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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Take Breaks

It's hard to know when you're getting good advice.

Everyone likes to be the person who knows about things. When we learn a new fun fact, we want to share that with everyone else, and we're disappointed when someone already knows it. It's the, "have you heard" phenomenon.

When it comes to running, there are a whole lot of people who believe that they know best. You can spend (and I have) hours on the internet sifting through the avalanche of studies, lists of tips and pages upon pages of images depicting the "proper" form. Heck, I referenced one of those studies yesterday, and just by writing this blog, I am adding my voice to the growing cacophony. Where I differ from much of the noise, however, is that I don't believe there is one answer for everyone.

I know what has worked for me, and those are the things I try to pass on to others. When someone says that they have knee trouble, I talk to them about landing on the middle of their foot. If someone has hip pain, I'm happy to offer them stretches. Always, though, I try to say something to the effect of, "At least, that's what works for me." It may be different for you.

There is one piece of advice, though, that I believe is universally helpful for everyone, running or not.

Take breaks when you need them.

Day 6 of 30 Days of Yoga is an ab workout, and was the first day where I found several instances of my body refusing to go further. That was okay, though, because the video started with the instruction to take breaks when you need them, which gave me permission. Good, because it was going to happen one way or another, whether I chose it or not.

In the run itself, it's a bit trickier, but I believe that it's still valid advice, so long as you hold to the second part: when you need them.

For a while, my personal running mantra was, "Do not give yourself permission to be weak." It meant running through pain, through exhaustion, and through any of a dozen other warning signs that I was pushing my body too hard. On more than one occasion, I've convinced myself that I need to run every day or I'll get out of the habit. That somehow rest days are hurting me more than the excessive workouts I was doing. I tend to be an all-or-nothing personality, and it's injured me more times than I can count.

So I'm learning (sometimes over and over again) to take my breaks, when I've planned them. I run five days a week, and yesterday was the first rest day where I woke up, did my yoga and really wished I could go for a run. But I didn't. I stuck to my plan, took a nice leisurely shower, and made eggs.

It paid off today. I did a 6+ miler in pretty stiff wind and felt great the whole time. Personally, I don't like to take breaks during my runs, as I have found in the past that it encourages bad behaviors down the road. This is not to say it can't work for someone else. The Jeff Galloway Run Walk Run method is a great way for people to work up to running longer distances, because it's planned. It's not simply running until you're too tired to run and then walking for a while. It's structured and careful, which is what makes it work. I know that I can run the mileage I'm going for right now without walking. My body is prepared, so taking breaks during the run is neither necessary nor helpful for me.

My rest days, on the other hand, are golden. It gives everything in my body time to recover and reset. And if I'm lucky, I find myself excited to run, wishing I could do more mileage that day, but knowing that the smartest thing is to wait until tomorrow. Everyone needs to take breaks.

Just take it from me.

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