Monday, March 5, 2012

The Other "Wall"

When I've been overtraining, I often hit "the wall", as many people do. It's a certain point where you step on the treadmill, or get on a bike, or hit the road and within a few minutes, you know it's just not going to work out. Easy things feel laboured and not in a good way. Your body is just screaming at you that it wants to lie down and rest, even if you got hours of sleep the night before. There's nothing you can do at this point. You've hit the wall.

For me, I feel like I've hit the wall on the other side of the room. The inactivity wall. The undertraining wall. It's a strange concept, but I know many people who understand this. For me, my appetite drops a lot. I assume this is due in part to me burning fewer calories and therefore my body craving fewer calories, but it feels like when I eat a meal and don't have a run to send it through the digestive system, everything just kinda hangs out and I feel full all day. I start to feel the backs of my legs go first. The once-tight hamstrings are just a little softer. My glutes get a weird burning feeling if I've been sitting down too long. I get moodier. I get more anxious. I get lazier with everything (schoolwork, cleaning up the house, etc). It's really the wrong wall for me to hit, and I feel like I finally hit it.

Last Friday, I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible dry coughing fit. I had done a few gym sessions that week and I began to worry that I maybe overdid it (even if it was only 3 easy gym sessions). I used that as an excuse to slack for the rest of the weekend. It's obviously not slacking in the normal sense of the word as I did have a legit reason, and lungs are one of those things you don't mess with, but I feel like I'm ready to go. Tonight was the first night where I felt I should've ran, and I didn't.

I'd like to add an excerpt from a post I put on a running forum. In my downtime and being removed from my "2 more seconds til I run a sub-8:00 mile" or "I need that long run on Saturday" mindset, I was contemplating the goals of running. What do I want to get out of running? This is what it led me to:

In my downtime, I've had some time to reflect. I had a massive plan laid out for me to do my half marathon "right" the second time around and I had training days, paces, goals, etc. The half is still a little over two months away and I haven't lost all of my fitness, but I've come to terms with the fact that I probably won't run it in the time I intended to. I was thinking that even training for it, my injury-prone body may not be able to keep up with a spike in mileage now that I've lost that extra month to build up.

What my thoughts eventually led me to was why I even bother to race... why don't I just go for runs for fitness? I'm not fast, but I'm competitive -- generally with myself. I guess that's what drives me to do races. But sometimes that leads me to overtraining, injuries, etc. and, while I love my runs, the "pressure" of beating a PR or a race looming ahead can sometimes take the fun out of running and make it more of a chore than my fitness activity.

I do still plan to run my half marathon in May, but I'm wondering how I should approach the goal of racing. I have my whole life to get better, and I get very caught up in plans. My life revolves around little numbers on a calendar. Some of my best runs were when I was tracking my mileage without any set goals. I felt confident enough in that training "plan" to go out and race. I'm wondering if it would be worth just running for the sake of running, keeping a mileage goal for the week, and maybe increasing it over time, and just letting my legs do the running -- not my mind. Should I focus on one goal that maybe isn't race-related? I would like to hit the 7:00 mile mark and I've found a very good basic outline from Stew Smith - one of the people who got me into running 9 years ago - that doesn't demand a set amount of miles on certain days. It'd be a good plan.

To be honest, I find it very hard to imagine myself doing workouts without some sort of end goal. It's that fine line between keeping running and fitness as your recreational hobby that keeps you active, and a chore. I want to feel okay about it if I decide to skip a workout. I want to feel like there's no pressure to work out all the time, but at the same time, when I do work out, I feel 100x better about myself and that competitive instinct kicks in and I end up in that racing mindset yet again.

I've considered my limitations on mileage for a while now and I know that long distance probably isn't in my future. I do plan to keep my longest runs at 5-7 miles. Do I step on a treadmill every day without a plan and do what I do? Live for that day? Do I live in the past, and count up miles from days before to make sure I hit my mileage for that week? Or do I live in the future and set a goal for the week? Even if the goal is the same (hit 20 mpw every week)/

My legs need to start running so my brain stops.