Five things I learned during my month off from ALL exercise

When I found out I was suffering from a stress fracture on the top of my left foot AND something with my ligament in my left ankle, my heart sunk. I was told that I was not permitted to do any weight-bearing exercise, and that left me with riding a bike (in the freezing cold) and sitting in a chair to do strength work.

If you know me, you know I do not like cycling. It has never been my thing. I enjoy spinning, but I don’t go right now because #pandemic. I don’t want to spend the money on a Pelaton as much as I’d love one. And…sitting in a chair to “exercise” would make me cry.

So, I stopped. I did nothing for four weeks. Nothing! No walking, no strength training, no cycling — I did nothing.

And you know what? It was the best decision I could have made. Here’s what I learned during my workout hiatus.

I got back in tune with my body’s natural hunger cues.

This is probably the best mind-shift that happened during my month off. Before taking time off, I was obsessed with all things food: What are the macros? Is this a lean protein? Do I make myself eat if I’m not hungry? Can I have this cookie? Why am I eating so much ice cream? Am I going to gain weight?

What I learned is to STFU and stop asking questions for now. Guess how much weight I gained without exercise? ZERO. Guess how much weight I lost without exercise? ZERO. Everyone is different, so I’m not saying that will be the case for everyone. But I had a real, serious problem with insisting that a piece of cake equaled an extra workout so I could “burn it off.”

I didn’t burn off shit for four weeks. By “shit,” I mean cake, cookies, ice cream, bread, whatever.

Oh, and funny thing — when I began listening to what my body wanted, it stopped wanting meat. I’m officially on #teamveg! Send me your favorite vegetarian recipes, please and thanks.

I stopped so much self comparison.

It’s so, so easy to look at other runners on social media and wonder why they’re so much faster, how they can eat what they eat, why they lost all of their baby weight, etc. Every single person is different, and while we are intelligent enough to know this, most of us haven’t internalized it yet.

During my time off, I did some soul-searching and realized that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing. I don’t have nearly as much time as some others to dedicate to my training and running, and that’s fine! This is a busy season of my life. Sometimes, meal planning and exercise needs to take a backseat for a few days. Heck, it might have to take a backseat for a week or two at some points of the semester!

We need to set and achieve goals for ourselves, not for the ‘ Gram for for others.

I realized that I really do have a true love for running and that everyone needs a little time apart.

I felt sick of running by the time I was diagnosed with a stress fracture. Part of this is because I never took a break after my marathon; I just kept on running. When COVID-19 hit us, I joined the run streak club. Guys — most of us have bodies that aren’t cut out to run every single day. As a n RRCA certified coach, I know this, but this is why coaches need coaches: Run coaches are runners first, and we share the same #canstopwontstop attitude we advice our athletes NOT to have.

Take a freakin’ break if you want! I NEEDED a break after the marathon. Even a two week break would have made a huge difference. Instead, I insisted that I just “keep going” because I’m a “real runner.” I mean…if we want to get picky, elite athletes take breaks. Being a runner has nothing to do with run streaking.

After this time off, though, I am ready to rumble. I have already started working up to the 5K distance, and I hope to run a 5K in the spring or summer.

Strength and cross training matter, and they matter a lot.

Raise your hand if strength and cross training have ever felt personally victimized by you *raises hand*.

It’s SO easy to push strength and cross training to the back burner when you’re a runner. Running is what we love. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather put on a shit ton of gear and run in 20 degrees before I go indoors and sit my ass on a bike. We love running!

However, strength training and cross training can and will make you a better, stronger runner who likely doesn’t suffer from as many injuries. You won’t become immune to injuries, but you have a much better shot at staying injury-free if you strength and cross train.

I am working 2-3 days of strength training into my new regimen. I refuse to neglect it this time around. And guys — it doesn’t have to be a 40-60 minute gig. A little strength training (especially in areas where you KNOW you are prone to injury, like the IT bands for me) can go a long way.

Some of my favorite workouts are FREE and are on the Fitness Blender YouTube channel. They’ve got tons of strength workouts, and a few are as little as 10 minutes long.

Finally, a friendly RRCA certified run coach reminder: Cross training includes exercises like cycling, cross country skiing, ice skating, etc. Yoga and swimming are great exercises, but we do not define those true cross training exercises for runners.

I am more concerned with being a runner for life, not a runner for likes.

I love posting running pics on Instagram. It helps me meet new running friends and hold myself accountable (especially during peak training weeks). It’s easy to get caught up in valuing likes over valuing training and the sport, though. I learned over this time off that I want to run for life, for as long as I can, and that means that have to take breaks from running. I can’t keep running and posting pictures on Instagram because others are doing it and because it comes with a response.

You don’t always have to have the perfect lighting or the perfect photo. Heck, you don’t even have to post every time you go on a run! I realized that I am here because I love running, and if that means I don’t post running pictures constantly because I didn’t run, fine by me.

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