This week was a nice, slow return to running and CrossFitting. This is the first time in several years that I have been running without races on the horizon. It definitely means that I’m approaching my running differently, but I’m having a great time so. Initially, I was a little worried about how my relationship with running might change. So far, I am enjoying the process and appreciating what my body can do now.
I didn’t have too much of a plan going into this week. I knew I wanted to run consistently, but was open to adjusting distance and paces over the course of the week. For the most part, I ran in the mornings, and got my CrossFit workouts in during lunch. This is fairly similar to typical training schedule, but with shorter runs in the mornings, I’ve been able to sleep in a little longer. Which I absolutely do not hate. I’ve also noticed that lifting heavy hasn’t felt as taxing or challenging during my workouts. Not surprising considering I’ve dropped my morning runs from 8-13 miles down to 5-7!
On Sunday, my husband and I took our 7 year old out to the greenway to take his rollerskates out for a ride. It’s been nice having more weekend time to do fun stuff with the boys. As much as I love training, back to back long runs have a way of monopolizing your weekend time. I had Monday off work, and as much as I loved this three day weekend, it was rough coming back in on Tuesday. This is going to be my last three day weekend for a good while. Bittersweet.
Most of the rest of the week was fairly standard with work, a little running, and some CrossFit. I did finally decide to cut my hair, which is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve held off since long braids are so convenient on long runs, but with shorter training runs I went for it. So far I’m loving it! Though I’m sure I’ll be missing it in a few months.
Running Without Races
I know so many of my clients (current and previous) have voiced their frustrations with races coming to a grinding halt over the past year. When my last BQ attempt A-race was cancelled, I also had a LOT of feelings about it. And at that point, I think most of us assumed that this would be a brief moment in running history. At the time, we probably looked ahead to races later in the year, or beyond. A full 12 months later, with very few road races in sight, I know a lot of runners are struggling with their relationship with running without races.
It is, after all, somewhat easier to justify getting up before the road construction crews and heading out into the dark morning in the dead of winter (unless you live in Texas, we don’t have a head of winter down here) when you have a finish line in mind. So what happens when there aren’t races on the calendar? This was something I had a lot of nervousness about when I decided that I wasn’t going to plan out a spring/summer racing calendar this year. I knew my body needed a break from the stress, and my mind needed a reprieve from the pressure, but what does running really look like in the absence of a training plan?
Well, it turns out, it can be an incredibly freeing place. It can also be a time where the motivation to set the coffee timer for pre-5am brew times wanes. But even if you are in a time where racing isn’t feasible, or isn’t the best option for you, running has so many benefits. So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water (don’t throw babies, period), and ditch the running habit along with the race registrations.
Why Run Without Races?
It seems like a trivial question, sometimes. There’s so many obvious benefits to running. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, running is generally a low cost sport (especially when you’re paying to race), and it doesn’t take a whole lot of natural talent to alternate your feet. Running obviously has a ton of health benefits, and can improve sleep and mood. But there’s more reasons to keep running even races aren’t on the horizon.
Continuing to train without training for a specific race really strips the act of running down to your most fundamental reasons to run in the first place. Because while racing is intoxicatingly fun, most runners develop a relationship with running that goes much deeper than medals and expo’s over time. For me, running is the thing that helped me learn that I can endure. I can endure hard seasons, I can outlast uncomfortable situations, and there is almost nothing that can deter me from something I have set my mind to. Over the years, I’ve recognized that stubbornness as one of my greatest strengths.
Running is also the thing I do for only me. Sure, I’m a much better mom, wife, and human in general when I’m running consistently. But I don’t run because I want to scare people at work less. I run because I like who I am a lot better when I’m running. I enjoy my own inner monologue a lot more when it isn’t filled with the worst case scenario’s that I mentally work out on miles 2-5. I’m a happier person when I’m running. And running without the motivation of a race time helped me remember all those things.
Running means a lot of things to a lot of people. And it can change over time. But it’s so easy to forget what running adds to your life when there’s a race to focus on. That doesn’t mean racing takes the joy out of running, or pollutes your relationship with the sport. It just means that from time to time, it’s useful to remember that even without races, running has importance and meaning.
How to Stay Motivated
So you’ve accepted that racing might not be in cards for a while, and you’ve reconnected with your reason to run anyways. But how do you keep abandoning the comfort of the pillow without the gentle encouragement of the fear of bonking at your race? Well, here’s a few recommendations.
- Focus on Consistency – Instead of focusing on goal times and weeks until race day, focus on consistency. Running isn’t just an activity, it’s a relationship you have with a sport. And relationships can’t continue to exist unless you are consistent in making them a priority. Lean into the habits you’ve built during training cycles. And yes, without races you can enjoy a bit more flexibility in how you train, but don’t be flexible on showing up for yourself.
- Appreciate a Break From Pressure – It’s easy to allow pressure to become a motivator, but sometimes appreciation can be equally motivating. Appreciating running for the pure joy of movement, without the pressure of following a strict training schedule can be a really nice break from time to time. Enjoying fartlek workouts, feeling like you have more freedom to adjust your schedule to accommodate other activities, and taking a break from speed workouts can help you focus on the fun.
- Run with Others – When you’re training for a race, sometimes it can be difficult to run with others. Especially if they aren’t training the same way you are. But when you don’t have a strict schedule to follow, it’s a lot easier to run with running buddies. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to be able to relax, catch up, and just go with the flow of running with another person. It’s certainly not impossible to run with others when you’re training for a race, but having a few running buddies to meet up can help keep you motivated when the calendar is wide open.
- Keep It Interesting – Running is repetitive. Races can help make it more exciting. But races aren’t the only way to keep running interesting. There are so many ways to shift training to help stave off boredom. Run in new location (getting lost is VERY exciting), spend more time on a new surface (trails vs. roads), or join a running group. If you want to keep pushing hard, but if you’re not comfortable with racing right now, look for other ways to challenge yourself. Sign up for group challenges, create a mileage or time goal for the month, or consider one of those crazy ultra challenges (like the Yeti 5 x 4 x 24, or the 4 x 4 x 48). Check out Relentless Forward Commotion for tips on tackling these challenges.
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 26
Total Workouts: 4
How the Run Felt
This week felt great. My runs felt easy and unpressured. Since I’m trying to just keep running convenient, I decided to stay on the roads and greenway near my house during the week. I met up with a running friend Saturday morning for some trail miles. It was so nice to feel some dirt under my feet, and I’m thinking that weekends on the trails might be something I keep up with for a while. I thought I might run 10ish miles on Saturday, but called it at 8 for no real reason. I was getting hungry, and I didn’t see much difference between 8 and 10 in all honesty. It’s been nice having more flexibility and a little less structure.
How the WODs Felt
The lifting wasn’t too intense this week, and for the most part the workouts felt ok. I will say that the high intense cardio workout on Tuesday was probably the most challenging for me. I think my body still wants to keep my heart rate manageable to keep my cortisol low. I know I could have pushed the pace and gotten through the workout faster, but I’m not ready to push anything at this point.
What I’ve Been Listening To
I finally finished Relative Unknown, and it kept me hooked until the very end. The story is powerful, unpredictable, unique, and so honest. I started a new series called Norco 80, which is focused on a bank robbery that took place in 1980. Initially, I didn’t think it would be too exciting, but it involves doomsday preppers, police force, and a lot of really interesting history. I also loved the interview with the Bandera 100k winner Katie Asmuth on the Run Hard, Mom Hard podcast.
What Went Well
I’ve been able to keep running consistently, but with a whole lot more flexibility.
What Went Shitty
The weather this week has been far from ideal, with most mornings being disgustingly foggy and nor particularly enjoyable.
Plans to Improve Next Week
My plan next week to keep staying consistent and flexible, and work in a little more consistency with my core workouts.