08 January 2010

Enjoying the Run, and Setting Boundaries

A food-related post will be coming either Sunday or Monday; in the meantime, I really feel the need to talk more about the mental side of running, as that's often where the trouble first starts.

When it comes to running, I've seen many runners put too much stock in whether or not they're able to run. After posing this question to myself, especially thinking back on when I was injured, I realized I didn't want my mood or my life to be determined by running in the sense that I'd be a grouch to everyone around me if I didn't get my run in, or I'd fall into a depression if I got injured.

This realization came to me this past summer as I, you guessed it, had a minor injury. "No! I have goals this summer! Races to run, PRs to set! I don't have time for this injury," I cried out to, well, no one. Though meeting those goals was a struggle, heck even wanting to run became a struggle, it then hit me -- shouldn't running be something I want to do instead of just a run to be checked off on my log? That was it--I lost the joy and enthusiasm I had when I first started running and didn't have a clue.

My first ever running plan came from Cooking Light. My mileage totaled 9-15 miles a week, but I never noticed since the miles didn't matter. Yet, I felt great. I didn't even know what my average pace was.

My new goal was to combine my current knowledge of running with my "innocence" from before. I started off by running timed runs instead of mile-based, though a little structured in the sense that I knew the total miles I would be running, just not the mile marks. I ran by how my body felt instead of what my watch was telling me. I used to have this incredible sense of pacing that I lost because I quit running the race and was running the miles within the race. My first split was WHAT? Unacceptable! I started off slowly, going out for 50 minutes (this being determined by what my average mileage had been before). Pretty soon I decided to go out further. When I got back and mapped it out, I realized it totaled 10 miles. Huh? Ten enjoyable miles? Miles I didn't struggle with halfway through? Yes, that's right. Thinking back, I did enjoy the run. I didn't necessarily let my mind wander off, but I appreciated the nature and the minute things I ceased to notice before that made running fun at the beginning.

And now I will pose this question to you: Has your running turned into a checkoff list, or do you still want to be out on the road? When we decide that we "are" something, I am a runner, I am a knitter, I'm a cook, we often cease to set realistic boundaries because it's a major part of our lives when, really, that's why it needs boundaries or we'll slowly become wrapped up in a bubble. Unless it's your job, we have other facets of our lives, and if we can't run (for whatever reason), we have "fallback" activities that are a part of us. The whole reason we start something is because we enjoy it, so make sure that you still do.


  1. Well said Grasshopper. lol. I think you always loved to run. One time at the GR house you were doing laps through that patch of trees and every time you came around you stopped and smelled one of those big flowers that were growing by the garage. We were watching. You were probably 8 or 10 at the time.

  2. The enjoyment of running can come and go for me, but in general that enjoyment isn't linked to the boundaries I set in my training. I enjoy keeping track of my mileage, pace, and number of days run. That said though, I never love it. I do love that sense of exploration and freedom that happens on occasion mostly unexpectedly. It would be nice to know the science behind making those rare blissful runs more common, but in general I just make sure to get at least a few runs in every week to maximize the potential of one occurring!

  3. Awesome, thought provoking post Christina. While I am not a runner, I whole heartily agree with the "I'm a ...." aspect. Instead of having a hobby, we are defined by the one thing we do, and feel empty when you can't partake in "you". I always found it's important to step back for awhile, and if anything... it makes you healthier and hungrier to get back to your goals.

    I need to focus on this when I go on vacation in a few weeks and won't have access to a gym. Thanks.

  4. Dad ~ heh, that's pretty cool =)

    Justin ~ I know what you mean about the fleeting moment feeling. The exploration aspect is also one of the reasons I like to run, too. Sometimes it's better to see things on foot.

    Great to hear your point of view, thanks for sharing!

    Adam ~ Yeah, the reevaluating seems to put things into perspective rather quickly. It also helps to decide whether a break is necessary or if it wasn't, too.

    No problem. =)

  5. Hi! Just found your blog and enjoying catching up on some of your older posts.
    I loved this post - I got into "checklist mode" when training for my first half marathon. When I had to start forcing myself to do the long runs, I realized I had lost the innocence. Trying to get it back now!


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