Monday, March 28, 2011
There was a thread this week on Woofie's ultra list about taking time off. I'm re-posting my post there on this blog. I think it applies to everyone! So here it is:
Speaking of my favorite four letter word...
I love R-E-S-T!!! I always look forward to my time off after I've been training for a while for an event. It gives me a chance not only to rest my body, but my mind too. I feel it helps preserve my enthusiasm about running ultras, which can take so much time out of my life. I've been running ultras for 20 years and if I didn't take periods of time off from running, I wonder if I would have lasted this long.
When I started running 27 years ago, I started like many "born again" runners- with 10Ks, progressing to road marathons. I was quite competitive back then and beat the crap out of my body, didn't eat enough, didn't rest enough, and was injured more of the time than I was healthy. Being in my 20s it was easy to bounce back. If I was trying to do that now, it would likely do a lot more damage. Fortunately I met some ultrarunners 7 years into my running "career" and that changed everything.
As I've gotten "older" (I'm 47, started running ultras as an infant of 27) I have changed my approach and philosophy about running ultras, and my training has evolved with my interest in doing longer events. I've weathered the usual assortment of injuries, mostly occurring BEFORE I started doing ultras, an autoimmune health condition that causes severe fatigue if I overdo it, a couple of career changes including going back to school, and periods of pure mental burnout, where I've said "I'm retiring from ultras after this". Of course that only lasts a few weeks, until the next interesting event I hear about...
I find that what pushes me to burnout seems to be the final 8 or 10 weeks of training leading to my goal event for the year- so I only have one of these big "goal races" per year, everything else is a training run. Seeing my other races as training runs helps me avoid burnout, I can relax my approach and I don't run myself into the ground.
The other factor I see contributing to burnout in many runners is their dependence on running for their social lives. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I love runners and most of my best friends are runners. However it's important to diversify your social circles because it's important to expand your horizons...every so often we need to pull our heads out of our, well, you know... and remember there is a big world out there that doesn't know running, and we live in it, too. It is so refreshing to have a conversation about something other than running, isn't it? I *SOOOO* appreciate my running buddies who can talk about things besides running.
I look forward to staying in this sport as long as I can keep moving forward. The fact that I am moving forward AND looking forward after 20 years in this sport is due to periodic rest.