The running break: seeking balance part II


I mentioned yesterday that I am taking some time off from running.


Last Thursday I ran my regular hilly 8-mile route with MFP.  I could barely make it up the first hill.  By the final hill I was taking walking breaks, using excuses like “Charlie needs to eat some grass, so I’ll stop here for a minute with him…”

The truth is,that run scared me a bit.  I felt heavy, tired, winded.

I went about the rest of my day while secretly planning my redeeming treadmill run the next morning.  I thought that if I put my feet up a bit, or went to bed a little earlier, I would be back to my old ways the very next day.

That didn’t happen.

The next morning my run lasted for exactly two miles.  I huffed and puffed my way through 9 minute miles (my pace on a treadmill is usually a comfortable 8 – 7:30ish if I’m working a bit).

I got off of the treadmill, took a shower, and decided that I’d had enough.  I needed a break.

Athletes encounter many challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance during their training season. Trying to juggle a busy work schedule, family life and a heavy training load often results in eating on the run, lack of sleep and inconsistent fueling. But low energy, injuries and fatigue are not just the unavoidable consequences of training…they may be the result of overtraining. (source)

Over the past two weeks we have been adjusting to a new schedule, which is more stressful for me than I realized.

Doing all of the pick-ups, drop-offs, homework helping, dinner-making (the boys do help but here’s a shocker for you – getting them to help is also WORK!)  and quarrel-mediating day-in and day-out for two teenagers and a third-grader left me exhausted each night.  Not to mention that my bedtime moved later.  I now stay up until Oldest has turned the lights off, just because it feels like I should.

I suppose the extra stress threw body and mind for a loop.  (I started having weird thoughts about entrapment and inadequacy—like “I cannot handle this,” or “I am too overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin…”  (These are signs of overtraining and fatigue, so I am not crazy.  Phew.)

This, of course, on top of all of the Christmas shopping, which was pushed to the last minute due to the job loss.

In addition, my strength-training was straining my lower legs muscles and glutes more and more.  Single-leg squats were killing me.

The final straw came when I weighed myself.  I felt like I had gained weight because running seemed so difficult.  It turns out, I had lost a few pounds.

Here are the warning signs that you are overtraining:

·        Decreased energy and impaired recovery

·        Sudden drop in performance

·        Moodiness, irritability, depression, loss of enthusiasm for the sport

·        Chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches

·        Impaired immunity (increased colds, sore throat, respiratory issues, etc.)

·        Decreased appetite, GI disturbances

·        Weight loss, excessive thirst

·        Elevated resting heart rate (greater than five beats per minute over normal)

·        Blood pressure changes

·        Increase in soft tissue injuries, stress fractures, muscle or joint pain

·        Absent or irregular periods (female athletes)


I had all but two of these symptoms.

By Friday evening, my body was thanking me.  Though I still felt mentally overwhelmed with Christmas deadlines looming, my body was already beginning to heal.

I made time to sit and ice in the evening, even if it meant that the dishes sat in the sink and the boys had to come to me for help instead of me walking around like a big box store salesperson asking them if they needed anything.

In short, running lower mileage can wreak havoc on one’s body, if it is being run in concert with heavy strength training and high family stress.

I am not sure which day this week that I will lace up my PureFlows.  Possibly Christmas day.  Possibly next week.

I am eagerly awaiting the return of energy and the fresh legs that should accompany any solid training plan.

Last night I spent some time reading Advanced Marathoning without rolling my eyes or thinking thoughts like, “what NERDS these marathoners are…”

(I think that is a good sign that Boston training is right around the corner.)

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