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The Side Effects Of Taking A Forced Break From Running

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Six months ago, I would never take a voluntary break from running. You really couldn’t pry the shoes off my feet. And I ran myself ragged over the summer—I completely demolished my legs and gut, angry and frustrated that I could barely squeak out a normal-ish run due to the heat and humidity crippling my colitis-ridden insides. So when I could and did muster up a run, it wasn’t an intelligent one.

Related: 10 Moments That Make Female Runners Cringe

Today, I’m actually thanking myself for not freaking out when the doctor ordered three weeks off following a surgery. My legs, brain and heart knew I needed a rest, and strict instructions to NOT EXERCISE seemed like a pretty valid excuse to stop. Of course, there are side effects to everything, whether it’s taking antibiotics for a week to avoid a post-surgery infection or taking a hiatus from sweating. For me, not running—and I mean “real” not running, not “I took a day off, so I’m ‘resting’” not running—came with its own disclaimer of side effects, which includes but is not limited to:

1. Finishing books you started more than six months ago. There is no lifting, yoga, or strenuous activity for three weeks, so I strained my brain by finishing a few novels that collected dust while my running shoes were collecting dirt.

2. Coloring. Yes—with crayons. And colored pencils. Apparently it’s a growing “fad,” but it’s actually quite therapeutic, and I have some very beautiful pink animals to prove it.

3. Lying awake wondering why you’re awake. I literally cannot fall asleep, and I wake up at ungodly hours without an alarm. So I read. Or color.

4. Walking—a lot. Need a coffee? Let’s walk! Want to meet a friend who lives a mile away. Why not walk? Tired of coloring? We need a walk.

5. Hanging out with other human beings. That’s pretty much it.

6. Experiencing some FOMO with the social feeds that you were once a part of. This one’s a little melodramatic, but three weeks of zero seems like an eternity when every other person in your network is posting about their “super epic run.” So, I’m going to spend my free time Googling synonyms for “epic.”

7. Feeling refreshed for the first time…ever. I never felt fully refreshed after my marathon in January, and that’s also played a major role up to this point. While I now realize where my shortcomings were during marathon training, I’m actually pretty damn grateful to get this forced break before Boston training starts.

8. Trying new exercises you’ve always wanted to make a habit but were too lazy to do before. While I can’t lift or do anything too crazy, I CAN do balance exercises. And glute exercises. All day, errday.

9. Having a fresh scent in your room, bathroom, car, living room and general living area again. My shoes still smell rancid, but this is the first time ever that every single piece of running gear is folded, in a drawer, clean.

10. Developing a refreshed, more realistic expectation for your body, and your body alone. While the FOMO is real, the rational side of my brain knows my body’s own truth about what it can and cannot handle. Acknowledging the opportunities I have before me instead of placing expectations on my body will be huge once I lace up again.

(And in case you’re interested, synonyms for various uses include: colossal, enormous, mammoth, mega, monumental, tremendous, outstanding).

Caitlyn Pilkington

Caitlyn Pilkington

Caitlyn Pilkington is the web editor for Women's Running. She started running competitively in 2001 and has completed three marathons and tons of half marathons. Her proudest moment as a runner was crossing the finish line of her first marathon in 3:29, qualifying for the 2016 Boston Marathon.