It's Not Me - It's You: 5 Tips for Taking a Break From Running

Hello to the HeiferHood! Y'all know I love sharing content with other awesome blogs - and today is no different.  My BFFs over at Hey Little Rebel were kind enough to share my article on taking a break from running.  Here it is below, of you can click the link above.

5 Tips for Taking a Break From Running

 

What if someone, or everyone, is telling you to take a break from one of the most important relationships in your life?

What if that relationship isn’t with your boyfriend or wife or new bestie at work? What if that relationship is the one you have with running?

In every runner’s career, even those of us who embrace plenty of walking and sometimes never get above a slog, someone will tell us, “you need to take a break.”

It might be a doctor. It might be a therapist or a friend. It might even be ourselves. Nearly every runner out there will have to slow it down or stop completely at some point, and for a lot of us, that’s really, really hard.

Running is definitely a relationship. It can be a crazy, drama-filled relationship with all sorts of colorful characters. It can be a sweet romance that is hopeful and new. It can be a friendship of many years, where you take each other ugly parts and all. But for everyone I know, it’s a solid relationship.  Like every relationship I know, it has its ups and downs. There are the good times, when you can’t get enough of each other.  There are the boring moments, when you look elsewhere (cycling, I’m checkin’ you out). There are the tough times when you hurt each other and have to retreat to your corners and lick your wounds (or tape a heel). It’s a fluid relationship that takes work, commitment and sometimes a little time apart.

Whatever the reason for the break (an injury, an extended work trip, illness), there are ways to make the time off better and to come back stronger, healthier and ready for the next stage of the relationship.

So, what do we do when we have to cut off the relationship for a while? What do we do after we’ve said the famous phrase: Um…I need a break?

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Taking a Break From Running:

Realize the Reason

Look, any challenge sucks a little less if you have a clear idea why you’re doing it. It’s the same with taking a break from running. Most times, when we have to take a break, it’s not because we want to; there is a reason outside of ourselves suggesting it, pushing for it, screaming sometimes because we didn’t listen to their early, calm and rational pleas. If we look at the reason for the break, understand the value of it and embrace that it exists, we can bide our time a lot better.

Anger, frustration and irritation are normal feelings when we’re injured or sidelined, but they don’t help us get back in the game any faster. If you’re injured, realize what led to that injury and focus on building new habits to avoid it in the future. If you have life events limiting your schedule and thwarting your running routine, look at those events and understand why they’re important. You might be investing in family time or building a career. Taking a break from running to invest in something equally good isn’t always a bad thing. If you take a sec and dig deep (I know, you can roll your eyes), you can find a lot of motivation in using the time wisely instead of just slogging through.

Get a New Girlfriend

You know when a guy breaks up with you and gets a new girlfriend a week or two later? Yeah, do that. Make her kind of shiny and new.  Seriously, though, when you’re a regular runner and you have to take a break, there is a gap. That gap needs to be filled. We run for all sorts of reasons beyond burning calories and getting our hearts pumping. Running calms some of us down from the chaos of life (have I mentioned I have 4 kids?!). I know people who run to sort through work issues or decompress after a long day. Whatever the reason(s) you run, there will be a gap to fill when you take a break. Think about how you want to fill it because if you don’t fill it, that break will really suck. This might be just the time to try cycling, swimming, walking or weights. If you’re physically able to try something new, do it.

Embrace the Break

There will be the times your doctor says to lay off all physical activity for a while. It sucks. Slathering it in frosting won’t make it any better; you just can’t sugar-coat this one. You have to sit out for six weeks and heal.  You’ve got two choices here: resist or relent. I’m not normally one to relent, but in this case, resisting isn’t going to get me anywhere. If I have to take a full-on exercise break, I try to focus my energy on a new project. This helps keep my mental state in check, because as well all know, running is as much a mental game as it is physical. I focus on my piano or a new book or a project at work. I throw myself into it with some serious gusto, which helps the time pass quicker and lets me forget that I’m benched. And I realize that in embracing this break, I’m letting myself heal properly so I can avoid the same thing in the future.

Factor in Food

Many of us use running as a checks and balance system that goes something like this: I run three miles so I don’t have to eat like a bird when I go out to the Cheesecake Factory. I know I can’t outrun a donut, so I don’t ever think I can ignore diet, even if I’m running. But I do know that running burns several hundred calories. If I ignore that fact while I’m taking a break, the scale will creep back up. This is when we have to adjust our sails (which makes me sound like I’m writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul).

Seriously, though, it’s worth looking at our food intake and finding a few hundred calories to cut for a few weeks. It’s not forever. And it’s not about restriction or punishment. It’s just a tweak or two, and it’s for a specific period of time. Cutting out a snack or eating a smaller portion will limit the snowball effect of overeating and lack of exercise, which is hard to get back on track. Adjusting calories-in can help compensate for a break in exercise or for the fact that we’ll be moving slower and maybe less for a month or two.

Focus on Healing

If I’m sidelined from running because of an injury, I try to focus on healing. My body is telling me something that my doctor is probably also telling me, and if I don’t listen, I’ll be hearing this story again in the near future. The story is simple: heal. Rest. Stretch. Rehab. Focusing on anything else is misusing our energy. Sure, it’s okay to find a new exercise routine or assess snacking, but the overall focus really does need to be on healing. Doing what my doctors and therapists tell me to do is key. I’m no physical therapist or exercise therapist. I’m a mom with four kids and two dogs and a husband, hustling all over Phoenix, trying to survive 120 degree heat. I want to keep myself healthy and fit, which means pushing when I need to push and pulling back when I need to do that. I focus on healing in the moment so I can focus on pushing in the future.

Relationships aren’t always rainbows and sunshine. They all have ups and downs. Our relationship with running is no different. There will be frustrations, plateaus, injuries and splinters from being benched. That’s life. That’s what it means to be in a relationship. But like all relationships, if we can stick out the tough times and embrace the struggle, we come out stronger in the end.

These 5 tips help me remember the reasons I run, the importance of it in my life and the value of making the most of any break I have to take. By embracing the break and understanding the reasons behind it, I can actually use the time to heal my body, explore new projects or exercise and tweak my diet so my injuries or life events don’t spiral into a complete meltdown but might actually lead to something better down the road. Seriously, people, I’m turning that frown upside down!

But... I'm not a "Real" Runner....

Are You a Runner?

I was having dinner with a friend the other night, wolfing down Café Rio taco salad with extra tomatoes while she told me about her existential crisis (her words, not mine). So, here it is:  she writes stories but hasn’t been published yet, so she argues she’s not a writer.

It’s easy for me to see the Swiss-cheese holes in that theory. I asked her, “Do you write?” She said, “Yes, every day.” I said, “Then, you’re a writer.” DUH.

It seemed so simple to me.  But for her, it was a tough sell.  She had a ton of requirements for being a ‘legit’ writer.  She had to be published.  The publication had to be ‘traditional’ instead of self-published.  She needed to get some good reviews, preferably from a famous magazine or newspaper or something.  She might have visions of being interviewed on NPR.

To me, she’s a writer because she writes. Period. Simple. End of story.

But then I started thinking of running and how I felt like a total imposter when I first started running. I had the same bogus beliefs about finish-lines to cross before I could say, in more than a whisper, “I’m a runner.”

In fact, I still sometimes struggle with feeling WORTHY of the royal title of runner.  It’s a title, right? You have to be able to say it with a straight face, with some swagger.  I don’t always feel like I have swagger.  Sometimes I feel like a total fraud.  A swagger-less fraud.

Sometimes (ok all the times), when I’m out for a run, I walk and then run and then walk again. I do this when I run half-marathons and 10ks and when I cruise through my neighborhood. I have closed down races and gotten in so late the cones were picked up and we had to straight-up navigate our way to the finish line.  I limp to finish lines, 34th out of 35, and I’m pretty sure I’ve rolled in dead last.  

I wear the race numbers, cross the finish lines and eat the free bananas, if there are any left, but I still don’t always feel like a runner.  

And you know what? That’s as wrong as my friend who writes every day and doesn’t feel like a writer.  She writes. She reads about writing. She gets better and sometimes sucks and then gets better again. She is a writer because she writes.

And I’m a runner because I run. And so are you. The details, those things I need to say out loud to make it legit, those don’t make me a runner.  What makes me a runner is that I run.  I get out there, before the sun rises, and I run. I go to races, and I run.  

I ran when I was fat, and I run now that I’m fitter.  I run when I’m tired and would rather be sitting with a bag of chip, surfing the web.  

I run when I’m busy and have work to do and could totally justify skipping my run for a day….which we all know so often turns into two days…and three….and then a week.

The fact is, there is no official finish line to becoming a runner.  Some people run a 5k or a 10k or a half-marathon or a full-marathon or an ultra-marathon. Some people run in tights, and some people run in baggy sweats that have seen better days.

Some people wear gear.  Some people go minimalist, forgetting fancy shoes or sweat-wicking performance pants.  Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and just like you,  don’t have to be stick-thin to be a yogi, you don’t have to be in ultra-marathon shape to be a runner.

What we have to do to feel like runners or athletes or writers or musicians or whatever else it is we want to be, is really just a combination of two things.

  1. We have to believe it. 

  2. We have to do it.

In the words of C.S. Lewis:  We are what we believe we are. That’s it.  If it seems simple, it is.

Are you a runner?  Well, do you run?

If you do, the answer is yes.  It’s yes even if you sometimes walk.  It’s yes if you finish last or even if you don’t finish every time. It’s yes no matter your pace, your schedule, your conditioning or your outfit.  If you run, you’re a runner.

Celebrate every run, not just the runs that include monitors, set courses and finish lines. Celebrate getting out there, sticking with it and coming back to running after inevitable breaks.

Being a runner has only one rule, folks: run.  And if you’re out there doing it, you’re killing it.  

So lace up your shoes, put on whatever gear you want, get out there….and run.

 

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"O.P.P." - Other People's "Poop" - How to Deal...

How to Deal with Other People’s Shit

 

Heifers! So, here’s something funny (#notfunny) about weight loss and exercise and getting healthier:  some people will give you serious shit for doing it. Wait, what? 

Yep. You heard me. Some people will be supportive and encouraging and great when you order the chicken salad or skip dressing or sit through a movie without popcorn, soda and candy.

And some people won’t.

I wasn’t really prepared for some of the negativity I faced as I began to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. And even more than that, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that people would just offer their opinions so freely... because when I was fat, people kept quiet about it.  

For the most part, I could order and eat what I wanted when I was heavy and people might think something about my Mountain Dew habit, but they’d never be rude enough to say it out loud.

Then, I began changing my habits, and all of the sudden it seemed perfectly acceptable for people to offer opinions, make comments and even be openly rude to me regarding my fitness, food choices and health in general.

It was crazy.  Sometimes it’s still crazy. I can’t believe some of the things people feel free saying to me as a healthy person, especially because they would never say this stuff to me as a fat person.

Some of my favorite comments include:

"You’re actually going to eat that?" (as if a chicken salad without dressing is a plate full of bugs)

"You can’t take one day off?  It won’t kill you to not run today." (obviously not understanding a training schedule or the power of habits and sticking to a schedule)

"You have to live." (because if it’s not covered in frosting, it’s not living)

"You’re becoming obsessed." (I sometimes wished I had that kind of commitment)

"You’re getting too skinny." as if (bahahahahaha)

The comments just kept coming, and to be honest, they still come.

People feel just fine expressing opinions to someone who isn’t obese, and somehow this isn’t considered rude.  But, it is rude.  It’s very rude, and not only that, it’s unhelpful and just plain noise.  At the end of the day, my desire to live a healthier life is mine. So, how do I quiet that noise and shut down the constant flow of opinions?

Here are 5 Tips I use to deal with other people’s opinions about my health, fitness and weight loss.  

 

  1. Remember Why I Started ... I didn’t start living healthier to please anyone else. Seriously. I wasn’t trying to fit into a bikini and hit the beaches in hopes of catching someone’s eye. I wasn’t dieting to fit into a dress for a special event. I didn’t get healthier because I was afraid my husband didn’t love me. I started living healthier because I was afraid I was going to die earlier than necessary, and that meant I was going to miss out on life and being with my people. MY HERD. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be with my people and to be healthy enough to enjoy it.  So now, when people offer opinions or have a comment or criticism, I remind myself why I started:  to be healthy and happy enough to be with my people! That’s it. When I remember this, it’s easier to let go of other people’s opinions, expectations and negativity.

  2. Keep Myself in Check ... One of the biggest things that helps when a comment comes my way is to keep myself in check and refuse to react.  The calmer I remain, and the less I offer in terms of feedback, the faster the whole situation is diffused. I also have to keep myself in check in my head.  It’s easy to consider someone else’s opinion. It’s easy to think: yeah….why don’t I get the popcorn? But if I keep myself in check, remember my own personal standards and goals, I’m not so easily swayed by anyone else.

  3. Don’t Respond ... Yeah, so…have you ever just not responded to someone? You’re sitting at a restaurant and you order the grilled chicken salad, dressing on the side.  Your friend says, “Oh, come on. Live a little.” You have choices here. You can shrug and get embarrassed and respond.  Or you can seriously just look that friend in the eye and stare. Is it uncomfortable? Yeah. Sometimes it is. That’s kind of the point. That friend made me uncomfortable by making a comment or asking a question that is none of her business. It’s not up to me, or anyone, to then make sure that person is comfortable. I often employ the death stare, and I can tell you it shuts that shit down real quick.  Nobody likes a death stare.  And you know what else?  Nobody can argue with it.  Plus, I'm a mom of 4 teenagers. I HAVE THE DEATH STARE DOWN, HEIFERS!

  4. Walk a Mile In Their Shoes ... This is kind of like considering the source but with some humanity and empathy. (which I struggle with sometimes, to be honest). Sometimes, friends make comments that really have nothing to do with us and everything to do with them.  Maybe they’re struggling to eat well. Maybe they skipped a workout. Maybe they have weight issues that need to be addressed.  Maybe their parents didn’t teach them manners. Whatever the case, everyone has a story and a struggle of their own. I try to remember this when I get a comment or suggestion about my workout schedule or preference for extra veggies instead of grilled pita bread. I try to forget the fact that I’m tired of dealing with these comments or explaining myself or listening to someone’s opinion, and I remember that all of that comes from something inside that person that I probably don’t fully understand. Having some sympathy or trying to understand a little isn’t easy, especially in the moment. But when I do it, I feel better about everyone:  the friend with the opinion and myself and my own choices. Empathy is like a bomb-diffuser, which I’ve needed and used more than I care to admit.  

  5. Smile ... There are times when I just can’t give a death-stare. I can't lie - I usually go with the death-stare when possible.  I do love that death stare.  But, if I'm at a social function for my husband’s work or some other sensitive function, I default to a more socially acceptable version of the death-stare, which is the smile.  I just simply keep quiet, tilt my head maybe to one side, and smile. Heifers, it works. And it doesn’t mean you can hear crickets chirping like the death-stare. I kind of like crickets after a comment, but you know, you have to have a full bag of tricks. So, if you get a comment or question, just remember:  you don’t have to respond with more than a smile. I’ve never had someone push past it, and it sends a message without being the blunt-force-trauma of the glare.   But oh how I do love the glare. 

There are tons of other options for responding to other people’s responses. Here are 5 things I don’t do when I receive a comment, good or bad, about my dinner order or the fact that I wake up at the crack of dawn to fit in a run:

  1. Get snarky ... Listen, I have a snarky gene inside me that comes out when people behave badly. It’s part of my DNA. It’s also not the best response. If someone says something rude or asks an uncomfortable question or makes a stupid suggestion, I could (and have) given them a nugget or two from my bank of snark.  Sometimes, they deserve it. But it really never ends well. It’s like lowering my own standards, and that feels like crap no matter what. Also, snarky comebacks are kind of defensive and weak. There isn’t a lot of power in responding to rudeness with more rudeness. There are ways to shut down an uncomfortable situation without either being rude or cowering in the corner. Getting snarky only feels good for the split second it takes for the comment to travel from my mind to my mouth. Then, it’s like the bad aftertaste from sugar-free cheesecake.  And nobody needs that.  

  2. Change ... I actually don’t do this, but I’ve seen friends do it, and it always seems like the worst choice possible. Here’s how it goes. You’re out to eat with friends and you order the grilled chicken salad, dressing on the side. Your friends say you need to live a little and enjoy yourself and get the burger (or whatever). You feel uncomfortable, and then you start to question if you really need to be eating grilled chicken and veggies without globs of dressing. You start to do some really shaky mental math about exercising more later or skipping dinner (or whatever). Before you know it, you’re flagging down the waiter and changing your order. Yeah. Don’t do that. Eat what you want to eat. If you want to be healthier and that means a chicken salad, you eat your salad. Stand by your choices and don’t let other people sway you. Do you. You’re the one who has to deal with the consequences, good or bad. So stick to your decisions, remember why you made the choice to live healthier to begin with and give the friend a smile. But whatever you do, don’t base your decisions on someone else!

  3. Apologize ... I do not, under any circumstances, apologize for myself unless I’ve done something wrong. I don’t apologize for eating well, exercising, going to bed early or any other choice I make unless it’s hurt someone….and none of those choices hurt other people! Apologizing for being healthy or for changing your lifestyle habits (which may be uncomfortable for other people) is not only unnecessary but totally disempowering.  I apologize if I’m late or forget an important date or treat someone badly. I do not apologize for ordering extra veggies or skipping cheesecake, sugar-free or otherwise.

  4. Explain ... There is a question that people ask that is so wide-open and intrusive it’s hard to avoid, but Heifers, if you fail to answer one question in life, let it be this: WHY?  Have you ever had someone ask why you’re ordering grilled fish? Or why you’re running two days in a row? Or why you’re getting up at 5AM to fit in a workout? I have. And at the end of the day, while I could give a long explanation and list of reasons, here’s the truth: it’s none of anyone’s business! I don’t have to explain myself unless a cop has pulled me over or I’m standing in front of a judge.  And neither do you. When we start explaining our choices, we take the power out of them, and we give the impression we’re open to discussion. The only time I answer the question why is if I’m open to changing the outcome. And most of the time, that’s not the case.  My kids can tell you how fun that is.  

  5. Let it Sink In ... I don’t let other people’s opinions sink in. It’s not easy. People’s words can easily be absorbed, and suddenly we begin questioning our choices or considering alternatives that aren’t good for us. So now, when someone offers an opinion or comment, I try to let it roll of real quick, like Teflon.  If I absorb it, it has the chance to affect me. I don’t want that. There are some people I turn to for opinions or thoughts, and I know who those people are because I ASK THEM for their opinions. Everyone else? Yeah, not so much. So, as fast as possible, I blow it off and move on. The faster this happens, the less it can fester and easier it is to stay true to myself.  

And this, Heifers, is how I deal with other people’s shit (opinions, comments, pointed looks, questions). It’s gotten easier over time, even if it’s not any less annoying.

But I’ve learned two things: this kind of crap isn’t going away, and I can choose how I deal with it.

So the next time a friend suggests you skip a workout or makes a crappy comment about your food choices, use one of the these tips to shut it down and keep it real.