relationships, read a good book, do a DIY pinterest project, look at pictures of cats on the internet. Okay, maybe not the last, but hey, if it floats your boat…

You might take a break from running because life with all its demands and requirements gets in the way. Maybe you’re a mom and your kids are sick this week and dad is on a business trip. Maybe you’ve got a term paper, 3 tests, and roommate conflict. Maybe you don’t have “much,” but it feels like a lot and is getting you under. It is okay to scale the running back, or even stop completely. Life happens. And running is supposed to enhance life. Don’t let running get in the way of it.

You might take a break from running because you’re on vacation. Now, I’m the last person to advocate a “letting it all go” approach to vacation. You probably shouldn’t eat 3 slices of pie and never move from an armchair during vacation, or any other time, just because you can. However, vacation is supposed to be a respite. It’s a time and place set apart from normal life.

Recently, I went to San Antonio, Texas on vacation with my mother. The river walk downtown is gorgeous, and we saw a ton of runners. Needless to say, I wanted to join them. But you know what I did instead? I walked. With my mom. Enjoying the company, the view, and some tasty fajitas.

IMG_1588
On the river walk in San Antonio (but look at that path – it’s just begging to be run, isn’t it?)

Runners are some of the most driven, disciplined people. But sometimes we can carry that too far. We need to listen to our bodies and our lives, to physical, emotional, and mental constraints. Sometimes, it’s good to push past the whining, “But I don’t wanna run” voice in our heads. Other times, it’s completely normal, healthy, and appropriate to pull up a chair, queue up Netflix, and break out the pint of ice cream.

I like this helpful chart for figuring out if I need a rest day, or a break, no matter what’s on the schedule. http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/time-rest

Plus, a break doesn’t do as much damage as you might feel like it’s doing. Undoubtedly, a break will cause your VO2 max (the measure of the amount of oxygen your body can use) to dip. Many runners worry about any break at all for this reason. However, if you’ve got a decent running base (running for 4-6 months) and you take a 10 day break, there’s only minimal change in VO2 max. If you’ve got less of a running base, you’ll lose fitness a little bit faster. After 14 days, VO2 Max drops by 6%.

What this means is that if you’re taking a break for 2 weeks or less, don’t worry. You’re fine.

And that 6%? It’s not the end of the world. For example, take a 20:00 5K runner. After 2 weeks with a VO2 max depressed by 6%, the same runner now has a time of 21:05. Of course, this minute makes a huge difference. Minutes, even seconds, make a huge difference to a lot of us – ask anyone who just PR-ed. However, as for me (and my never-touched-a-20-minute-5K-running), I’m not going to let that minute ruin my vacation, put more pressure on my busy life, or make my injury worse.

Plus, during rest, your body will build up those muscles. You’re giving it space and time to repair all those micro-tears, and you can come back stronger. Most professional runners take a couple weeks off between training cycles in which they eat, hang out with family and friends, and actually gain a couple pounds. We’re not meant to be training beasts all the time. We can take breaks and not feel guilty for it. We can embrace all of life, running and not running, and be better as a result.

What do you do on your rest days?

  • I like to read a book outside, call my mom, and try out a new recipe to cook.

Do you like taking breaks from running or not?

  • I like it, but I usually still feel a little guilty on the first day. I’m working on that…

 

Advertisements

Just Breathe

Runners run. Surprising, I know. No matter if you’re a run-once-a-week runner or a I-have-a-training-plan-and-I’ll-be-darned-if-I-don’t-stick-to-it runner, you are a runner. Do you love to run? Do you get out and run? Then check, you’re a runner.

Running isn’t just about running anymore though. In this data-centric, health-conscious age, it’s about nutrition and stride and gear too. It’s about the Friday night before the Saturday morning long run. It’s about the strength training you did on Tuesday and how that affects your run on Thursday.

One thing we forget to think about, though, is our breathing. I mean, that’s the easy part, right? We train our legs, our hearts, even our minds. But our lungs?

Turns out oxygen is pretty crucial to the body. Just as if you’re not fueling right, if you’re not breathing well, your run – and you! – are going to be in trouble.

Much like most of life, we cannot run without breathing. And, much like running, getting our breathing in line can help with most of life.

When troubles come your way, take a step back and breathe. It seems simple. It is. But it confirms something profound.

You are alive

And at the end of the day, no matter what that day looked like or what stresses are to come in the future, that is a very good thing.

Tips for improving breathing

  • Breathe.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Put your hands on your sides or your head to expand your ribcage and give your lungs space to contract. (I’m not recommending you run 12 miles this way, but if you’re feeling like you’re sucking air, give your body a chance to get some more). Make sure your posture is good for the same reason.
  • If you find yourself forgetting your breathing, establish a pattern. Two inhales, one long exhale. One to one. One long inhale at a 2-count and one exhale. Time your breath you’re your strides. Experiment with it. Have fun. Find out what your body likes.

And, if all else fails, go get an ice cream cone from Haagen-Dazs on Free Cone Day! Breathing and ice cream. I’m a girl of simple pleasures.

The actual Haagen-Dazs stores have flavors that grocery stores don't. This beauty is midnight cookies and cream - aka, cookies in cream in chocolate ice cream. It's the creation of a genius.
The actual Haagen-Dazs stores have flavors that grocery stores don’t. This beauty is midnight cookies and cream – aka, cookies in cream in chocolate ice cream. It’s the creation of a genius.

Here are some helpful links on breathing and running:

http://www.active.com/running/articles/breathing-tips-for-new-runners

http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/lung-power?page=single

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ministry of Feet

Let’s face it. Runners’ feet are not the most gorgeous thing on the planet. Frankly, they don’t even come close. We’ve got the blisters and the sores, the athlete’s foot and the calluses, the black toenails and the absolutely-gone toenails. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had a toenail on my left pinky toe for about a year. Not to mention the smell. Any sort of stretching that puts my head near my feet is it’s own brand of “fun.”

But these beasties also carry us for miles and miles. They take us each step of the way. They support our weight, and they enable us to have those rare, sweet moments when we feel we can fly.

Sometimes, the source of the greatest darkness is also the source of the greatest light.

 

There is so much to be grateful for, in life and in running. When I went for my run yesterday, I was thankful for:

  • Feet/legs that work
  • A sunny day
  • Running shoes

Running is a low-equipment sport, but the equipment we do use is crucial. Not that basketballs or football helmets aren’t crucial. But a good pair of shoes, some moisture-wicking socks, and a little BodyGlide can make all the difference between a refreshing shower and a wince-worthy one (that lets you know just where you were chaffing during that run).

  • Running clothes

Technically, you can run in anything. Like I said, low-equipment sport. You can run in khakis if you want – more power to you. Me, I usually have some athletic-style shorts on, and then I’ll wear anything from a dry-fit shirt to cotton. Some people swear off cotton, but sometimes it’s easier, especially if my run is mid-day.

Yesterday though, I had some new shorts and a new top. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about running-specific gear that makes me feel like a real runner.  Like when I rip open a gu on a long run and slurp the squishy energy from the packet, I  practically feel myself getting faster. It’s the crazy things we do for love.

It’s not the gear that makes the runner, but the runner that makes the gear, of course, but I still like that feeling.

  • Summer time grilling

There’s nothing like delicious smells wafting from each yard to speed up my pace and get me home for dinner. Between the grilling smells and the birds chirping, the muscle burn and the pound of my heart, running makes you feel alive. More than that, it makes you feel vibrant.

  • Being alive

 

What are you grateful for when you run?