Erin Larson writes about finding balance in our everyday lives at KaleandHops.com. In this post she shares why sometimes it’s OK not to run.
It’s OK not to run. This seems like a strange post to publish on a running blog, but it’s taken me a long time to figure this out and I need to share. I have run fairly consistently for the last 15 to 20 years, taking a year or so off with each of my three pregnancies. Granted, I’m a casual runner. I usually average 3 to 5 miles, three or so days a week if I’m lucky. I have never had the desire to run competitively, or to conquer long distances. Rather, running has been my escape: an escape from the constant care of three young children, an escape from my lifelong battle with body dysmorphia, an escape into the outdoors to solve my everyday problems. As much as I love running, however, running doesn’t necessarily love me. I am extremely injury prone. I have had running related injuries in almost every part of my lower body: hips, glutes, IT band, psoas, illiopsoas, feet etc. You name it, I’ve had an injury there. Yet, I have always persevered. Why? Because, frankly, I was always convinced that running was my only recourse to maintaining a healthy body weight and staying active. Not to mention, I really do love the feeling of finishing a run…the high, the sweat, the accomplishment.
Then, this past spring, I fractured my right foot. By far the worst injury I’ve had yet. And, at the time, I was on the best running streak of my life. I had conquered a 10-mile race (something I never thought I could do) and was running at least 5 days (~20 miles) a week for over 6 months. I was in great shape, and at the age of 40, was feeling amazing! But, truth be told, I was becoming a bit obsessed. The idea of missing a run put me in a panic, so the 6-week setback due to my fracture nearly killed me psychologically. I think this was my breaking point. I knew my relationship with running wasn’t healthy, either physically or mentally. As a self-described spiritual person and regular practitioner of yoga, I kind of pride myself on self-reflection. My mirror was saying something needed to change.
I got out of shape pretty quickly (or so it seemed to me) given that I couldn’t bear any weight on my foot. That meant no running, no walking really, and no yoga. Ask my husband and kids, I was NOT fun to be around. During that time, I turned my back on running. It became my nemesis, the source of all my woes. Even after I could start lightly jogging again, it never really felt comfortable. I was always afraid of something catastrophic happening that would put me out again, making each ache and pain that much more intense. So, I’ve started doing other things. I’ve rediscovered my love for hiking by exploring the trails around our new neighborhood (we recently moved) and through a weekly hiking excursion with good friends. I have always been most comfortable in the woods and this has been like coming home! I’ve also started walking more in general. I’ve started biking more and have even taken a few intense barre classes led by a fellow yoga friend. As we in New England say, it’s been wicked fun! I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of activity. I’m not completely giving up on running either. I still average maybe one run a week, though it sure isn’t easy.
As I get older, my goals have changed. I am becoming less and less concerned about body image and more concerned about staying active and healthy. If I am so blessed as to reach my sixties and beyond, I want my body to be able to do all the things I love to do. I want to be able to travel and hike and get on the floor to play with my grandkids. I want to be able to move my body without pain. And, I believe the way to accomplish this is to keep moving now, anyway I can. This does not necessarily mean running. And, in fact, maybe for my body, running a lot isn’t the best thing for me. Now, I know myself, and I’m fairly certain that I will continue to run in some capacity for years to come, but it will no longer consume me. It is not the be-all and end-all to fitness.
I highly recommend switching things up a bit if all you do is run. I have a runner friend who just recently starting taking my yoga class on her doctor’s recommendation to cross train and stave off injury and burn out. And, much to her surprise, she really likes it. With the cold weather creeping in on us, this may be a perfect time shake up your routine. I really think you’ll be happy you did.
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