(Remember to consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine.)
There will come days in your training when your legs feel like they’re wading through sand, like you slept for a total of 5 minutes the night before, or like you’re dragging behind you your first car-- that old junker your parents bought you in high school.
It’s a day that every runner experiences: When 1 mile feels like 10 and the route you effortlessly ran 3 days ago seems infinitely longer. So what do you do when you have that,
I’m-pulling-my-1978-yellow-station-wagon,-with-the-muffler-that-dragged-and-the-rear-window-that-never-fully-shut,-behind-me-on-this-run, feeling? Push through it?
Here’s a few hints to help you know when to push through, and when to take a break.
That exhausted feeling in your legs and body can be a sign of several things, including over-training, stress, or the start of an illness. Just because you are in training doesn’t mean you can out-run the common cold. If you are doing the full 10 weeks of training, there is a long time between the start and finish of the program to get sick. Rather than pumping yourself full of vitamins and heading out for a run anyway, it might be a better option to consider taking a day off. Would you rather be sick for 2 days or out for a week? All that energy you use exercising could be used to fight whatever bug you’ve contracted from your kindergartener. Your body needs rest and a little TLC. Go ahead, make a cup of chicken noodle and snuggle up with your puppy—you’ll be back on your feet faster than if you tried to tough it out through the sniffles.
While on the subject of taking days off, it’s important to know what your legs and the rest of your body is feeling, and when it’s more serious than a general achiness. There is a key difference between being sore and being in pain or injured.
Being sore, your body says, “Ouch! This is annoying. My muscles feel like someone poured hot sauce on them, and I can’t touch my toes today.”
Being in pain and injured, your body says, “AHHH! Don’t step like that! Why? WHY?!”
Many times, when it’s a serious injury, the pain will feel much sharper. Sore muscles are usually a duller ache that lingers 1 to 2 days after a hard run or workout. If you’re ever questioning whether you should run through the pain, it’s probably better to take the day off and make an appointment to see your doctor who can properly determine what the feeling means.
That being said, being sore should not be a steadfast excuse for not exercising that day. In fact, if you find your muscles a little sore, congratulations, you’re doing it right! You’re pushing your body a little more than it’s used to, and for the first few weeks, that little bit of soreness may hang around. As you progress, you should find yourself sore less and less. To help this process, be sure to stretch when you’re done exercising.
As for the days you’re dragging that station wagon, don’t dwell on them. Know that these days are going to happen, and give yourself a break for quitting a little early on your run. If you’re sticking to a schedule, make sure to understand that it is not a tyrant; it’s only a guide. Your little break may help you to feel refreshed for the next day of running, when you’ll be back and better than ever.
Take a day off when you need one and your body will thank you for it later.
Good luck, and see you June 21 at Lite Up the Nite!
Look for the next blog post April 13 when I discuss mental health and stigma.
Have a story you want to share about how mental health or exercise has affected your life? Consider sharing it on this blog! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story!