Time off from running isn’t new to me. As a catch-up for newer readers: last year I spent about four months in recovery from a metatarsal stress fracture. I started back up at the end of January, ran regularly (including two half-marathons) and then, well, we know how this marathon cycle turned out.
After seven years of no real injuries and many races, including two full marathons, this year has certainly been a 180 from my normal. I’m not a special snowflake as I know the words “running” and “injury” are often used in the same sentence. However, I’d like to consider myself experienced enough to talk about time OFF from running, both the mental and physical sides. All experience is good experience, right?
Thinking Out Loud today about some lessons, both big and small, from life on the sidelines.
Lessons From Life Not On The Run
Running should be a “get to do” not a “have to do”
I’ve said it before, but my favorite way to classify running is “a hobby that enhances my life.” It doesn’t control or consume it. When it becomes a “have to do” I think it’s time to re-evaluate.
Time off makes you smarter
Yes, time on the road does this too, but in a different way. I’m smarter now in the sense that I’m more in tune with my body. I can better grasp when a pain is a discomfort vs. a NO! BAD! pain. FYI: you don’t push through the latter. I’m cautious in my return because I want to make sure other parts of me are healthy too. For the first time, I’m focused on me as a whole person, not just the runner.
Similarly, injuries force you to address the “smaller” things that will help you stay healthy. During last year’s injury I added mobility work into my routine. This go-around I addressed my abnormal foot structure by finally investing in custom orthotics. When I’m ready to make my comeback, my feet will be happier than ever.
Strength training gives you so much bang for your buck
I’ve maintained some level of fitness just with 20-30 minutes of strength training a few times a week. It’s not the most intense workout but it produces results and, more importantly, some endorphins. I’m not a personal trainer or someone who likes the word “toned,” but running won’t give you a “toned” upper body. Pick up some heavy weights, do some rows, deadlifts and push-ups. You’ll thank me later.
Side note: I’m thinking of labeling 2016 the year of building strength. Mentally, physically, emotionally.
Rest days/weeks/months don’t need labels.
After three days of not running I stopped the labeling. They are just days! Take and use them without justification. You will not balloon up 10 pounds or break out in hives without running. <–I feel like a lot of people write something similar but there are still lingering fears. TRUST ME. Take a chill pill on this one.
Doctors are great, but they aren’t the end-all-be-all. Neither is the forum on Google tell you you’ll be out for a year.
Make sure to take off the rose-colored glasses. Meaning, remember that running isn’t the most glamorous or magical activity 24/7. It’s hard. It’s great, but it’s hard.
Be careful with social media. If you’re like me and social media can sometimes lead to feelings of inadequacy or comparison, SIGN OFF. LOG OFF.
Every runner should have a passion/hobby that has nothing to do with fitness.
When you aren’t running it seems like every. single. person is running. When you are running, you can feel like the only weirdo getting up at the crack of dawn. Know that both are skewed perceptions. (This one is a repeat from my post last year)
Running will be there when you return. And when you do return, run happy.
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Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
I think it’s totally healthy for everyone to take time off from their main hobby/passion, forced from injury or otherwise! There are so many things to do and try and that’s how you learn and grow! Just because you KNOW your #1″thing”, it doesn’t have to be your “only” thing! xo
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I love that! #1 doesn’t mean only. Thanks for the reminder :)
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
This reminds me so much of my lessons that I’ve learned form a year of highs and lows. Yes, running will be there (and so will I) but YOU come first. xoxoxoxoxox
Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…A Change Of Heart (Animal Updates and Labor Day Plans)
So grateful to have you in my life. Virtual or not your support means so much!
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie says
I love that even though you are taking time off of running right now, you still manage to look at the positives of it… learning from it. It can be so hard to do, but taking time to realize that strength training is only going to benefit you or any of the other lessons you learned is only going to help you take the time off you need and come back to running stronger (literally and figuratively ;) )
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie recently posted…The Goal Debate
Thanks, Brie! It’s definitely not the easiest thing to do so I hope the break and focus on strength pays off :)
I love the notion of 2016 being your year of strength. Actually, there are so many points I love from this post that it would take quite a long time to extract them all and write them in a comment. I will say that I may not consider myself a runner, but I apply this to dance and BOOM – I can 100% totally and completely relate. I took a short physical break off from dance last year, which turned into a mental break because I just could not get myself invigorated by it. But when I did, the “have to do” transformed back into the “want to do” and it’s been all magic ever since.
Love reading about your journey, girl!
Danielle @ afloat on a full sea
Danielle recently posted…August Recap & September Goals!
Your comment means so much, Danielle. Thank you. It can definitely apply to anything you are passionate about. I can’t wait to feel that magic again!
YES to having hobbies outside of fitness. I feel like that’s what’s hardest for runners when they’re injured..they feel like they have nothing left. If you have other interests, then you won’t feel as empty inside if you can’t run anymore. Great advice!
Gretchen recently posted…What’s New With You? Linkup #8
I’ve turned to cooking, writing, reading and starting photography. While they all kind of relate, it’s been nice having a variation of activities.
Sarah @pickyrunner says
I love looking at running as a get to do instead of have to do. I think it changes the tone for my entire run. Strength training is definitely important and I wish I did more of it, but I do get some pushups in here or there with NP. Injuries (or just time off in general) make you mentally and physically stronger. Love your outlook!
Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…What You Don’t Plan For
The “get to do” mindset makes reminds me what a privilege it is to move freely. Running is spiritual in that sense I think!
Lauren Roddy says
Omg! I really needed this post.. almost 3 weeks ago I BROKE my metatarsal bone playing soccer and I’m DYING not running / working out the way I normally do.. but you know what, you’re right, I haven’t gained 10 pounds or broken out in hives, and rest days are OKAY and actually ESSENTIAL to healing!
I’m using this opportunity to eat super clean and just make sure my body is getting the proper nutrients to heal. And trying to see the bright side of things- it’s too hot and rainy to be outside most days in FL right now, and I’ll stay safe from Zika lmao
And so true, I’m starting to realize it can be detrimental to your mental health to be on social media 4+ times a day.
Anyways, thanks for the post!!
Hi Lauren! I’m so sorry to hear about your injury. It’s so discouraging and mentally challenging to be away from something you love. You have such a good mindset though! I’m with you on the FL weather…it’s been a nice break not dealing with it while running. Although it’s slowly starting to cool off where I live.
Erica @ Erica Finds says
Great perspective! And all VERY true. My last major injury was 5 years ago and minor one was December. They both helped me to be grateful for my running and to take it less seriously (read: have more fun). I’ve had some great races and some terrible ones since these injuries – and I’ve finished every one with a smile. Focus on your strength and nutrition and your running will be better than ever when you’re back to it.
Thank you so much for your comment, Erica! I’m hopeful that I will return stronger than ever.
How could I not love this? I love that you started calling days, ‘days’ because running isn’t our identity. And yes, it’s a ‘get to do’ not ‘have to do’. I think I did way too many of my longer races because I felt like I had to do them to define my identity as a runner. Now I go out and run 2 miles, and I think, ‘That was fun!’ Social Media can be such a double edged sword. If I start to feel bad about my workout or get jealous, I just log off, because those are just wrong feelings, and I don’t want to cater to them.
Emily recently posted…Why I Don’t Take Body Transformation Photos
It really is a double-edge sword. Some days it’s really motivating and other days it makes me feel bad about myself. It’s been a good lesson to decipher when to get off and when to contribute :)
ACKTIVE LIFE says
I am at that stage with running, where I need to work on some other “stuff” before I start hitting the pavement again. I am itching to get out there and run wild, but sometimes you need to take care of other things, so that you can come back happy and healthy and ready to be out on the road again.
ACKTIVE LIFE recently posted…A VERY Inspiring Young Woman – Meet Marissa
Couldn’t agree more. The itch is there for me but I’m being patient!
Heather @Lunging Through Life says
Couldn’t agree more with running you get to do not a have to do. Though I wasn’t injured, per say, I did have to stop running for months when I was pregnant and I missed it so much. It taught me how much I love it and what I love about it but made me realize that I don’t have to go full out every time. I also learned there are other workouts that can give you those endorphins- like spinning. I love your motto for the year. So perfect!! I have lots of strength workouts for you during this time off of running ;) Love your positivity <3
Heather @Lunging Through Life recently posted…August Best of the Blog
Last year’s injury was my first taste into a break and that’s when I realized I don’t have to “all out” every time. What I would do for just 20 minutes of running now! It puts things into perspective.
Diana @ Live Lean Eat Green says
LOVE your point on when running starts to feel like a “HAVE TO” it’s maybe time to take a break. I’m taking a break from running right now too to allow my shin splints to heal and it’s HARD but at the same time I’m loving the extra time I have in the day to focus on other things.
Diana @ Live Lean Eat Green recently posted…7 Tips For Surviving Your First Hot Yoga Class!
I’ll admit, not worrying about the weather and getting up at the crack of dawn (to beat the heat) has been really nice! Summer running in Florida isn’t the greatest anyway.
This resonates completely with my life right now! (I’ve also been recommended some bespoke in-soles due to a hypermobility in my heel which seems to be contributing to poor posture and the rest of my joint problems…thanks for those genes dad ;) )
I found that there seemed to be a hole in my life/routine etc. where running used to be and this is something I definitely struggled with when I first picked up my hip injury. Only once I had adopted some alternatives to fill this- more strength training, weight training, long walks- which I genuinely (to my surprise) have come to enjoy, did some structure fall back into place and I hope these will be of benefit once I can reintroduce regular running again.
I completely agree with the Social Media impact and the notion that EVERYBODY else around seems to be running (or going to running events/ races etc.) which doesn’t bode well for my already significant lack of patience…. but at the end of the day, everything is relative and everyone’s goals are personal to their own stage in their running journey.
If the goalposts move, it doesn’t mean you won’t score, it just means you need to take a bit of time to re-evaluate and change your aim. :)
Fingers crossed that your injury is firmly on the mend.
Charlotte, you have no idea how happy I am to see you around here :) I have my dad to thank for my foot problems too!
I’m sorry to hear about your injury, but I’m glad you have found solace and success with strength training and long walks. I’m crossing my fingers you’re in the clear too <3
Kaila @ Healthy Helper Blog says
LOVE LOVE LOVE this. I have had my fair share of much needed time away from running and you’re so right. You have to tell yourself that it doesn’t define you. You are so much more than your sport or your workout of choice. Life is more than running and like you said… it will always be there!
Kaila @ Healthy Helper Blog recently posted…The Don’t List of Life
It’s hard not to want to rush back into running, because I do miss it so much. The recovery process tested my patience last time so at least I know what to expect now and I’m letting things be.
Ellie Pell says
I just took 2 weeks off from running and during that break, I literally stepped out of the running world. It was nice not to see those things, not because I was jealous, but because it opened up other things for me! I totally agree with you about coming back, its still hard!
Ellie Pell recently posted…Identify A Priority and Stick To It
This break has left more time and mental space for other activities! I’m thankful to have an outlet like writing for these times.
Love this! “Side note: I’m thinking of labeling 2016 the year of building strength. Mentally, physically, emotionally.” As someone who constantly takes time off….unintentionally…..this is a great way of re-framing your year!
AmberLynn recently posted…Day 2 – Hermine Stole My Run and Yoga Cures
Thanks, Amber! Giving that positive mindset thing a try :)
Kristy from Southern In Law says
YESS! I love this post so much because all of your lessons are so true! Especially labelling rest days/recovery etc – it’s like we feel inadequate and have to make it a “thing” when that’s so far from the truth! We’re doing what’s right for our body!
Last year I dealt with ongoing IT band issues (little did I know it was orthotics that I “had” to have that were actually killing my legs!) and took so much time off and it drove me mad – until I realised that I just needed to do what was right for my body and it would pass! It wasn’t the end of the world to not be able to walk/run/ride etc.
Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recent Things: Embarrassing Selfies, Spring Goodness and Recovery
Thank you, Kristy! It’s comforting to know that other people go through these things too. Our bodies just need a little extra TLC sometimes!
Yeahhh…. so… this post is flawless.
An amazing read and I agree with your points 100%. As a runner and someone who is taking time off from all exercise completely (besides some walking/hatha yoga) this post just has impeccable timing and gave me “all the feels”. Thank you.
<3 <3 <3
Hi Jessica! I’m glad it resonated with you, although I’m sorry you have to take time off too. Please reach out if you need to vent. Trust me, I understand!
I think taking time off of something you love can be challenging, yet can also teach you so much about yourself. I am glad that it has done the same for you! I can already see that you have gotten so much stronger mentally :) (even though you already were! <3 ) Have a great weekend Emily!
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Thank you so much, Alyssa. I really appreciate your support :)
Claire @ My Pink & Green Life says
“Rest days don’t need labels.” YES. We don’t need to justify them–we just need to listen to our bodies and let them decide when they need time off. We can’t control those things and there is absolutely no shame in it at all. It’s just life!
Unfortunately my running phase coincided with my bad-relationship-with-food phase, so I had to stop for those health reasons. I run sometimes, but I haven’t seriously gone back to it yet because I don’t want to dread it like I used to–I want to be able to enjoy it! And I still don’t feel like I can do that quite yet. But, you’re right: it will always be there when I come back! :)
Claire @ My Pink & Green Life recently posted…Kona Farmers Market & Exploring the City
On the flip side, I feel like so many people brag about taking rest days like they are badges of honor. Nope. They are needed! We get stronger when we rest.
OMG i missed a few posts. you got glutened from a place you trusted (so sorry). you had to drop out of marathon (again sorry to hear) and you are not running at all now. WOW. you seem in a good place though. i needed to read this. ive been not running since aug 8. feels like forever i know its not. after pushing through some “soreness” and “mild pain” i discovered i have high hamstring tendeopathy. fancy name for way up in there in the deep in the @ss where the sit bone is tendonitis/inflamation of the place where all the hamstrings attach. it was bad and took sitting at my desk at work with shooting pain running down my leg for me to think uh…no pushing through this pain. to be fair to me my boyfriend is an athletic trainer and sorta meh’ed my pain/injury and i trusted him. uh not again ! he’s sorry…blah blah. well i totally feel like everyone else is running. i think i sorta avoided your blog a little cuz i was thinking eh i will go on there and she will be having great long runs, etc. i am certainly not happy at all that you are sidelined but glad you wrote this post for me to read. last week i was allowed to do a session on the eliptical. big f ing deal…the eliptical ??? and it went well. yesterday and today were whopping 2 in a row eliptical sessions (we are talking like 20-25 mins here) and im sititng at my desk eating lunch thinking im a little bit sore in that hamstring and feeling a little defeated. i have a lot of the fears you talk about (ballooning up, how can i reduce my stress when i cant run, etc). you raise a good point of getting a hobby other than running and that a person is more than a “runner”. thank you for your post and good luck on getting better. #NOTrunning
Tara, I’m so sorry to hear about your hamstring. That sounds incredibly painful. I understand the avoiding blogs thing, so don’t feel bad (I did the same at first for a few other blogs). I’m right here with you on the road to recovery.
Akansha Agrawal says
What valuable lessons! This post is actually very helpful as I am going through something similar. This is my first time dealing with a running-related injury so I was freaking out a tad bit early on!