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!

Exercise Myth: Why We Don't Lose Weight From Exercise Alone

Hey Heifers! Have you ever killed it at the gym or committed to a serious running program and, in a cruel twist of fate, not actually lost any weight?  We have been discussing this very thing in our Run, Heifer, Run Facebook Group Page recently.

Weeks pass, you’re gutting out an hour of cardio, and the scale reads the same number it read when you started. Or, worse, you’re putting in the time and energy for legit workouts and you actually weigh more?

You stand there, looking at the scale, and wonder: WTF?

You’re doing the stuff you’ve been told to do by your doctor, your friends and my most important friend: The Google. 

Move more to burn fat and torch calories.

People say it’s a basic math equation and a simple recipe for lowering our weight, our cholesterol and a whole bunch of other factors that our doctors hound us about: hypertension, diabetes, joint pain and more.  

So, we do what we’re told. We hit the gym, the pavement, or the cycling room and endure a long sweaty workout so that we can whittle our waists and keep our bodies in fighting shape.

The problem? Well, it turns out that some fitness experts are claiming that exercise may actually be hurting our weight loss goals instead of helping them!

Say what?

I know, Heifers, I know.  Put the protein bar down and listen.

It turns out that cardio makes us….well…hungry. (WHO KNEW?)

According to a 2009 Time magazine article, exercise can stimulate hunger and cause us to actually eat MORE than the calories we just burned. In fact, not only is exercise not helping us lose weight: it may in fact be hindering our efforts and making it actually harder to drop pounds.

I’ve seen it myself. There is a mental switch that flips when I finish a half-marathon or even just a seven-mile run through the mean streets of my Phoenix suburb. I feel pretty badass. I killed it. I logged the time and the miles, and I have all sorts of measurements to prove it. I ran SEVEN MILES, and when I get home, I feel pretty good about myself and my commitment to my health, fitness and keeping off the weight I lost way back when.

Then, at dinner later that night, still high from all those exercise endorphins, I decide the chips and salsa are totally justified because I ran SEVEN MILES. What could a few chips mean in the grand scheme of things? And I have to keep my body nourished and satisfied. Anyway, I’m famished and can’t wait for the entrée, which may in fact be a super healthy salad, dressing on the side. 

So, I dig in. I have a chip and then another. My hunger cues and hormones and all the rest of that fancy circuitry inside my body starts lighting up: bells and whistles. This is reward-central, and my body wants more. My brain says it’s just fine because of those SEVEN MILES.

You can all see where this is going. After a night of "calculated indulging," I wake up to a pound or two jump on the scale, which I tell myself is water weight and will drop off in no time.

But….if I keep it up, this kind of eating and the mentality behind it will ruin my weight loss goals and likely turn toward a downward spiral of shame.  That is NOT the same as a downward spiral of zucchini noodles, but I digress.  Those things  are gross. But whatevs. I'm not here to discuss zucchini spiral noodles today. Maybe that'll be my next blog post.  Anyway....

I beat myself up for not sticking to my diet, and I promise myself that I’ll run an extra few miles each day that week to compensate for the splurge.

And there, my heifer friends, is where the real problem comes in. Exercise is so often used as compensation for eating, when in reality, it takes a ton of sweat equity to equal a fairly small portion size of food. 

<Repeat after me: EXERCISE SHOULD NOT BE USED AS COMPENSATION OR PUNISHMENT FOR EATING EXTRA CALORIES.  Exercise should be fun! It's a way to keep your body healthy and your mind, too!>

In multiple studies by famous exercise researchers (people actually get paid to do this!), exercise has not been shown to significantly increase weight loss because it so often leads people to over-compensate with food.

In fact, in that Time article, the authors note, “Whether because exercise made them hungry or because they wanted to reward themselves (or both), most of the women who exercised ate more than they did before they started the experiment. Or they compensated in another way, by moving around a lot less than usual after they got home.”

Turns out the mental math we’re doing is kind of sketchy. In our minds, that run took a lot of time and covered a lot of dirt road, so we think it must have used up a ton of calories. Yeah. We’re wrong. Running seven miles does burn significant calories. On an average woman, we’ll burn about 105 calories per miles, which adds up to 735 calories over seven miles. Sounds pretty good, right?

Have you checked out how many calories are in a basket of chips and salsa from a Mexican restaurant? 

The basket of chips alone is 570 calories! I repeat:  570 calories, and that's a conservative estimate. If you add a side of guac (and who doesn’t), we’re now at about 770 calories.

We just ate more than we burned on a SEVEN MILE run.

That, my trusty HeiferHood, is how we don’t lose weight even though we’re exercising more and more.

Add to that the fact that we may move less during the day to compensate for all those miles we ran and the fact that our bodies are actually hungrier from all that exercise, and we’re in trouble.

So, that’s the bad news.  And like all good parents, I prefer to give the bad news first.

Ready for the good news?

Exercise, like running seven miles in the Arizona sunshine, makes our hearts and lungs stronger, increases bone density, reduces stress, reduces the risk of some types of cancer, decreases the risk of heart disease, may provide relief from anxiety and depression and helps us sleep better. On top of all of this, exercise has been shown to improve mental functioning. 

As a 40-something mom with four kids, I need all the cognitive hustle I can get.

All of these are some pretty awesome reasons to exercise, some seriously legit reasons to exercise. But weight loss, dropping pounds on the scale, torching calories….those may not be the best reasons to put in the time and energy required to commit to an exercise program.

Instead of finding this information depressing, I like to think of myself as just better informed. We now know that exercise has a ton of perks and benefits but that dropping weight likely won’t be one of them.

The key to dropping the weight is good sleep, a healthy diet and consistency in both, with a huge focus on that healthy diet part..... Losing weight is 80% what we're eating. 

Once we understand what exercise does (and doesn’t) do for us, we can plan accordingly and get the most out of our workouts without being disappointed when we don’t see results that may in fact be impossible to see.

Exercise alone isn’t going to whittle the waistline. After I understood what exercise did for me and the fact that it wasn’t a magic pill that would turn me into a Barbie doll, I took it for what it was: a way to help my body be overall healthier, stronger and fitter.

I don’t figure exercise into my eating choices anymore. I eat when I’m hungry, and I eat healthy food overall. I splurge sometimes but not because I ran an extra mile or am training for another half-marathon. I know those numbers don’t add up.

I keep my exercise at a level I can maintain reasonably comfortably and that doesn’t leave me famished and reaching for a Little Caesar's Large Pepperoni and Crazy Bread after a run. Because now I know…those 532,987,234 calories would make my five-mile run a total wash.

#MondaysWithMelissa - Fitting It All In

Today's #MondaysWithMelissa question was a great one - how do you fit it all in - being a mom/wife, a taxi driver, dinner maker, cleaning lady,  dog walker, mail getter, PLUS exercising?


The bottom line, heifers? There are 24 hours in each of our days.  Some of us are better at time management than others - I admit to falling short in a few areas - but exercise is one of my 'hard limit' rules.  If I don't find time for ME - how can I function as a better wife, a better mom, etc? If I don't take care of my health, how will I take care of my kids? How will I care for my family?

You can surely find 30 minutes sometime during your day to do SOMETHING good for your health.  You can do wall-sits while you're waiting for your pasta to boil.  You can do calf-raises in the kitchen while you're cooking dinner for the family.

You can get out and run a few laps around the track while your kids are at soccer practice. You can do the same while your kids are at dance class.

You can make better choices with your food (hey, we all can, says this guilty heifer who may have overindulged in French Toast Casserole last night for dinner, whoops.... ) 

Bottom line - we can ALL do better, and we can ALL find SOME time during each of our 24 hours to devote to our own health and wellness.  

It's not selfish, either. I've heard so many comments today on twitter, and facebook, saying that moms particularly, feel selfish if they "make time for themselves."  I ask you this - if YOU don't make the time for you, who will make it for you? Nobody.  You have to claim the time for your own health.  And what will you find? You'll actually have MORE energy once you get healthy.  You'll have renewed zest for life - which will carry over into so many other areas of your life. 

Why exercise?? Why NOT exercise? 

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