Running back to back marathon training seasons in fall 2013 and spring 2014 took a toll on me. I don’t regret that it did because both of those races are memories I wouldn’t give up. Since running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in April on a whim, the longest I have run is 6 miles. And most runs I’ve called it a day at 3 or 4.
I’m certain all of that is a good thing. I’ve repaired damage and regained strength in my right IT Band, piriformis, and hips after pushing them a bit too hard. I’ve done a lot of strength training and discovered I like spin classes (even though I hate bikes… who knew). I’ve also lived my life, enjoyed my summer, drank a lot of delicious IPAs, and ate a lot.
Taking off-seasons from running or any kind of intense fitness training is correct (even the professionals do it). It’s healthy.
But that doesn’t change the fact that making a comeback is hard.
Over the past several weeks I have been easing back into regular training – running four days a week, a weekend long run, etc. I have loved running regularly again and having a plan and some races to work towards. What I haven’t loved is how hard running feels… at least compared to how it felt 6 months ago.
6 months ago, I could do this…
Now, it seems like a mid-week three mile run can totally wear me down. My legs feel heavy and my breathing feels less controlled. The whole process of running is not nearly as effortless as it was months ago.
It’s been hard not to be disappointed when I see my paces or when I have to stop and walk mid-run. But I am trying to keep these positive thoughts in the front of my brain:
1. Trust the process. I can’t stay in peak marathon shape all the months of the year for as long as I continue running. If I did that, I wouldn’t be running very long because I would burn out or end up injured. There are cycles to training and therefore there are inevitably going to be points in the cycle where I need to go through the struggle to rebuild fitness.
2. Just because I’m not running my best now, doesn’t mean I will never run my best again. I was hitting PR’s less than six months ago. There’s no reason I can’t get back to that level, and even surpass it.
3. The heat has an added impact on my abilities. As long as temperatures and humidity are high, paces may be slower and running may be more difficult. But that’s normal.
4. The only pressure on me to perform as a runner is the pressure that I put on myself. I’m always going to have goals that I want to achieve in running but, when all is said and done, I am never going to be disappointed with my outcomes in the sport if I can tell myself that I gave it my best effort.
5. Whenever I’m feeling grouchy about my performance, I like to think back to when I first started running and it always makes me feel awesome about how far I’ve come. Am I really that annoyed that I can’t run 10 miles at a under 9 minutes per mile right now? Didn’t running 10 miles, no matter what the pace, used to feel like the unattainable holy grail of distance running to me?
Have you ever struggled to regain fitness after taking some time off? What are the positive thoughts that help you when training isn’t going as planned?