In January, I stumbled across the finish line of the Houston half marathon exhausted, disappointed, and completely burned out on running. After I caught my breath and realized I wasn’t going to puke on the volunteers, my first thought was “now I never have to train for anything again!”
It’s been over 2 months since the race ended, and although I’ve run a little, I’m not ready to train again. Taking a break like this was scary for me — I’ve been training pretty much non-stop for some type of race for almost 9 years — but it’s been eye-opening too.
First, let me share all the things that did NOT happen when I took a break.
I did not immediately gain 30 pounds.
I don’t actually weigh myself, but my clothes fit the same as they did before I took a break. I wish I could tell you that I don’t care whether or not I gain weight, but I was happy with my body pre-hiatus, and not in the mood to buy an entirely new wardrobe.
I did not immediately become 400% slower.
I have run a little bit the past few weeks, between 10 and 20 miles per week, and my easy run pace is the same as always. If I get bitten by the racing bug again, I’m confident my top-end speed will come back.
My friends and family did not suddenly start thinking less of me.
Literally no one cares that I’m not running much anymore. If anything, my kids are excited that I’m not out running when they wake up on Saturday mornings. I’d worried about losing contact with my running friends, but we still talk about running and races and taking breaks.
My hamstring did not hurt.
I’ve been dealing with some chronic high hamstring/adductor pain since 2015. Oh sure, I claimed it was better, and it felt like it was, but I didn’t realize that I was still experiencing chronic, low-grade, nagging pain until I cut back my running and it went away completely. It always hurt when I ran, but it also bothered me when I was driving and when I sat a certain way. Now that it’s gone, on the days I do run, it really becomes noticeable and annoying.
I did not start to miss running.
I don’t miss serious training or racing at all. I suspect that I will someday, but right now when my alarm goes off at 4:15 and the sun is not due to rise for another 3 hours, the last thing I want to do is strap on a headlamp and go shuffle around the neighborhood. The only time I feel a twinge of missing it is when I scroll through Instagram and see all the post-PR selfies. I miss that feeling of accomplishment, but I know I can replicate that feeling in other ways.
Okay, so what *has* happened? A few things…
As you probably suspected, even though running and I are on a break, I haven’t been sitting on the couch eating bon-bons all winter. I joined Camp Gladiator, which is an outdoor group boot camp that meets in parks and other public places all over town. I have no problems getting up to work out if I know people are waiting on me and I won’t be running alone in the dark! Camp Gladiator has helped me with strength training and agility, two things I neglected totally last year when I was training for so many races. I also bought a 10-pack to Cycle Bar, an indoor cycle studio, so I can keep up my cardiovascular fitness.
And finally, I got a full-time job teaching kindergarten! I was hoping to go back to work full-time next school year, but an amazing opportunity came my way and I couldn’t pass it up. This is my first time working full-time since I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, and trying to adapt has been a strain on my whole family, but we’re figuring it out. Teaching kindergarten all day is exhausting, and I’m quickly learning that I’m pretty useless after school. So I really can’t imagine training for anything right now, both because of time constraints and sheer exhaustion.
My long-term plan is to not put any races on the calendar until 2019, when I will re-evaluate and see if I feel like race training again. But for now, I’m happy to be a runner who is not running.
Have you ever taken a break from running? How did it go?