Mental health

When to skip a workout

Earlier this week, I jotted down notes after an evening run with my pup. It wasn’t a pretty one. Ginny lollygagged, more interested in sniffing mailbox posts than keeping pace at my side. Thus, my pace wasn’t great. Never mind the fact that the GPS on my watch wasn’t working and I missed recording a mile. The wind whipped flags horizontal and forced tears from my eyes. But, I had gotten out there, and I was glad to have done it.

The point: just get out there, because you never regret a run.

This is true. You don’t. Runner’s high is a thing–the only way I get high anymore. 

But some days, that concept is tested. 

The next morning after my mediocre-but-worth-it evening jog, my car’s wipers brushed away fluffy powder from the windshield with ease as I headed to the gym. That’s where I put in an upper-body weight lifting session, then some light cardio. Light, non-treadmill cardio, because I’d planned to join a group for a 3-mile run near my office that evening. Nevermind the forecast of snow-rain mix–I’m going to run tonight! I told myself. My gym bag made it into my car on my way to work. At that point, the fluffy stuff had turned wet, congealing in the streets.

I did my best to ignore the plummeting slush from my office windows until I got a text from my husband at noon.

Are you going on a run tonight? Looks like it’s going to snow all day. 

That’s when the internal debate started. Did I really need to go on this run? 

Finally, around 5, while the sky darkened and the precipitation began to lean toward rain, I balked. 

There’s a good chance I’d have felt great after that jog–a very good chance–but there was also a good chance that skipping an evening jog wouldn’t kill me.

It’s OK to miss a workout.

I haven’t been diagnosed with any obsessive and/or compulsive tendencies (although there’s still time!). But after a lifetime of anxiety and a couple of years of better awareness and reflection on how my anxiety presents, I’ve learned that I can jump into things and go gung-ho to the point of overdoing whatever is the interest du jour. (I’ve also learned that I often let myself lose interest in things, too, and jump to something else to obsess over.) 

If and when I get a running-related injury, it likely won’t be because I’m putting in 100-plus mile weeks. It’s because I have a hard time taking rest days. Forcing myself to just fucking chill is a challenge. And so is forcing myself to skip a dark, three-mile slog in disgusting weather, just because I’d planned on it. 

While I’m glad that I gave myself permission to skip a jog, I’m most proud that I forced myself to ask, “why?” 

Why did I feel compelled to go on a run that evening? Not because a training plan called for it, but because I was feeling obsessive, wound up. 

I’ve got a marathon in sight in late May, plus two half marathons before then. I need to put in work. A three-mile jog in the cold rain that followed a workout earlier in the day simply isn’t necessary. The treadmill tempo run the next morning? Much more necessary. 

Asking “why?” also reminded me that I want to be a runner for as long as possible. Being a runner means that I’ll be doing a lot of running–quite possibly runs during crappy weather. But a lifetime of running doesn’t have to consist of a lot of runs during crappy weather.

“Why? I need to stick to my schedule” or “Why? Because I know that I’ll feel better when I’m done,” iis not “Why? Because I have to!”

Skipping a workout is better than doing it for the wrong reasons–a compulsive one, in my case.

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