Do what you want, not what you think you should do

No one:

No one at all:

Me: Okay guys, twist my arm – here’s a long explanation of why I stopped running!

*****

When I first started running, whether I admitted this at that time or not, I had something to prove. Growing up a chubby kid who was always the last one to finish literally every activity in gym class (and thus grew to hate exercise), I had been told for my whole life that things like fitness and running just weren’t for me. Even into adulthood, weight constantly fluctuating, I always felt like running was a pursuit for “healthy” and “fit” people, two things I never saw myself as. So as I started losing more and more weight with a personal trainer when I was 30, I started recognizing running as something that maybe I could do after all.

Team Awesome 1

We’re doing it! Yay! Next time let’s just go to brunch, shall we? (Shamrock Shuffle, Chicago, 2013)

I started slow, taking it one Chicago block at a time, and eventually made it to a mile, two miles, a 5k, and even worked myself up to running 4 half marathons over the years. I was able to prove to myself – the present version and that embarrassed little girl – that I could do it. I could run too!

After the initial excitement of doing something I didn’t think I could do wore off I stuck with it, in large part, because everyone in my life at the time was running. I had even made a whole new group of friends through running and eventually went on to start two different running clubs in two different cities. More often than not, I got together with friends by going for a run with them. When I moved away from Chicago I thought running may be an easy way to immerse myself into a new community and meet new friends (that turned out to not be true, but you can’t blame a girl for trying).

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Hey new Columbus friends that I actually didn’t meet through running (Hoover Reservoir Park, Columbus, 2019)

But as I’ve gotten older and am tolerating less and less bullshit in my life, it seems that my body has gotten equally vocal about things it doesn’t like to do. While training for my 2018 half marathon, I noticed a slight but nagging ache in my right hip. It wasn’t stopping me from running or getting worse as a result of running, so I let it go. That fall I stubbornly ignored the symptoms of oncoming plantar fasciitis so that I could keep hitting my monthly mileage goals, the pain eventually getting so bad that I could barely walk. Several weeks and thousands of dollars of physical therapy later (seriously, we had a shitty high deductible insurance when this happened) I was left with another persistent dull ache that may never go away.

The hip pain got increasingly worse during spring/summer of 2019, and it took me way too long to realize it was because I was adding in a few runs each week on top of 6 days of boot camp (which I threw myself into while I wasn’t allowed to run for a few months because of my PF). Toward the end of 2019 I also started experiencing symptoms of arthritis, and when it’s bad, it’s really bad. I knew that I couldn’t keep forcing my body to endure both boot camp and running, and when I thought about which I’d rather focus on 100%, I realized it wasn’t running. Boot camp has been a lifesaver because it’s helped me focus on strengthening everything that’s been flaring up, which wasn’t a benefit I felt like I was getting from running.

Physical ailments like “my bum hip” that make me feel like an old lady aside, I’ve realized that the idea of going for a run, more often than not, filled me with a lot of anxiety and even dread, and it usually felt more like something I “should” do rather than something I really, truly, couldn’t wait to get outside to do. Even at the height of my most successful HM training cycle, I loved checking off the boxes, taking notes about my runs after the fact and seeing ALL THE STATS, and obviously running a strong race feels awesome. But the actual training runs themselves? I had to psych myself up, make a new playlist, or take a new route to kind of look forward to them. I’d stall going on said run in just about every way possible, typically starting much later than I had planned and throwing the rest of my day off.

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HM PR? Check! (Glass City Marathon, Toledo, 2018)

If you pay attention on your social media feeds, you’ll notice people forcing themselves to do things because they think they should, or everyone else is doing it, etc. I noticed a handful of runners I knew over the years giving all indication that their hearts weren’t really in it, but they so wanted to identify as a runner for any number of reasons that they just looked past it, attempting to fake it until they made it. I can’t say how long I was doing that myself, but I do know that even going back to my first few months of running, I really had to get out of my own head to make myself do something I supposedly enjoyed. For someone who has spent the last 5-6 years of her life examining everything with the newfound mindset of “never settle,” I honestly can’t believe I missed that.

Maybe I’ll burn out on strength training and boot camp too, who knows, but I do know that I’ve been more consistent with that (attending an average of 5.5 classes/week in 2019 and 6 classes/week thus far in 2020) than anything else that I’ve tried. And as I mentioned before, I’m actually seeing tangible health benefits, like stronger muscles and joints, and it’s hard to fathom wanting to give that up by choice.

Do I miss running sometimes? Sure, like when it’s “perfect running weather,” when I think about visiting my favorite park back home or when I watch a friend PR the shit out of a race at the end of a really hard training cycle (heck, I even teared up at the end of Brittany Runs a Marathon when the main character finished the race because I know exactly how amazing that feels). But I’d rather do something I enjoy because I want to, rather than phoning it in.

8 thoughts on “Do what you want, not what you think you should do

  1. I get really nervous before every run, even when I’m in good form, but I reckon a lot of your negative feelings about running will be wrapped up with your injury problems. I am just emerging from about a year mostly off running with a meniscus tear in my right knee (I’m now almost up to half marathon distance again) and since I’ve been relatively pain-free, I have rediscovered the intense joy that running always used to give me. At the time i was injured, however, I thought I would never make it back and not running made me very sad – as well as anxious whenever I tried to hit the comeback trail. I hope you, too, will come back if you want to. Today I’m going to get some free physiotherapy from the NHS here to further improve the knee (although like you I spent a lot on private treatment that didn’t really work before that) and I’m really hopeful about my running future, even though I’m on the wrong side of 50 now. Here’s hoping that – if you really want to – you can get back into it again! Thanks for the blog!

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    • Thanks for weighing in! What do you think makes you nervous about it? Definitely no judgement here, but I just got tired of anxiety around a hobby that I was choosing to pursue, especially when there are other activities out there that don’t make me feel that way.

      There is something really fun about those first few pain-free, post-injury runs! When I was getting back into after my PF kind of subsided even running a mile felt like a great accomplishment, so I definitely get that. But those feelings always seem to wear off for me, and while I have enjoyed a lot of my runs over the years, a majority just felt like I was forcing it. We sometimes do sprints or building laps (~1/4 mile) in my boot camp, and I do LOVE doing that because there’s no need to pace myself or worry about hurting myself on such short distances.

      Good luck with your knee!

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  2. I think it’s so great you found what you truly enjoy! I’ve been enjoying your Progress updates about boot camp. You’ve actually inspired me to do more strength workouts- which has been tough but awesome.

    It’s painful at times seeing people on social media trying to make fetch happen with running. Without knowing their times or mileage you’d think they were “sub elite” buying all the clothes and shoes. But then you realize they miss most of their workouts. It’s the strangest thing. Like they want to have this running identify yet don’t enjoy it. Maybe because people perceive “being a runner” to be trendy?

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    • I’m so happy to hear that! You definitely push me too, since you always work so hard when you’re training. I had a thread with Erin G. about this recently, how “the process” of running and race training applies to many things, such as strength training. I’m glad you gals get that 🙂

      LOL yes, well said on making fetch happen. I know people IRL like that too, that so desperately want to be “a runner” even though they don’t want to put in the work or don’t seem to particularly enjoy it and basically just do it for the ‘gram. F that, find an activity you enjoy and pour yourself into it.

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  3. I so agree with doing what you enjoy vs forcing yourself with exercise. Having had nearly a year off from running, it’s made me rethink how I want to start back up…I definitely DO want to run, but I think I’m going to work on the “play” aspect rather than the “push” aspect – I’d rather run a few miles and feel exhilarated when I’m done than push the mileage and be spent afterward. Plus there’s the whole injury part…no thank you, been there done that.

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    • I definitely thought about you while I was writing this because of what your last year has looked like. I think the fun kind of running, with friends, at a comfortable pace you enjoy, is the way to get back into it once you can (and I know the Renegades are a fun group for that!). That’s actually what I had been doing last year anyway – helping new friends get into running by doing easy (for me) intervals – and that was the most enjoyable running has ever felt. At this point I’d rather support others with their goals than train for my own goal. When my training partner got injured last fall I re-evaluated and decided I just didn’t have it in me to force myself to do it alone anymore.

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  4. Good for you for finding what you love and what makes your body feel good! I also know lots of people who want the runner label but hate running. GAH! STOP! Find something else! There are lots of ways to move your body. (And trainers, STOP telling people what they should do and not do for cardio, or strength, even, encourage them to find what they love.)

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    • I just don’t get wanting to be labeled as doing something you don’t even like doing! SMH. Agree with you on trainers – if anything they should be helping their clients figure out what DOES work well for them and what they enjoy, not forcing people to fit into a certain mold (cough cough OCR races)

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