While the title of this blog may seem dramatic, I think it’s appropriate. For many of us dedicated to the sport, running is an addiction. Going without our daily miles can result in actual withdrawal symptoms, including lethargy, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. If you don’t believe me, read the abstract to this study. Running withdrawal is real!
Unfortunately for us running addicts, it’s pretty hard to maintain a high level of mileage 365 days a year. Most runners I know have to take several breaks from the sport each year, whether due to injury, race recovery, or life circumstances. I just finished a nearly two week stint of no running in order to properly recover from the Eugene Marathon. While this was certainly good for me physically (I would recommend a post-marathon break at least this long to most people), it was a mental challenge to go without the runner’s high. In an effort to stay upbeat, I did a few things that I think might help others facing their own running break:
Enjoy the positive aspects of NOT running. No matter how much we love the sport, there are aspects of running that make life challenging. Personally, I dislike the exhaustion that comes with 5am alarms for my morning runs! So, I take every opportunity to sleep in when I’m on a running break. I also cut back on alcohol when I’m in heavy training (and admittedly, I miss it!), so I make sure to consume beer, wine, and even a cocktail or two during my running breaks (in moderation of course ;)). It’s awesome.
Find other outlets to replace what you miss about running. While it might seem that nothing can bring as much joy or stress-relief as running, it’s helpful to analyze why running feels so great. You actually can find many of the positive aspects of running in other activities. For me, my daily runs are a great way to be in nature, so I like to take my dog for easy hikes as a way to replace that. They are also social time with my friends, so I make sure to get together with them (for dinner, drinks, etc) even if I can’t join the AM group run that week. Backyard ping-pong tournaments with Jesse are a surprisingly good way to meet my need for competition! Finally, while I don’t recommend going too crazy with cross training after a marathon (your body does need a break), some exercise may be better than none for your sanity. For me, biking to work each day (only about 10 miles round trip) was a great way to balance my need for recovery with my dependence on exercise.
Use your extra time wisely. Without running, you might find yourself with 10-20 extra hours a week. This can be an uneasy feeling for people who like structure in their days. I tried to fill my time wisely by getting ahead at work and taking care of more things around the house. I think Jesse enjoyed having more meals cooked for him, and I felt better having accomplished a few more things each day. Your running break can be a win-win for you and those around you ☺.