Hi, my name is Kristen and I am a Type A. I schedule my life to the max, I always have a plan, and your eyes would bug out if you saw the lists I’ve made for my upcoming trip to Ecuador (I printed out the ten-day forecast for both Quito and the Galapagos Islands, where I’ll be most of the time. I’ve turned into my mother).
And so far, this Type A personality has been a perfect fit for marathon training, especially since I’ve been using the “Coach” setting on the Nike+ Running App. The app tells me what to do, I do it, and I feel smug and satisfied when I see the little green bar informing me that I’ve completed my training for the day. I may or may not spend a few minutes in bed every night scrolling through the rest of the training schedule to get an idea of what’s to come. It’s weird that I don’t have a boyfriend, right?
But sometimes, you just have to know when to listen to your body and your brain, instead of that little coach that lives inside my iPhone. That moment happened to me this past week and weekend – on Thursday, I needed to be at work early and I had an event right after work and just couldn’t find a moment in between to fit in a workout, and on Saturday, I eschewed a ten miler in favor of moving (in the rain, nonetheless) and babysitting. So yes, I was still “active,” but it nearly killed me not to mark my run “complete” on the training app.
While the thought of taking a day with no training whatsoever initially horrified me a little bit, I’m still here to tell the tale. And honestly, I’m probably better off than if I had forced myself to do something I wasn’t physically or mentally ready for. Here’s why:
1. I desperately needed sleep. I don’t know about you guys, but when I have something big coming up (like a move), my sleep goes out the window. I sleep fitfully, I wake up around five, and I have problems falling asleep because I’m making mental lists in my head (“don’t forget the water filter is yours! And do I have anything down in that creepy storage closet?”). Considering that I typically require 8-9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested (I know, I’m a teenager), this was a huge problem for me.
When you’re sleep deprived, your ability to perform suffers as well. Runners World notes that while runners can physically run the same distance when sleep deprived, the mental aspect of their performance suffers- meaning that an easy six-miler can feel longer and more difficult than a marathon. A lack of sleep can also compromise your immune system and make you more vulnerable to injury. I’ve read an article (and I’m blanking on where I found it, which I realize is completely unhelpful to you, but just trust me on this) where college coaches talked about the importance of sleep in their athletes, and would even send an athlete home from early morning conditioning if he or she was too tired to work- the coaches recognized that there was no point in training if the athlete wasn’t prepared for it.
If you don’t get your beauty rest for just one night, chances are you’ll be fine to run the next day – after all, lots of runners experience the can’t-sleep jitters the night before a race, and they still go on to perform well. It’s when it becomes a consistent habit that a lack of sleep is a problem.
2. My body was tellin’ me no, but my miiiind, my miiiiiiind was tellin’ me yesssss. Anyone else here an R. Kelly fan? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
My marathon training plan has me running five days a week, which is definitely more than I’m used to. My typical exercise schedule includes a lot more cross-training, but with marathon training, my legs are getting used to running almost every day. I’ve bounced back from my runs pretty quickly, but after I finished my move and my third trip to Bed Bath and Beyond of the day on Saturday, there was just no way that my body would have been able to run ten miles in the post-thunderstorm humidity and make it feel light and easy, the way long runs should be. And that’s just fine. It’s better to take a day off to recover fully than to risk injury.
3. I just wasn’t that into it. I tend to only say yes to things that I’m really into. I’m a pretty busy person, so if I’m just not that into going to an event or hanging out with a person I don’t fully enjoy, I’m not too shy about saying “thanks but no thanks.” With running, though, I feel pretty compelled to say yes to everything. But if I say yes to a run that I’m not looking forward to or that I’m completely dreading, is it really going to help me in the long run (no pun intended)? I’m not talking about the early morning runs where you’d rather sleep for another 20 minutes or the runs you do instead of watching that rerun of Real Housewives for the millionth time- I’m talking about runs where you are truly and honestly not up to the task, and where going on that run would just make me burn out on running a little faster.
One of my favorite stories I’ve heard from marathon training is from my friend Julie, who started her 15-miler long run and after a few miles, just wasn’t feeling it – so she ran home. Guess what? She still finished her marathon. So will I. So will you.
Now, this post isn’t to say that you should blow off training runs whenever you’re a little tired or a little sore or a little dread-y- you’re tougher than that. But recovery days taken when absolutely necessary are just as important as fueling your body with the right nutrition or cross-training strategically. Bounce back the next day with a renewed attitude towards your training, and if you’re up to some light cross-training for an active recovery, even if it’s just taking a long walk or doing some stretching and foam-rolling, jump on it.
And as for me? After an 8:55pm bedtime last night (would have been 8:30pm if my mom hadn’t called me as I was putting on my sleep mask), I woke up at 6:36am with a much better attitude and excited to pack my gear for a run with my Nike training crew after work tonight. You know what? I think I’m going to run to meet them to get a few extra miles in.