As a once-upon-a-time runner, I’ve been reading articles since last year about how bad running is for you, like this and this. In a nutshell, if you run too hard or too much, your longevity is about the same as for a sedentary person. So you would be within your rights to believe that I quit running last September out of fear. But that isn’t the case at all.
I spent the last 3 years working at getting faster in order to compete in local 5k races as an age-group competitor. Keep in mind that these are small local races, not elite level competitions. This was perfect for me as a fairly new runner, who frankly, isn’t that fast. In fact, I was so slow when I started really training for speed, I was able to take a full 5 minutes off my 5k time within 6 months.
Last year, I decided I was going to go for it and work at setting a new PR, which I hadn’t done since the year before. I was healthy and had time to train, doing both running and strength training. So I took the summer off from racing and started increasing my mileage.
I carefully increased my runs over the summer and did more in August than I ever have. I frequently felt tired, but pushed on, determined to improve. With nervous anticipation, I signed up for my first race of the season in September. When the race was done, I had won my age group. But inexplicably, my time was terrible.
I love winning race bling, but running slower than I expected was depressing, especially after all the grinding summer miles. So I took a step back and took a good look at myself and my true interests. Contemplating the race and my goals over a couple of weeks, I slowly came to the realization that I wasn’t enjoying running very much anymore. In fact, I was burned out. I wasn’t getting the recovery I needed between running workouts and strength workouts. And my strength workouts were suffering as well.
So, I chose the thing I love most, which is strength training. I hesitate to call it weight lifting, although some of that is included. But working out in the gym is my first love, not running. I had developed such tunnel vision around running and racing that I totally missed the fact that I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore.
Interestingly, within 2 weeks of not running at all, my leg strength suddenly and dramatically improved on all the exercises I did routinely. My energy level increased, and my mood improved, like a weight had been lifted. I was initially worried about what my running buddies would say, and whether I was disappointing someone, but nobody really cared one way or the other.
I guess the takeaway on running and exercise in general is to find what you love to do and put everything else on the back burner. You only have so much energy, time, and money. Do what makes you happy and forget the rest. That way fitness will never be a chore, and overtraining won’t be a risk. I know if I want it, running will always be there for me. And when the weather turns warmer, a jog might be just what I need to get out of the house for awhile. Until then, I’m relishing my workouts in the gym. And I no longer feel like I’m overtraining for a sport that I like but don’t love.
Yours in good health,
Marlton Personal Trainer
Athletic Fitness Concepts
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