I was excited, happy, and carefree, seated by our gate at JFK. We’d board our plane to Portugal in less than 20 minutes. Suddenly, I have the ultimate Kate McCallister moment. But worse. I hadn’t abandoned a child. I had forgotten to pack my running shoes. With our takeoff imminent, I settled into melancholic acceptance rather quickly; I knew there was nothing I could do. The fact that we would be walking several miles everyday up and down hills was of little consolation; I’ve never let myself count sightseeing or errands as exercise.
The everything happens for a reason approach to life is one that I adhere to with gusto; I have so much evidence of things working out better after they didn’t follow my neurotic plan. Trying to comfort me, my husband rubbed my shoulders and offered, “Maybe you need some rest.” After all, I had just finished 12 weeks of training and scooped up a PR at the Brooklyn Half. “Yeah, yeah,” I answered, as I tried to agree with his point and shut up the voice in my head whispering sure you can rest, but not for ten days.
The trip ended up being amazing (will be posting about it shortly), but for now I wanted to leave you with a few things I learned from not running for 10 WHOLE DAYS:
- I didn’t die. This time did make me wonder though how people go through life without exercising. There are at least 3-4 petty squabbles with my husband I avoid on most days because I get out there and move my body and relieve stress. No way I (or we!) could go without it on the regular.
- I didn’t lose all my fitness. We got back on Saturday evening and Sunday morning I went out and ran a pretty easy 8 1/2 miles. I work really hard and use running, strength training, and yoga to keep up my fitness–I totally discredit all that work when I think it will be trashed in just a few days. This was a good reminder of how strong and resilient my body really is.
- Ed still hangs around, his voice is still there. Ed is my eating disorder. Years ago, when things were really bad, he used to shout at me–his voice was always the loudest. Now, most days, I barely hear him at all. That took a long time. I NEVER act on my eating disorder anymore but a lot of thoughts still come up; they get louder when I haven’t exercised and have eaten pastry for breakfast several days in a row. He mostly says things like: Your arms are loose, or, your butt is juggling. So yes, still work to do. The exciting thing to recognize though was that Ed’s voice stops there. It no longer continues with: Stop eating, or, let’s count how many calories we can burn on this hill, or, you still have time to get rid of that croissant you just ate. Progress, not perfection.
- I want/need to work on letting go. My husband did remember to bring his running shoes, but as soon as I forgot mine he was willing to just take it easy during the trip. At one point I found myself using twisted language to suggest we go for a “walk”, one where I might wear his running shoes (yes I am a bigfoot, we wear the same size!). Finally he called my bullshit and just said, “It’s fine, if you want to go for a run, go for a run.” I almost grabbed his sneakers and flew out the door; I was ready to let my neurosis lead me. Instead I stopped. Sure, running would have felt good, but having to act on my every impulse is not a characteristic I appreciate in myself. We were in an amazing city that not everyone will get to see in their lifetime and I realized that I was missing it. We weren’t in New York where everyone wakes up and runs out the door into hustle and bustle. We were in Portugal where people take their time and sip and relax and maybe even lay in bed for a few minutes in the morning and talk to their spouse. I’m starting to understand that if I really want to experience the array of what life has to offer, I am going to have to let go sometimes and make room for things that don’t fit on a schedule.
- Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it takes a minute for this mantra to come to fruition. I came back from Europe pretty exhausted; going there is awesome but I would never call it restful. I couldn’t really see how the time off had benefitted my body. That is until I went to yoga this morning. My right hamstring has been super tight for a while. The type of tight where I am just very conscious of it all the time and very careful with it. While I was training for the half marathon, I made sure to do exercises to strengthen it, I iced it, and I was careful keep it as flexible as I could without over-stretching it. All of the sudden in class this morning, when it got to the first pose that really challenges the hamstrings, I was shocked. Instead of feeling like a tight rubber band that I had to keep from snapping, my muscles felt pliable and strong. As I bent forward and easily grabbed the back of my feet I thought, “Wow, maybe I did need 10 days rest.” I had thought of the issue with my hamstring as something I would just continuously have to work through and work on; I would make it better with lifting and stretching. Somehow I never considered that the most effective treatment might be laying off of it! And that’s true to character–resting or not doing is never my instinct. I’m learning as I move forward into more intense training that maybe it needs to be. I don’t want to have to injure myself again; I want my body to trust me and know that it won’t have to force me to take a break. Deepening my understanding of my body and building up my relationship with it was definitely worth the ten days!