Over the last few years since I fell off my ultra-running wagon I’ve had many, many restarts to running. Or at least restarts to moving, whether running or walking. Several activities that were the first activities after long periods of inactivity.
And as I start over again training for another half-marathon in November…I have realized I have learned many things about starting over.
- Walking builds endurance. Some of the times I’ve started running again have actually been after periods of walking and I have found it is much easier to start back running if you’ve at least been walking for a few months. I went straight to running this time and it’s taken me much longer (and it’s been a lot harder) to build up endurance than when I walked for a few months first.
- Don’t look at the clock. It is really hard for my brain to accept that it took me 36 minutes to run a 5K today when I had a sub-25 minute PR a few years ago. I know with my logical brain that it’s just good to be out doing something, but my emotional brain really hates thinking about that kind of “decline” so I try my best to just ignore the time on my activities.
- The first miles are always the hardest. I remember when I was training for long distances and would have a 20-mile long run, I always felt better after the first 3-4 miles. It took me that long to warm-up and settle into a pace. Well, when I ran 3 miles today I felt much better after mile 1. If you have a certain distance you want to do and you feel terrible in the beginning, get past that 25% mark before you let yourself really decide how you feel. Logic tells you that you’ll feel best the first mile and decline from there but the truth is, sometimes you feel better at mile 3 than at mile 1. Or at mile 12 than at mile 3. How you feel does not decline in a consistent linear pattern, it’s more like ebbs and flows.
- Celebrate doing anything. The key for me to keep moving forward in my healthy activities of any sort is to celebrate any milestone. I don’t say, “Ugggg…remember when I used to run 25 miles at a time?” Instead I say, “I JUST RAN 3 MILES WITHOUT STOPPING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MAYBE A YEAR!” I beat myself up about too many things in my life, I’m only going to praise my exercise in any form I do it because deep down inside I’m a person who would much rather be reading a good book while ordering delivery Krispy Kremes.
- Don’t ignore intervals as a permanent option. At first I started doing intervals to get me through my attempt at a 100-miler. Then I started doing them as a way to run in extreme heat. But now I just think that for anything beyond 6 miles, I’ll just always be an interval runner. And I’m becoming okay with that. I’d like to be able to run a 10K without walk breaks but I also like being able to do half-marathons regularly so deciding I’ll be a long-distance interval runner…permanently…is fine with me. Especially considering that’s basically how I always ran trails anyway! Run the flats and downs, but walk the ups! That’s just surface-dictated interval running!
- It’s okay to start over again and again. When I had my first “beginning” after my break I broadcasted it like it was the beginning of becoming a full-time consistent runner again. But then I stopped…again. So the next time I started over I said…”This time! This time it will stick!” But it didn’t. Since then I’ve started and stopped several times and I no longer try to frame it as my last beginning because I’ve accepted that starting over after breaks is an okay thing to just keep happening if that’s how my life dictates my training. There doesn’t have to be a “beginning” that I have to call back to and say, “ON THAT DAY I BECAME A RUNNER FOREVER!” I can just find races I like to do and start training for them when it’s time and the between times can be whatever like dictates they be. NO BIG DEAL.
Anyway. I’m back at it again for a November half-marathon. Here’s to starting over again and never feeling shame for the breaks between.