If you haven’t picked up on it yet from the header, or the title, or the day after day incessant ramblings on the very topic itself, then hear it now: this is most definitely a blog about running, a love of running, and a healthy obsession with anything that will make me a stronger (note, not faster or Olympic contending) runner. Yet while there are days when I reach double digits, weeks when I bang out 30+ miles, and months when all I can remember doing before the hour of 8 am is hitting the paved roads in Central Park, there will always be moments — perhaps even somewhat extended moments — when I will simply don’t run at all.
These breaks are never without reason though, and they are never planned in advance. Rather, I trust my body; I trust my gut. I listen to what I’m feeling and I heed whatever my brain and heart are telling me. If you can master this, then I wholeheartedly believe you’ll be well on your way to abandoning the old woe-is-me-I-didn’t-run-today guilt. (Though still, I’m admittedly not immune to it either.)
I know that as the writer of a rah-rah-running blog, I’m probably supposed to talk about why you should be running, and exercising, and eating healthy like, all the time. In my very unprofessional opinion, however, physical and mental health are also extremely dependent on rest and, more importantly, a firm understanding of your limitations as a — wait for it — human.
As much as we like to think it — as much as I like to think it — we are not superhuman beings, and while there’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection, there’s also nothing wrong with accepting our flaws. I think that’s a strength in itself, but then again, that’s just me.
Here I am on Thursday morning (though you’ll likely be reading this on Friday), sitting in bed in tie dye bootie shorts and a super comfy tank around the time when I’d usually be walking back into my apartment, soaked in sweat, and brimming from ear to ear after my ritual morning run.
And although there aren’t many times in which I can genuinely sit here and tell you that I think it’s a good idea to forgo my morning workout, I certainly believe that there are plenty of deterrents that need to be accounted for when it comes to your overall health and well-being. (Writing all day every day about health and wellness may be one of those reasons why I’m so hyper-conscious of this all the freaking time now.)
Something’s not right? Cut yourself some slack and give yourself a break. Running will always be there, but if you hurt, bend, twist, snap or otherwise overdo it today, you might find yourself sitting on the sidelines tomorrow.
These are the 10 reasons why I might re-consider running; and should you find yourself in a scenario in which you’re questioning the intelligence of a run or any workout, I hope you’ll scan the check list too.
I’m starting with this because it’s one of the two reasons why I’m not running right now. With a bug circulating my office, I naturally began to pick up on the symptoms. As of this second, I don’t have a temperature, but I’ve been battling that borderline fever feeling since yesterday sometime during yoga. I can only assume that a run would exacerbate this sense of fatigue, making it a bad idea to get out there.
While we’re on the topic of it, there are two types of fatigue we need to differentiate between. If you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to get out of bed, or if you’ve just gotten home from the office and you’re in the mood for a date with your couch, then you’re not fatigued. You’re just being lazy. No one likes to get up in the morning or exercise after work. Make a decision, choose one, and suck it up.
Then there’s the type of fatigue where your body feels like a rock from head to toe; your eyes are closing; your fingers are tingling. This type of fatigue hits after a long or hard run or when you’re on the edge of a fever. In this case, your body may truly need rest. Listen to it if it does.
3. Lingering Pain
A morning without sweat used to mean an afternoon and an evening of frustration. And it wasn’t just the “guilt” of not exercising. Science has my back on this one; the ensuing lethargy can for sure be attributed to a lack-o’-endorphins in my system.
I’ve since learned that, sometimes, it’s the day of rest that enables you to run harder, faster and stronger afterward. With piriformis syndrome, I know that pushing my muscles can potentially knock me out for days. Rather than push it, I now choose to accept that I have it, to rest it thoroughly, to stretch, and to make my big return as soon as it doesn’t hurt to sit in a chair for more than 20 minutes at a time. (Editors note: The irony of piriformis syndrome is that it doesn’t hurt when running, but the pain flares up when sitting in one position.)
4. Race Preparation
I really fudged the bucket on this one recently, when I spent all week preparing for the Governors Island 10k, resting fully on Friday, and then ran 10 miles on Saturday, less than 24 hours before the race. I don’t regret it; Saturday’s was an amazing, unforgettable run. I just don’t recommend it. If you’re preparing for a race, you should typically take a day off at some point, if your goal is to run strong during the event.
5. Uncooperative Stomach
There are some serious running rockstars who are undeterred by their GI conditions, and coming from a family ripe with them, I give those like Ali on the Run a tremendous amount of credit. At times, her blog makes me actually well up, knowing just how much physical and emotional pain those types of conditions can cause, and how strong she is for running despite it. Truthfully, if put in similar circumstances, I don’t think I could.
That said, I definitely cannot run when my stomach is uncooperative. I’m scared; I’m a wimp; I’ve had enough Starbucks experiences to know that I’d prefer not to deal with them when possible. Instead, I usually use those mornings as excuses to strength train in front of my TV, in my own apartment. For me, it’s simply not worth the anxiety.
6. Running Slump
I know, I know, I know. The only true way to get out of a running slump is to get out there and show your body how great you feel after working out. Oftentimes, sure, this is the antidote.
Let’s be honest though. When you run, or try to run, nearly every day, most mortals will be bound to reach some point when they need a freaking break! I’m not even sure I could eat candy every day of my life if that’s what it came down to. Most days? Absolutely. But monotony is the beginning of boredom, and boredom is the foundation for a screw-it type of mentality.
I sometimes find, though, that taking that one day off — you know, that one day that won’t kill you — can actually help to rekindle my love for running as little as 24 hours later. It’s like winding up a toy car.
7. Excessive Heat
Throw me outdoors in a blizzard, and I’ll be the first one to run in it. Heat though? Frankly, I just think this is unsafe, even though I know a ton of runners who do it.
Remember, if you are going to run in heat, wear light, breathable, white clothing, and strap on a fuel belt. (I run with a handheld water bottle, pictured right.) Plan your runs around water fountains and shade, and stop if you feel light headed. Summer’s only just getting started.
8. Unknown — Unsafe — Territory
I’ve read a lot of really heartbreaking, frightening and eye-opening tales on fellow runners’ blogs lately about friends going out and being abducted, robbed, or worse. Even in New York City, not to freak anyone out, I’ve heard my share of stories. Bottom line is, know your surroundings. Know your territory. Tell someone where you are going. And for goodness sake, don’t run on shady paths early in the morning or after sundown.
A personal example: Recently, when I was upstate New York fishing, I went on a jog around the lake to check out some trails.
My plan was to run 5 miles around the lake, but when I got about 2 miles in, I realized that I was the only person in sight, and I suddenly got uncomfortable. I immediately texted my brother to let him know where I was, and headed back toward the cabin, finishing off my run near other campers (even if it meant cutting it short slightly).
9. Hail, Lightening and Downpours
I’m the first to say that there is nothing like running in a little light rain, but once we move into the danger zone, I’m also the first to say, get the hell out of there and find some shelter. Lightening? You won’t find me running in that. Hail? I bruise way too easily to subject myself to pellets of ice. Even the rain-only downpour will drive me back inside. Wet socks are a recipe for blisters and disaster, which is only another reason for me to bitch and moan.
10. An Important Event–Soon!
The old, “Will I have time to do my hair?” dilemma is faced presumably by most women and no men at all. And yet I find myself contemplating whether I really have enough time for a run all the time. Usually, it means I just end up going to said event with wet hair or a bun, even if I’d have preferred it to be silky and straight. It’s all about priorities though. If I had a really important event where I was meeting Edward Norton in, like, an hour? Skip it. It’s all about priorities.
- What would be one of the few (or many!) reasons why you wouldn’t run?