I wasn’t sure how this break would feel. If it would make me happier, or depressed, or rejuvenated, or cranky. I honestly expected a combination of these things.
And while I’ve had moments of negative feelings surrounding this break* , most of the feelings I’ve had have been positive.
(*mostly following interactions with well-meaning acquaintances who don’t get it and, when hearing I’m taking a running break, say things like: “good! Your body needs it!” Not realizing that what needed it was my mind more than anything. Their tone also always seems to suggest “I knew running would get the best of you, because you do it too much, and running is BAD.” But perhaps I’m overanalyzing.)
So what have I been up to since my last run (13 miles in Pittsburgh on September 21)? A lot of different – and new – stuff.
I’ve been going for more walks (not as much the last week but I need to get back out there, especially since fall is FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY HERE, y’all). I’ve done a few strength workouts at home, both YouTube videos without equipment, and some Pinterest finds with equipment (I bought a set of strength bands a few weeks ago and they’re pretty nice).
I’ve started attending spin classes at Ramsey once or twice a week–starting with once a week as I try to acclimate to the bike saddle after five years away from spin. I recall now why I left spin (it starts to get repetitive after a while) but it’s fine for now, and the instructors — all UGA undergrads — are pretty good.
I’ve started taking pilates again. I attended a weekly class back in Pittsburgh, through my gym, so while she was a legitimate pilates instructor with her own studio, the gym setting limited us to mat work with only generic tools and equipment. I’d been wanting to get back to it, since it’s an incredible core workout, and especially give the reformer a try. Just this morning I took my first all-reformer class, and was shaking with the effort of every move. I signed up for a three-month membership with four classes per month. The lingo and moves have been coming back to me slowly, as is how much it kicks my butt (in the best way).
As of this week I’ve gone to two Orange Theory classes, including a free first class last week, and the first class of my paid membership just yesterday. The amount of pestering they do via text message aside, the classes are fun and different, and the coach I’ve had for both is really solid. I’m acquainted with the head coach in Athens, which is reassuring, and this coach (as with the others I’m sure) is clearly a well-trained personal trainer. She explains the floor work well, offers modifications, emphasizes good form and keeps an eye out to make corrections when necessary, and is encouraging and enthusiastic. It’s a solid HIIT workout, and I especially appreciate the strength circuit work in the non-cardio half of the class, as my strength training died a horrible, shriveled death of laziness and wanting to sleep in on running off-days all summer long.
The nice thing about these workouts is that I’m not comparing myself to anything. Either it’s been so long since I’ve done them, or they’re pretty much brand new, so all of the strength gains I’m making feel good. I’m focused on getting strong and having fun, and actually mostly popping out of bed in the morning excitedly to get to the gym or studio, which has not been the case with running for quite some time.
There are still moments when the old mindset kicks in. I’ve been struggling on weekends, in particular, to get out of bed and do *something.* But then I stop and think, perhaps the weekend early morning grind was also contributing to burnout, so why don’t I just let myself take all the rest I need?
It may or may not be related, but I’ve been feeling my writing brain kicking back into gear again. My best week was during the Jewish High Holy Days, when I had some time off work and was in a different mindset. On Rosh Hashanah, in particular, my day was perfect and one I wish I could have more often: I woke up semi-early but not crack of dawn, hiked with my friend Chrissy at the Botanical Gardens, got cleaned up and went to Temple, came home after shul to eat lunch and relax, packed up and went to Starbucks, wrote for an hour-plus, then went to my pilates intro class.
As is probably obvious from my blog and social media handle, “write2run,” I typically find the two practices go hand-in-hand (the Wilder retreat I attended last fall particularly illuminated this idea). And it can be true. But if you’re severely burned out from one, and you have entrusted one practice to the other, the other practice can suffer.
I tried running alone a couple of times pre-break to reset my brain, listening to playlists I particularly used for writing and hoping to brainstorm. Instead I found myself counting down miles or minutes, begging it to be over. Writing was the furthest thing from my mind.
There has been some fear involved with this break: What if I never want to go back to running? What if I’m sick of it forever? What if I try to go back too soon and dig myself in deeper?
But over the last week or so, I’ve been noticing my mindset beginning to shift. The internalized pressures of training, and pacing, and racing–the fog of it is beginning to lift away. In certain moments, some brief and some longer, I’ve found myself missing running. First and foremost, I miss running trails, and that is probably where I will find myself first: out in nature, with no idea of pacing and no qualms with walking/hiking. Running in its purest form, just putting one foot in front of the other and thinking of nothing else at all than what my body and feet are doing. It’s tempting to tell myself, “after this week I’ll try going for a run.” Or “I’ll run soon, but no sooner than Friday.” Or “well if I want to be able to run in New York with Chrissy when we go next month, I better start running again in the next couple weeks.”
But I think I’ll know the time when I feel it. When I wake up excited, like I have been for all these new forms of moving my body I have been trying, and think, “I cannot wait to go for a run.”