Why I Am Running Less – And Okay With It

In my early running days (if I can even say that as a runner of 6 months), I ran with the mindset that more mileage was the most important factor to seeing progress. It was still very much a novelty and its benefits were both numerous and impactful in several areas of my life. 

Running gave my life purpose. This goal to BQ has given my life purpose. – Best Foot Forward Podcast – Episode 3 

After I took up the sport, I instantly felt stronger, more confident, and my progress was constant and apparent. I quickly became content with covering more and more miles, in faster average paces. 

  • February: 7 runs, 5’55/km, 19km
  • March: 10 runs, 5’36/km, 33km
  • April: 17 runs, 4’57/km, 89km
  • May: 20 runs, 4’38/km, 133km
  • June: 25 runs, 4’28/km, 200km
  • July (on pace): 23 runs, 4’23/km, 183km

It is clear, I am on pace to record fewer clicks than in June. Considering the rise of my workload (achieved both through the  volume and quality of my running), it would be easy for me to feel disappointed with my lower numbers in July. 

When I observe my results, I notice that most of my runs are around 4’44/km in July, with the speed and interval runs bringing the average down to what it is in total. 

Part of my preparation for BQ has been in recovering my body. I am learning the true meaning of rest days and why runners do recovery runs. I am coming to understand what a recovery run is and isn’t. Before, I always wanted to be faster. It seemed like I set a new PR every week for the first 8-10 weeks of my training. It was hard not to – and it was also addicting. I credit the rapid rise of my performance with getting me hooked on running in the first place. 

I didn’t go through it unblemished. I started noticing that I had been overtraining, and developing stinging pains in my hips. I even had to go home from work an hour into my shift one time because of a hard run I did that morning. 

As I observe my training schedule for this week, the low mileage that once would have been totally disregarded and ignored is now a section of the journey that I am embracing. My next true “goal” race, the Ottawa Army Run Half Maration,  is in 9 weeks. It’s a long road to get there. Rest days or ones with lighter workloads are key for maintenance and muscle recovery. 

As I am maturing as a runner, I am reading literature on the subject to improve my ability to prepare for BQ. I have learned that rest days are misunderstood for days spent doing nothing. Doing nothing is never an option. 

I would categorize rest days as maintenance days. This is the time to perform some light cross training or strength exercise to tone and rebuild muscles. It’s a time to do some extra stretching, slam the foam roller, get a massage, sit in a sauna, sand and moisturize your feet, or have a bath with Epsom salts. 

I can’t feel guilty for not running when I fill my day with these activities. 

How Running Has Changed My Life

We all have rough days. Even though some people may not want to admit to it, or show it in public, we all have rough days. 

You know the script all to well: the alarm clock rings in the morning, followed by the slamming of the snooze button a few times, before you sluggishly haul yourself out of bed in the morning. The routine becomes a foggy blur and before you know it, you’ve consumed a sugary bowl of cereal that you can’t even remember tasting, spent too long in the shower, and you’re on your way to work. 

You spend the day at work, dealing with difficult people, or unending stacks of paper, or tasks that seem mundane and repetitive from one day to the next. 

I wish I had discovered how much joy running could bring to my life earlier. 

I went to school to become a teacher, and spent last year teaching at a high school in England. This was my first taste of independence after living at home throughout my two university degrees, and man, it was a big adjustment. 

My typical morning was exactly as described above. Before I knew it, it was 8am and I’d already been at work for an hour, although the school day was just beginning. As the teachers went to the restaurant for their last helping of coffee before lessons began, the kids would pour into the building off the busses. It was the same faces every day – tired, mischievous, anxious, hyperactive. 

I knew from the first few minutes of the day how my day would end up. Some kid spitting at me. Another kid won’t stop talking in class. A fight breaks out in the hallway. An unreasonably angry parent leaves a nasty voicemail. All part of the job, I supposed. 

There were some good days but there were plenty of difficult days. When the kids went home, I’d still be in the building until 6pm every day, marking books, providing feedback the kids didn’t care about, planning lessons that I felt I could do better if I had the mental clarity to plan them properly. 

I’d go home exhausted from the day, throw some chicken nuggets in the oven, and veg out in front of my Xbox until I passed out. Then drag myself up to bed, get a few hours of restless sleep filled with dreams about misbehaving British kids, get up again and do it all over the next day. The usual outlets for my stress were no longer available. My friends and family were 5 hours behind me on the other side of the world, and I felt like I had no free time to do things I enjoyed. 

This routine consumed me for the better part of 10 months. I sunk into the darkest part of my physical and mental health simultaneously. 

I was existing without a purpose. My life had no structure. My health was in decline. 

I wish I had discovered running and what it could do for me sooner. 

Now that I’m home again, my life is significantly easier. Yes, my job is more enjoyable and it no longer follows me home from work. Yes, my family and friends are readily available to me. But the single biggest difference in my wellbeing has been running.  

The day I decided to start running changed my life. I know it’s been said before by many people and it seems cliché, but it’s the truth: running changed my life.

The first thing that running did for me is it gave me confidence. From my first run to my second, I was able to notice the difference in how I felt. I was able to achieve a goal, and then another goal, and another. The same run became easier, faster than before. I felt like I was improving myself. I was getting stronger physically and mentally. 

The second thing running did for me is it provided much needed structure and discipline into my life. Its value became so paramount to my day that I now schedule my day around my training – not my work, as I once did. 

While my work schedule may vary from day to day, running has taught me to control what I can control. So if I work 10-7, for example, I know I will be up at 6am to get my workout in and get energized for the day. 

The third thing running has done for me is introduced me to a community of supportive and inspiring human beings that I had no idea existed. Through the Nike+ Run Club app and Instagram communities, I may physically run alone, but I am joined by runners around the world to share in celebrating each other’s successes and picking each other up after tough runs. 

This is the first of what I hope will be many blog posts on Best Foot Forward. I am so happy you decided to join me here, and excited to meet more runners to see what we can achieve!