I have taken a break from mileage before, but that was not really my choice at the time. I was put on exercise restriction and only allowed to run one mile, and even better, zero mileage for months. About half a year ago I was given back the privilege to start working out and it has slowly been worked up. I have been able to run again, lift weights, and have almost the same amount of freedom I used to when it came to exercise.
A couple of months went by and running never felt better. I ran long distance again for the first time in over a year, I started lifting weights again, and I was content. But the most important thing was the fact that I was not working out to lose wight or change my body to be more happy with my appearance, I was doing it because I wanted to.
After the first couple months of running again, that’s when I began to have issues. My body felt weird, my stomach was having a harder time than usual (and it’s always having a hard time), and I felt very off. I was constantly tired, the second I ate I felt full and became bloated, and my whole body ached. The runs that I went on after this began to take place were some of the worst I have ever had and it sucked. I could barely run, and I was discouraged because it was not like me at all. Running is something that comes natural to me, something I dint have to think about, but when I started to feel this way on a daily basis it became something I could barely do without stopping within the first half mile. Totally unlike me.
I pushed through for a while, but it wasn’t getting better. I finally learned that I had an intolerance to dairy and gluten. Currently, I have cut both food groups out of my life for about a month now and the difference is amazing. I feel so much better. but my body is still recovering from the havoc those allergies have caused. Every once in a while I’ll still feel an abnormal amount of fatigue or my stomach will be extra sensitive. My body did not like me for a while to say the least. I also acquired tendentious in my wrist from the allergic reaction affecting my body. It was rough, and the healing process has been a long one, but I’m just glad I’m on the road to healing.
Around the same time that all of this was being discovered I also got shin splints. Me being me, a stubborn-push-through-the-pain type of person I didn’t really slow down too much. Not smart people, not smart. I mainly just hoped they would go away, especially since I have had shin splints once before and they went away fairly quickly. Lets just say I was a little too optimistic. I kept running on them, even when it really hurt. I didn’t rest when I know I could have. I didn’t want to because around this same time I was frustrated with the fact that running had been hard, I didn’t feel good, and something else was wrong with me. You feel me? That can be frustrating.
One night after work I went to the gym. I fought myself the whole day because deep down I knew it would not be smart to keep running and making the shin splints worse. But what did I do? I told myself to only run half a mile no matter how badly they hurt. And what did I do? I ran a three-quarters of a mile because I told myself to push through. When I reached that distance I snapped out of it. I asked myself what am I really hoping to accomplish? What am I trying to control?
That’s where I stopped. I knew I wasn’t running on my injured shins because I wanted to. I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to prove that I could (okay maybe a little). But I mean seriously, if your shins are hurting with every step and throbbing with a pulse deep in your legs then why was I still running? Good question.
So I got off the treadmill, which was the hardest part for me. To deny myself of something that I wanted to control.
I walked over to a nearby stationary bike and began peddling and thinking. I came to the conclusion that I was forcing myself to run on my injury because I wasn’t comfortable with not running. I didn’t understand it at first because I went two whole months without running more than a couple of times a month, so why was it so hard for me to take a little break? I realized that I was afraid of losing something that mattered so much to me again, but at the same time I was taking it away from myself by making the injury worse. On top of that, anorexia was definitely a big factor in the equation too. With body image issues, my mind still tries to convince me that working out will help, and during this time those thoughts were pretty harsh. I wanted to be able to control something, to manipulate my body in a way that probably isn’t healthy, and to prove that I can still do just that.
But two weeks ago I told myself that I was not going to run for a week in order for my shins to heal, but also to give my body a break. The first few days were torture. Body image was awful which made not running even harder. After about the first four days the thoughts began to quiet down and I realized there was a lot of positive aspects of taking a break from running. I began to be able to rationalize with myself, knowing that not running is not going to make me gain weight.
A couple of days ago marked two weeks without running, and I went on my first run today. It was a short one, only one mile, but it was good for me. My shins didn’t hurt, I felt lighter on my feet, and my body did not feel as heavy.
I learned a lot over these couple of weeks, and I am glad I took the time to allow my body to rest and heal. I know that I still have a long ways to go until my body is completely healed from anorexia, food intolerance, and stress but I am getting there and that’s what is most important. But throughout these past two weeks I learned three important things.
One: It’s okay to take a break. You won’t get fat, lose muscle, gain weight, blow up overnight, not fit into the jeans you wore yesterday, or any other crap that my eating disorder tries to tell me.
Two: Sometimes taking break from doing something that you love allows you to recognize why and how much you love it. Just like you have to step back to see the whole picture, I took a step back from a passion that has almost killed me and saved me. This two-week break made me appreciate the fact that I have legs, lungs, and feet. It made me thankful for the fact that I am no longer in a place of my life that running is a health hazard for me. I am thankful that I am not as in shape as I used to be because I have recognized that I need to learn to be okay with that. That’s hard to admit.
Three: Running doest define me. I have always taken pride in the fact that I have a passion for running and that it is something that comes easy to me. Over the years I have been defined by sports, basically all my life. At school I was the girl who played soccer, and even if I meet someone who knew me from school, it was always because of my soccer reputation. Sometimes its hard to be recognized for something you do, rather than who you are. A lot of the time I get caught up in what I do, thinking that I should always be running because I have to live up to my past successes, but that’s never true. I don’t have to run to be worthy, I just have to be me. That being said this break has allowed me to work on me, for me.
To be honest, I am in no rush to increase mileage too high for at least a couple more weeks. Exercise has been put on the back burner for a couple of weeks because school and work have been taking up much of my time, but I hope to continue to find balance. Hopefully my shins continue to feel good, but overall I think this break was good for me. I needed it not only physically, but mentally also.
Sometimes you have to do things you thought you couldn’t to prove to your mind that it does not need to freak out about something you don’t need to control. Trust your body, eat good food, and love yourself. But most importantly, love yourself.