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I cut my long run (20-miler) in half yesterday.
It is the first time I have done something like that on a long run.
The reasons are many: I am starting a new job this week that requires a night away from the kids (scary!). Plus it was Easter. Plus we were at the lake house where the rolling hills are not long run friendly. Plus it was close to 80 degrees and all my water was gone by Mile 8. Plus I was just not feeling it.
Plus I was exhausted, bone-tired, depleted and wiped because my daughter has basically stopped sleeping.
She refuses to go to bed, says she is hungry, thirst, scared, anything to stop us from leaving her. She wakes up to use the potty at least once a night and often comes into our bed as well. Sometimes we are awake enough to take her back, but often I wake up with her foot firmly embedded in my lower back, feeling more depleted than when I went to sleep, with no recollection of her arrival.
The irony, of course, is that last year when I was training, my son was not even one and was up at least once per night. In November, they switched. He became our good sleeper while my daughter—who, up until then had been a bedtime champion—started with the sleep issues.
Somehow, it was easier with an infant. Maybe it is just that I feel like we have not had a good night’s sleep in more than three years. Or, maybe it is that the second marathon is less easy to motive for. Either way, I actually started to wonder around Mile 7 of yesterday’s run, if I might have some kind of chronic fatigue issue because even though I was running well, my instinct was to rest my head on a rock, curl up and take a nap. I was that tired.
And them my hamstring started acting up (thanks hills!) and so I threw in the towel and ran home instead of looping back out. At first I was furious with myself for not finishing what I started, but then I remembered that I had built in a little cushion by not calculating the dates correctly. Next week I am planning to go up to 22 miles, so I could afford a little break.
And so I stopped at Mile 10. Halfway to the finish. It should feel like total defeat. But for some reason, it doesn’t.
Because for the first time in a long, long time I actually listened to my body. I knew I could push myself to the limit, finish the 20-miler and deplete every bit of energy I had, returning to the house sore and exhausted, potentially even injured given my form was off. But I also knew I could cut the run in half, do my longest run next week, taper and be fine. So I chose the latter. And you know what? I am happy.
For years I have pushed and pushed and pushed myself with running (and with everything else). And while that pushing does yield results, sometimes it also leads to injuries, to the sense that I have taken on too much and to burnout. Sometimes it is as important to know when to stop pushing. So, for the first time, I chilled out. I allowed myself a break (knowing I could afford it) and then took it.
It felt good.
Of course I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering if I should go on another 10-miler to make up the distance. But I didn’t. I let myself feel the disappointment while also enjoying the fact that I actually listened to my body.
There is always time to push and I know myself well enough to know I am not going to become a slacker because I cut one run short (I hope!) but I am also learning to hear what my body is saying. I won’t always listen. But at least I am now open to its signals and not always pushing on with no consideration for the toll. I had to lay the smack down on my inner control freak.
And so, I am a slacker, a lay about, a sloth who only ran 10 miles yesterday. I couldn’t be prouder.
Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.