I ran 5.5 miles today even though it was a planned rest day. The reason I did it is familiar and has been something I’ve practiced for years now since trying to fit running in with my life as a parent. It’s called “RUN AS LONG AS LIFE ALLOWS” (RALALA). And it’s really simple: you go for a run, and run for as long as you can, whenever it’s POSSIBLE. Meaning no one (including you) is crying hysterically, vomiting, bleeding, croupy coughing, has a fever of over 103F, has to leave for work at 5am, or is threatening divorce. Bonus if it’s not raining hard or precipitating in other unpleasant ways. I really can’t regret taking on this mindset because, in the beginning, it was the only way I was able to stick to any sort of routine. I had to be able to SENSE when my little universe could stand to have me gone and when they needed me back. And when it started, it led me to a very sensible plan of about 40 minutes of running 5 days a week.
But things, like they are known to do, changed. My husband felt better about entertaining the kids for a little while in the morning and they gradually got used to not having me around first thing. Still following RALALA though, I started running longer, further, and even with no rest days some weeks. I ran every day with the feeling that it MIGHT BE MY LAST CHANCE because 1. The “strep letter” came home 2. child # 2 has a runny nose 3. husband has unexpected work thing 4. A time machine will take me back 2 years and I’ll be pregnant, nursing, and husband will be clueless.
As a mom, I live with the constant feeling (and reality to some extent) that I am needed and on call 24 hours a day. I am not a math person, but with 3 kids, the chances that I will have to drop everything for someone at any given moment are probably statistically significant, although as they get older I realize the significance fades. In my mind, if I can somehow anticipate these moments when I will NOT be able to run, I can build a solid training plan and “balance” my life out right? No, wrong. It doesn’t work that way. I know from experience that this mentality leaves out a factor KEY to any successful training plan: THE RUNNER HERSELF. Do I need rest? Does my fill-in-the-blank ache more than it did yesterday? Do I WANT to run today? Am I on the verge of a cold/stomach bug/god-knows-what-other-crazy-bug-these-kids-brought-home? I never used to ask myself these questions or even consider that they existed. I made it really simple for myself and yet seriously payed the price with overtraining and nasty tendonitis.
So why, even while knowing that it’s not smart, do I continue to (although to a lesser extent) RALALA? Well, there’s always a seemingly valid, justifiable reason. Going back to this morning. Since the marathon (Monday) I rested Tues and Wed, did an easy 3 miles Thurs, rested Fri, and then Sat, Sun, Mon were 6, 7, 6 at about 8:15 pace. I was tired by the end of my Mon run and definitely felt I needed to rest this morning. So why did I run? Well that’s easy, my husband got sick yesterday! A stomach bug no less! So, in anticipation of our entire house collapsing, I had to RALALA. Stomach bugs have roughly a 36-48 hour incubation period so why take a rest day NOW when everyone is still standing? Better off doing some sort of run today and planning to rest Wed, when I and/or the kids may be sick anyway. And so follows my 5.5 mile run. That’s how it works. And I honestly think that SOMETIMES this is a good idea. But like with any productive practice in life, there is an ever so fine line between smart planning and obsessive/compulsive behavior. I’m still learning when to stop and when to go. I’m still figuring out the signs that I can push it versus when pushing it will hurt. This is hard stuff for me, especially after YEARS of neglecting my own needs as a parent of 3 kids really close in age. If there’s one thing I’ve always been good at, it’s ignoring the signs that I’m about to lose my sh*t in favor of “doing the right thing” or rather “doing the hard thing” (society sort of equates these two, right?)
With Dr. Phil’s famous question in mind “how’s that working for you?” I would have to say that while it sort of worked a long time ago for a while, it just doesn’t anymore. I want to be able to rest when I need rest and take my chances that the universe might tell me I just passed up my last chance to run. Because if I were to actually gather data on the subject, my guess is that even in the beginning, 8/10 times I actually DID get a chance to run and nowadays life is much more flexible. I need to learn to be more flexible now, not schedule exhausted junk miles just in case disaster strikes the next day. I want to be strong as a runner and a person, not tired, sick and scared. So I am now, in writing, officially discarding RALALA
Did any of you (parent or not) ever having this kind of mentality regarding running or working out? Trying to “fit it in” whenever there’s a free moment and not giving enough thought to how your body is handling it?