I think I’ve mentioned that I’m training for the Tar Heel 10 Miler, which is a week from tomorrow! I ran it in 2015, and that fall I completed my 9th half marathon and finally broke 2 hours. After that, I was pretty burnt out on running and I haven’t done another race since then. Needless to say, this round of training has felt very new and fresh after all that time off from racing. It also has been really FUN.
I have always loved running, but in the past I took it too seriously. I still had fun, but I was more intense about it than I am now. Of course, I have to give up some things when I’m training for a race, like having nice looking feet and sleeping in on Saturday, but there’s no need for it to take over my life and brain space. I wanted to share some thoughts on how training has been different this time around and how I’ve reframed how I view running.
In the past, I would feel disappointed if I didn’t hit a certain pace or mileage goal. When I woke up for a long run, I would feel so nervous and end up with a stomach ache! I was convinced it had something to do with eating dairy before a run, but it was all in my head. I knew deep down that my pace didn’t matter. What was someone going to do, beat me up if I ran slowly? Of course not! A lot of that is my personality- I get really nervous before tests, presentations, and races, too. I still get a little jittery before a long run, but now I just go out and try to have fun. I do the best I can on that day, in that moment, and that’s enough.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still have a structure to my running and certain goals I aim for. On my easy day run, I try not to look at my pace at all. During speedwork once a week, I do aim for certain speeds. It’s fun to push the pace on those days. When I do long runs with Anna and Grace, we know what our usual pace is and would like to be there, but we are also OK if we need to slow down. (Oh yeah, run with people. That makes it way more fun!)
I would be thrilled to beat my time from the 2015 Tar Heel 10 Miler, but I’m also completely happy just to finish if that’s not in the cards on that day. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking “well, I’ve been running two more years since then-I should be faster.” We change all through life and I’m not the exact same runner that I was two years ago! There are so many factors that go into how we feel, especially when we run. It’s fun to chase goals and accomplish them, but there will be off days/races/training cycles. How fast or slow I run doesn’t define me, and focusing too much on my time takes the fun out of it for me.
This was SO hard for me in the past. When I felt an ache or twinge, it was hard for me to skip a run. Part of it was a fear of weight gain, but I also thought I would lose any progress I had made in training. My fear of missing a workout was NOT healthy. That led to a couple of injuries I could have possibly avoided had I taken some rest. Now if I’m achy, I’ll stretch and foam roll and skip a run or two if I need it. Having a healthy body for life is way more important than hitting my mileage goal or even completing a race. Running will always be there for me when I come back if I have to take time off because I’m burnt out or something hurts.
In the past, I felt like I had to do 3 runs, a certain number of strength workouts, and yoga each week. This was an unattainable goal for me and as a result, I set myself up to feel inadequate. I’ve learned that many things in my life are more important than running. Yes, if I want to complete a race without feeling like death I need to carve out some time for training. But some mornings I sleep late and don’t have time for all the miles I planned. Or I’m flat out exhausted after school and skip a run. Sometimes cuddling my dog and drinking coffee wins out over a morning workout. If I do all 3 runs in a week and make it to the gym a couple times, great! If I am super overwhelmed and only do half of that, great!
Let me just say loud and clear- YOU ALWAYS DESERVE TO EAT. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EARN IT. In the past, I tried to control my body using food and exercise, and of course the two were related. It definitely fed into my fear of missing a workout. Before and after a long run or race, I was so excited to eat all the foods that were still somewhat off limits. Nothing’s wrong with what I was eating, but my mindset was. I was eating foods I truly don’t even enjoy, just because I felt like I was “allowed” to. I would drink Gatorade because it was sugary and fun, and I really don’t even like Gatorade.
Whether you are training for a marathon or you’re currently not exercising at all, you deserve to eat. It is a biological need and it is not tied to how much or how little you move your body. Yes, running often makes me hungrier, so at times I need to eat more to support that activity. But now I do not have “good” and “bad” foods, and I listen to my body to tell me how much to eat. And I eat what I want in that moment.
I don’t see anything wrong with having a goal and training for it if you’re in the right headspace and have a healthy relationship with movement. Training for a goal and accomplishing it is awesome and something to celebrate! However, I believe that your running/movement should fit into your life and be a way to relieve stress and have fun. At the end of the day, running is fun and part of my life, but it’s just that-part of my life. There’s a lot more to life and to my value than how fast or far I can run, and I’m happy to just be out there running.