Comparison is the thief of joy.
On any given day, I can open up any of my numerous social media feeds and find images and text from runners, ranging from beginner to elite, that have posted about some great run in which they felt fantastic, flawlessly executed a tempo run, or hit a major mileage milestone.
I am inspired by their stories and their images. On some days, when I am struggling to find my own motivation to lace up and hit the road, I rely on these Instagram feeds to fuel my desire to get out there and make it happen.
But what I’ve been noticing lately is more of a comparison that I cannot live up to. In turn, I feel defeated and frustrated when I cannot match what others are doing. And while I know that each of us are on our own individual journeys, my competitive drive and ambition to push myself makes me think that if so-and-so is out there running 10 miles, then I should be too.
Case in point, earlier this week I came up with a new mantra: get your shit together! (GYST for short.) I’ve been frustrated by my inability to get really focused. I’ve got a fall marathon on the calendar and here it is 10 weeks out, and I don’t really even have a training plan organized. I’ve been beating myself up over the fact that I’m not pushing myself on runs and haven’t hit a sub-8:13 minute mile average run in over a month. (I ran the entire Boston Marathon at an 8:08 pace for crying out loud!) Every run lately has been slow, sluggish, and often somewhat painful. (The usual suspects… grumpy glutes, hamstrings, low back… blah, blah, blah.) The GYST mantra was a feeble attempt to force myself out of the funk I’ve been in for the past few months.
And then yesterday morning, while out for what was originally going to be a 13 mile run but was shortened to 10… then 9 miles, I had an epiphany. I don’t need to push myself harder to break through this barrier. I need a break. Like an entire week off of running kind of break.
The though scares me to death. I haven’t taken more than five consecutive days off in more than two-and-a-half years and that was immediately following the Seattle Marathon in December 2013. But what I fear is, if I don’t take a break, either an injury will force me to take major time off or I hit total burnout. I sense I’m on the verge of one or the other so it seems smart to nip it in the bud while I’m calling the shots!
That is not to say that I’m going to be sitting around on my ass for an entire week eating pad Thai and drowning my sorrows with a Netflix marathon. When I began really considering this break yesterday, I realized that this coming week would actually be good timing… I have family coming to stay with us for a few days, my daughter departs for basic training, I will be traveling towards the end of the week and was already planning on doing some serious hiking… it just seems like a natural time to do it. My intention is at least 7 days but if I’m going absolutely crazy after three days off, then I can decide at that point how I wish to proceed.
My plan is to stay active and cross-train throughout the week by walking, hiking, biking, hitting up my yoga mat, etc. There will be mandatory physical activity each day. (Except for today because I totally blew off my run this morning! So rare for me but my body was screaming for a rest day.) Ideally, I’d like to walk at least 60 minutes most days and then add another activity on top of that unless it’s on those hiking days. Also, I thought it would be a good idea to have something to look forward to after my break is over so I’m going to scrounge up a few bucks and buy myself a much-needed new pair of running shoes and perhaps even a new piece or two of running apparel.
I’ve never wanted to give the impression in this space, or anywhere really, that I’m perfect and I always love running and it always loves me. I have my insecurities about my abilities as a runner and about myself as an athlete in general. I’m sharing this here because this blog has always held a space for me to be accountable. Not to you, but to ME. And I know I’m not alone in these struggles so I find solace in knowing that when I do share things with my readers, we connect even deeper. Even the messy, I-can’t-get-my-shit-together sort of stuff.
Determined to find my joy again.
Rest assured that I’ll still be posting throughout the week. In fact, I think it will be healthy for me to do so. This may challenge me more than the hard runs and self-doubt I’ve been experiencing lately but I’m ready to find my joy again and run for the love of running, not because I’m trying to keep up with anyone else. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Have a great weekend!