Monday, December 30, 2013

What I discovered during my running sabbatical

 December 29 bike trainer workout earned a "10" on the sweaty hair scale.

I have not run one single step since the Turkey Trot on November 28. Not one. My first run back will be January 1 after this self-imposed break of nearly five weeks (pushed back from my original plan of four weeks).

This running hiatus was intended to provide a physical and mental break after a somewhat frustrating season of running through an injury/impairment of unconfirmed origin. The time away has turned out to be an interesting experiment with some surprising results. So what happened during this period?

I didn't miss running. This was unexpected and a bit scary wondering why I didn't miss it. I thought I loved I not? In the past when I've been injured and couldn't run it had been very emotional. I think that knowing this was a finite amount of time with a definite ending point, I didn't waste time missing it.

My mood noticed the reduction in "outside time." While I still got outside on the bike a few times per week, the reduction in nature time was not a good thing for my general mood/well-being. I realize now how important fresh air and outside time is to me (and what a world of good it could probably do for others). One great thing about a training schedule, it kicks my butt out the door!

check my speed? why thank you I WILL!

The small shift in routine freed up my brain and energy for other things. Of course the holidays have meant more family time and activities, but shunting around the running portion of my brain also allowed me to think more about other areas of training. I found myself re-motivated for the gym and ready to get a game plan and go after deficiencies and compensations I've formed over the last few years. (More on that to come.)

With this one change, I was more willing to make other changes. I began swimming with a new coached group twice a week and am really enjoying that! I've also started getting back to better eating habits that have slipped over the last two months of not racing.

Not running did not result in extra time. The training schedule was lighter and more flexible, but life has a way of filling the vacuum of available time. My takeaway from that is we might as well fill our time the way we choose, lest it be filled for us.

Most of my niggles disappeared.  The is-it-trying-to-be-plantar-fasciitis, the sometimes aching hip....they are gone. (The main issue of the left leg has not fully resolved, which at least tells me that running is not the main cuprit and probably not aggravating it. It's way better than last summer so I'll just give it more time to improve on it's own.)

I got a horrible cold. I can't remember the last time I had a serious bad head cold, but it's like the germs saw their chance to MOVE IN. Maybe it's not related to not running...but it's certainly a coincidence.

And in the possible "oversharing" department -  no Runner's Trots. I didn't realize this was such an issue for me until it went away when I stopped running. Not only was this a problem for me on longer runs but sometimes even the day after (the effects of running on the GI tract can last up to two days). No running, no "runner's trots." It's a common problem, and one I avoid on raceday with an Immodium.

I DO feel refreshed and ready. I think finally after four years I got my out-season right. For me, that meant enjoying my favorite bike routes with no expectations, finally doing that 100-mile solo ride, participating in the coached group swim, changing up my gym routine...and letting go of a summer of stressful running. The "right" out-season is highly individual and what was right for me this year may not be next year.

Moving forward

Regardless of whatever performance effects might result - positive or negative - I know this break from running was important. I learned a few things and got some breathing room in my training life.

I'm ready to start back!