Shortly after Christmas, I wrote about this very same thing: the importance, and general need for, a break. Because when running becomes a chore—when you think you “need” to rather than truly want to—well then, that becomes problematic. Because most of us run to have fun; sure, the fitness perks we gain through doing so are a great incentive, but we mostly just run because it’s what our bodies and minds crave. A break from the monotony of going to work, picking up the dry cleaning, taking the kids to ballet…and so forth and so on. But what happens when we need a break from what has always been our break in the first place?—an outlet from our outlet? Truthfully, most of us just trudge through yet another lackluster run and begrudgingly admit to ourselves that “it was pretty much no fun at all”, yet hope that it was the last of its kind—that we got it out of our system—and it is simply a part of the process (all the while hoping that our very next run will find us as smiling, happy people once again). Sometimes we’re that lucky, but very we are not. Because sometimes we really do need to take some time off. Cross train. Read a good book. Start—and finish—the Lord of the Rings movies, because you’ve “been meaning to do so for years now”. Pretty much anything that reinvigorates you, because if we don’t get our minds and bodies right now, before the scorching summer months are in full effect, they’ll do nothing more than prolong the “I’d really rather not” process.
I’d venture a guess that nearly 75% of the runners I know (myself included) are burned out, from the “I’ve run every day for 7 straight years” guy to the “I’ll occasionally run twice a week, but generally only when chased” gals I know. Of that 75%, each and every one of us has the same thing in common (besides the fact that we all run, obviously): we’ve all been too stubborn to stop. We watch our mileage totals plummet—from 50 miles a week, to 35, to 19ish—and think we’ll snap out of it eventually, because “we just have to; it’s all we’ve ever known”. But what are we actively doing to insure that happens? A big, fat, nothing (in most cases). We so dread our runs that we barely allocate enough time to get them in in the first place, and certainly don’t leave enough time to travel to new routes or wait for friends that may or may not be similarly unhappy with their runs. It’s a never-ending cycle that leaves little leeway for progress. So stop. Cold turkey. Maybe for a day, maybe for a week, and maybe even more. However long it takes you to find your love of the run again. Just don’t take too long of a break, because I still need to sell you running gear, after all….
- Chris Ramsey