The Benefits of Not Training
Our guest blogger this month is Lauren, an RRCA certified coach and the mastermind behind Health on the Run. Her running and wellness blog has been a favorite among the sneakered set since 2010. Since then, she and her husband have started a new life (and a new family!) in Southern Vermont. Follow her adventures in running in the Green Mountains.
This blog was originally written in July 2013, but the content is timeless. Enjoy!
Some runners run purely for recreation. A few miles a couple of times a week, just to stay in shape/burn off calories/eat that extra slice (or three!) of pizza on Friday night.
While I can’t argue with the fact that these are great benefits (and I’ve used running to justify splurges more than once), I personally need more out of the sport. Like many of you reading this, I thrive off actively training — the goal setting, the hard work, the endorphins, the races. I complain about it sometimes (of course), but I generally like the structure of a training schedule. It keeps me accountable, keeps me motivated, and helps me feel accomplished. For the past several years, I’ve gone right from one training cycle to the next…hitting a goal, resetting, working towards another. I love the sense of order and consistency it brings to my life.
But that kind of schedule can also lead to burnout. And now that I’m not training (not really), I have to admit that there are some very nice benefits to the time off. Especially when it’s summer in Vermont, and you don’t have to worry about fitting in your long run when there’s all sorts of other fun outdoor adventures to be had.
I still set goals for myself each week. I track my workouts, and come up with a set number of days I want to run and a certain number of miles I want to hit. Of course it’s all sort of arbitrary at this point, but it’s really the only thing that keeps me motivated. And the structure brings a sense of normalcy to an otherwise crazy time.
Sometimes, however, it’s good to put those goals to the side…something that’s a lot easier to do when there’s no race on the line. No one really cares how many miles I run every week except for me, and running isn’t the only form of physical activity (sometimes it’s easy to forget this when I’m in the middle of a training cycle!). In fact, there are other things I like doing just as much.
Like spending the day hiking up a nearby mountain.
It’s so funny to me how I can feel absolutely fine (and like my old self) while running a race, but not while walking at an easy pace…well, not when that walk involves climbing a mountain, anyway. I love hiking, but it’s embarrassing how easily I get out of breath now. And I don’t particularly like the fact that I’m lagging behind Evan the entire way.
But, other than my damaged pride, hiking really is a great workout. And I can’t think of many other ways I’d rather spend a day. If there ever comes a day when I give up running for good, I think I’ll just dedicate my life to hiking mountains all over the country.
On Saturday, we headed to Mt Ascutney, the site of the crazy trail race I ran last fall (but not the same trail). It was a tough, but beautiful hike. About halfway up, we stopped for lunch at the top of a waterfall. Eating sandwiches with our feet hanging off the edge of the “world” and the endless green mountains all around is basically my idea of heaven on earth.
Pictures don’t really do it justice
The day was humid, but not overly hot, which made it perfect for hiking. And although it was a little cloudy at the top, the mountain ranges still seemed to stretch on forever.
Have I mentioned lately just how much I love Vermont?
On our way back home, we happened to drive by an orchard advertising freshly picked berries. So we just had to stop to pick up some strawberries and blueberries, which we devoured within 24 hours (in the form of strawberry shortcake and blueberry pancakes).
The next day we continued our Vermont adventures by running from another waterfall…this time, one that’s a fairly well-known spot for swimming on hot summer days. We drove out there with our towels and ran an easy (hot!) 4 miles out and back from the falls. The sole purpose of the run was to work up enough of a sweat so that the icy cold water would actually feel refreshing.
Turns out, it’s going to take a lot more than a 4-mile run on a hot sunny July day to make that water feel good. It was so cold that going under momentarily took my breath away.
But there’s nothing quite like an ice bath in a Vermont river. I think if I could finish every run at a waterfall/swimming hole, I’d be way more likely to take regular ice baths during training.
And if I can spend every weekend frolicking in the Green Mountains, I’d say life is pretty good. Living in Vermont has its downsides, but weekends like this past one remind me why we chose to live in this state…and how lucky we are to be here, no matter how long it ends up being.
And I have to admit that it makes me pretty happy to not have any sort of long race to train for. There will always be another training cycle. I plan to enjoy this downtime as much as I possibly can.