how to survive a crappy pre- season

Have you been extra sick this season? Perhaps you got an over-use injury on the outside of your foot because you ran a half marathon you barely trained for. How about a hip injury from gaining so much weight the last three years that your joints just can’t handle it?

All three? Oh wait. That’s me.

Even if you’ve only been hit with a cold, mild injury, or just about anything that has sidelined you temporarily, you are bound to lose some fitness and the climb back to where you were before the pile of crap that is your life happened might not be easy.

I’ve had hard comebacks before, but this season has tested not only my mental toughness but made me question if my body was even capable of mild athleticism anymore. There were tantrums. It tortured me and really broke my spirit. Who would I be if I weren’t an athlete? I’ve lost that part of myself for brief stretches of time before but forever?

And then, after nearly 8 weeks of trudging through miles barely faster than a slow walk and taking more rest days than I was comfortable with because everything hurt and I wanted to cry, I started having small break-thrus.

A sub 12-minute mile.

A run over 3 miles that didn’t have me wincing in pain the entire time.

A sub 11-minute mile. And then a sub 10. Hooray!

I’m nowhere near being “back” but for the first time in what seems like too long I feel like I am making progress, and that feels amazing.

Having the will to keep showing up to your workouts despite everything going wrong is not easy, and If you are having a lousy time like me, here’s some advice from the trenches:

  1. Keep a workout journal and write everything down- Even if your workout was complete shit and you hate your life. Sometimes you don’t even know you are making progress. Journaling forces you to be mindful- which I need, because my brain environment is all anxiety and chaos.
  2. Pay attention to your heart rate if you have a fitness watch. (I have a Garmin Vivoactive 3). Not all miles are created equal, and even though your body isn’t cooperating, your lungs could be making strides. More small changes to pay attention to.
  3. Make a running/ fitness Instagram account and DO NOT LINK IT TO YOUR NORMAL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. Your non-running friends really don’t want to hear about your training (sorry) and that’s not very motivating. Use it to make friends with other runners. You’ll be surprised to learn you are not alone and many are on very similar (sometimes crappy) journeys. The running community is supportive and inclusive.
  4. Retail therapy! I shouldn’t be promoting my poor spending habits, but having really awesome gear, including compression stuff and foam rollers for recovery really helps. And cute running clothes OBVIOUSLY. Wanna wear that new outfit? Gotta go run first, lady (or dude). I love it all- Oiselle, Lululemon, UnderArmour, Brooks, New Balance, Lole, Athleta, Tracksmith, Just Strong.
  5. Cross train when you can’t run Don’t completely abandon ship and dive into that pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey if you have a bad day. Spin, strength train, whatever. (And then, ice cream. Life is about balance.)

I know it sucks. It sucks hard. Losing fitness is frustrating and when you are at the ripe old age of 36 like me your metabolism looks at any time off you are taking as a one-way ticket to fat pants. Then try one of your old workouts with a 10lb weight on each hip… doesn’t really work so well.

But whether you have big PR goals or running just keeps you sane, don’t let it get the best of you. Sometimes the sweetest days are simply the ones you worked the hardest for.

marsh-a, marsh-a, marsh-a!

Here’s some solid advice: Maybe don’t start a run streak at the tail end of recovery from a foot injury?

This may seem very obvious and probably common sense to most of you but that  is 100% what I am currently doing on this little run streak adventure I have embarked on.  To be fair, it is probably the mildest injury I have ever had and the sick little voice inside of my head is even saying something half-inspirational like, “pain is weakness leaving the body!” when it should really be saying, “you’re an idiot!”

My runs this week have started out exactly how you would imagine- slow pain in the beginning of each jaunt, conjuring up a myriad of mixed emotions with most leaning on the side of self-doubt and a mild desire to quit. But I have pushed through each time and within a mile or two of my mostly short runs the pain subsides. This, of course, causing the overwhelming urge to double my planned distance or go faster and I thus need to fight against that horrifyingly stubborn current. Ah, the not-so-delicate dance of recovery.

On Sunday I had planned to just do an out and back to the small town beach, a place where I often go when I want to feel like I am standing on the edge of the earth- one of the things on a very short list that I really like about living on an island.  Anyway, I got almost halfway when I noticed that the gates to a nature preserve that- I am not kidding you, every single time I run past this place the gates are closed and I run past them a lot- were open. Well, the universe was obviously sending me an invitation this time, no? I had to go in there. I followed a partially wooded trail until I found a sign marked “Marsh Trail.”

Cool!

And it did not disappoint.

It was again unseasonably warm and the sunlight hitting the reeds coming out of the water on either side of the floating dock paths made me feel as if I was in the Pacific Northwest and not in a tiny conservation area at the southeast edge of over-populated Long Island. There were so many different kinds of birds (I am not going to pretend I knew a single species I saw but whatever I was captivated) and because there were no other humans in sight it was lovely and quiet. So of course, I had to capture these beautiful moments in nature on my phone so I could share this with you, my runner friends. This genius idea led to a video that at exactly 13 seconds into recording whilst running I trip and nearly fall into the marsh I am running through.

Maybe don’t do that either.

I’m great at giving advice.

Here are some snaps from the Seatuck nature preserve. I tried and failed posting the video here but I will post it on Instagram @the_pavement_project! Please note that I am completely over-dressed for a 50 degree morning and I apologize for the giant sunglasses but I am completely blind and they are prescription so Tom Ford has to come with me wherever I go.