I am a running coach and today I went on my first run with intention since mid May. Intention meaning I knew exactly what trail I was going to go to, I knew the miles I was going to run and most importantly I knew I was going to do a workout. Wait, since I am a coach, shouldn’t I be doing workouts all the time? How can I expect my athletes to do assigned workouts if I am not going to practice what I preach? Well, the short answer is, I was listening to my body and regaining my love of running again. This is something I will always stand behind, for myself and for my athletes.
The long answer is…
In May, I Did Not Finish (DNF) at a race that I was very capable of running if I had been healthy. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was anything but. My ferritin was extremely low and even though I wasn’t anemic, since I am a female athlete performing at altitude, it was giving me all the symptoms of anemia. Dizziness, shortness of breath, heavy legs, heavy breathing and the worst of it, extreme exhaustion. Essentially I was running on less oxygen in an environment with already thin air. Cool cool cool cool. I’m actually pretty good at listening to my body, once I know that something is wrong, but this was such a blow to my mentality. I felt like I was an extremely in shape person whose body was behaving like someone who had been sitting on the couch for a year straight. It was not a linear progression into health again either, as it rarely ever is. Once I pinpointed the problem and was taking the necessary steps, I was hoping that I would bounce back really quickly. I would have days that I would feel super strong again and I would convince myself that it was over; things could just go back to the way they were. Then the very next day I would crash. My energy would be so low that I could barely get out of bed in the morning. Very quickly this turned into all of my motivation being zapped from me. I felt zero joy going out for a run because it took so much of my energy and I was moving slower than I wanted to be. I was fighting a part of my ego that I didn’t even realize I had and I was struggling to find the line between what was mental and what was physical. I continued to have many epiphany moments where I would say to myself,“this is it, the iron is finally working its way into my system and now it’s only up from here on out!” HAR HAR HAR. Seriously, delusion is strong when you really just want to be back to your old self again.
Then, it finally did start clicking and I did start feeling progressively better. There was something still kind of missing though, my mojo. It felt like a bit of a chore to get outside and frequently I would find myself turning my run into a hike. Then I went on a trip to Utah for my birthday in July to visit my incredibly supportive and badass friends. We conquered all new mountains to me and I ran distances that I didn’t think I would be able to do just yet…and I was enjoying myself! I was worried that I would still come back and feel blah and that it was the excitement of being somewhere new, but it seriously rejuvenated my spirit and love for running again. I found myself excited to get outside and climb mountains…and just in time for the alpine season, my favorite. The alpine season always gets my heart soaring (and my heart rate). It’s hard to describe what makes it feel so electric for me but every year I fall in love with all the trails and mountains up high and the more I run on them, the stronger I feel. Suffice it to say, I was going to let myself enjoy it while it lasted and not worry about trying to hit certain miles or workouts or speeds. It was just what I needed.
For the past few weeks, I have been feeling pretty incredible. When I woke up today and I felt excited to go out and do a speed workout, I knew for sure that I did exactly what I needed to. I took the “break’ that I needed. Too often athletes, especially runners, get hyper focused and don’t give themselves the breaks they need. A break can look different for everyone. For some people it means completely stopping and doing something else for awhile. For others it can mean just backing off mileage. For me, it meant just going out and doing what felt good and being ok with sometimes that thing not being running.
If you are going through a period of time that this needs to happen for you or it currently is happening and you are fighting it, just give in. It’s ok to not be your idea of 100% crushing it, all the time. Give yourself the break that you need and what you love will always reveal itself to you again in its time.