When I stepped away from running, I thought I would immediately lose respect of others. I thought the running world would no longer look up to me as an “expert”, that I would become a “has been” who no one would ever want advice from.
Why would I want advice from someone who couldn’t even make it the distance? Someone who gave up the sport they claim to so passionately love. They are not the person I want to take advice from.
I have told you many times that I am a HUGE Rocky Balboa fan. I wish the sport of boxing did not exist, as I cannot wrap my brain around purposely hurting another human being with all your might, but that said, I LOVE the Rocky movies, because of what they represent.
If you want something enough, if you believe you deserve it, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to go the distance to get to it, you WILL do it.
It is part of the reason I moved to Philadelphia for two years, and is part of the reason I say Philly still has my heart.
Not only do runners still trust me for my advice, especially my wonderful Superstars, reminding me that my PRs times always come with automatic respect, but I also have learned that by listening to my heart and stepping away when I feel like it is the right time, is also a sign of bravery, of courage, and one I am proud of.
Just like Rocky, I believe someday I will come back…hopefully not waiting till I am 65 years old, trying to just get my joints moving again, but I believe after Steve and I have a family and a few years to enjoy our new life, I will do it.
That passion is still burning deep down, and the competitive drive is definitely showing itself in other areas of my life.
If you are competitive, you always will be competitive, and you will do what you can to be the best you can in everything you do.
Today I thought I would address something that has caught my attention lately, something that I feel needs to be addressed within the running world. If you look to me as an expert, I hope you will read my words and believe what I am saying here, as it may feel counter intuitive.
Just like for me, living in a world that is constantly telling me to lose weight, tone down, get more exercise, eat cleaner, blah blah blah, while I am trying to do the opposite.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that we need to prove our commitment.
I am guilty of it more than anyone.
If I was going to go all in, when I started to focus on getting my period back, then I was going to do it right. I was going to do everything I possibly could to get it back.
I didn’t back off the running, I stopped running, completely.
I didn’t just slowly gained weight, adding a few extra goodies in, I started eating everything and anything I wanted, gaining weight very quickly.
I didn’t just try to relax, I made time for it in the day, and started going to acupuncture, watching TV more than ever before.
If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
Maybe it will pay off, maybe it will prove that going all in to the extreme that I did, was helpful to proving to my body that I was committed to this.
But sometimes, being more committed isn’t the right thing to do.
Certainly in the running world, it is a dangerous line to walk, the line between commitment and obsession.
I have been there a few times before. Thinking that the more I committed to running, the more I gave up for running, the more it would pay off for me. After all, I am as guilty as anyone else of telling others I love running because it is the best example of what you put in is what you get out.
So surely, the more you put in when it comes to training hard, eating right, committing more, the more you will get back?
Although it doesn’t work that way.
Time and time again, I have people reach out to me, telling me just how committed they are, just how much time they are putting into the sport, just how hard they are trying.
Yet they are being punished by the running gods with an injury, burnout, overtraining, bad races. You name it, it happens, and it’s not fair.
And it’s not.
Surely we should be rewarded for our efforts, for our passion and spirit towards something?
I remind people time and time again that those moments we are being tested, those moments where you are about to give up, to say, “screw this”, are the moments that define your future.
It isn’t those moments where everything is going right that truly make you into the person you are, it is the moments where you are right on the verge of giving up, those moments where you wonder why you are being punished for your commitment.
Those are the moments that truly define who we are, what we become as people.
I know it might seem hard to wrap your brain around. If you are doing everything right, why should you not be rewarded for your efforts?
I am experiencing this right now, I mentioned how I am doing everything I can to help my body with its trust issues, but at the end of the day, it still takes time, and obsessing over it isn’t going to help.
The same goes for running. If you move from a place of passion to a place of obsession, where you are giving up on going to dinner with friends because you are terrified someone is going to order an unhealthy appetizer and you won’t be able to resist, or you turn down time with family because the hour drive is going to make you stiff and tight, which might make your long run tomorrow not feel as good.
Or how about if you try so hard on every one of your runs because you want it so much, you want to be good, so you are doing your best to be good.
I have been there before.
Given up so much, missed out on so much, eaten foods that were good for me, but sucked all of the fun out of eating. Then pushed myself so hard in every workout that I fell to the ground with exhaustion and ran my easy runs faster, not because I felt good, but because the pace would prove that I was fitter and faster, ready to prove it in a race day. I would turn up to races with such intensity, like this race was the most important thing in the world, and in the words of Eminiem, this was my “one shot”, better not waste it, Tina.
But you know what, I didn’t get better during that time.
What I did end up with was injuries. Unable to make it to the start line of my goal races or if I did, hating every second because I was so emotionally exhausted and no longer enjoying the race aspect of running, because it brought so much pressure from
others my own ego that I HAD to perform, I HAD to make it all worthwhile.
Now I step back, I can see that not only was that doing the complete opposite of helping me, but it was making me develop an unhealthy relationship with running…and performance.
It also added that sense of tightening that Gretchen Rubin talks about, where you feel like you have to keep doing more and more and more to be proud of yourself, to earn that celebration.
What I did find, once I hit rock bottom, and had to claw my way back again after falling into somewhat of a depression, followed by the realization that I was so much more than just a runner, was that we all NEED balance.
Running is not about who tries the hardest.
It is not about training harder, but about training smarter.
When Drew came on the run to the top podcast, we talked about this. It is not about going hard, having the best workout at every opportunity. A. that is not going to happen, and B. it is going to pile on the pressure more to perform, which makes it harder to do.
Instead, you should do your best for each day (hello, effort scale), and know that doing your best often doesn’t mean running faster every day, actually, that is where you get yourself in trouble. The bigger the gap between your easy days and your hard days, the more you are going to perform on those hard days (with a few exceptions, if you are racing shorter distances, I think to some extent you need a few faster recovery runs).
Instead you should go out with friends for dinner, have a life, do other things that bring you joy.
Remove the temptation of obsession, because once you cross into that zone, you become a ticking time bomb, there is too much riding on your success, you base too much of your self-worth on a result, that it is a disaster waiting to happen.
I found myself doing it a little the last few months too. Out of the running world, but doing it in the rest of my life. I NEEDED to prove that I am doing the right thing, I NEEDED to show that I was committed to this goal, and I worried I would spiral out of control, unable to stop bingeing on junk food (and yes, I really was bingeing on it), losing the balance I had found when it comes to diet.
I am starting to come out of the other side of that now, but the temptation to go all in, go hard or go home will always be there.
I think for me, and most likely for you, you will often need reminders that it is okay not to go all in. That you do not prove your worth by giving it your all every single day, despite what those stupid motivational quotes on pinterest say.
We all need to eat well, but we all need to enjoy foods that are social.
We all need to exercise, but not let it overtake our entire lives.
We all need to push ourselves, but not get tunnel vision on what we want.
It is all about finding a balance, a word that is hard to find. But as that old phrase says, “moderation is key”, we need moderation in every area of our lives, and we need to understand that too much of a good thing does not end up a good thing.
Okay, I will get off my soapbox now.
Do you ever experience this need to prove yourself?
I also have a great goal setting for runners sheet. Check it out!!
Goal Setting Guide for Runners
Not sure how to set realistic goals for you?
This worksheet will help you find out
I definitely see this. I got obsessed last year after having some deficiency issues. I backed off but did some speed work and was hitting some good paces in training. I actually followed a plan for a 10k and really backed off down to 30-40 miles a week instead of the 70 over the Winter period. I didn’t let running get in the way of other things. I started enjoying it again.
Then the other week I did a 5k timetrial on my ownl – 20.15. I thought that’s great, I am back to where I was a few years back before my deficiency problems Then my key race came up at the weekend (the 10K) and I finished in 45.34.
I do have to say that mentally I gave up before I had even started..I started slow due to crowding and then I just never got into it.
Now I feel like I have mentally messed myself for races – my training is fine when I am on my won – I can focus and get through it. However as soon as I race I am so slow in comparison to what I should be able to do. I feel so stuck!
As a super fan of you, as a person, a wife and runner, I am so glad you are gaining healthy perspective on the dreams and goals you have in life. After children, running will return to being important to you, and you’ll want to be strong and courageous for your kids. You will without a doubt come back, likely stronger than before, and this time, you will enjoy a balanced, full life as a professional athlete, I just know it! I will be cheering for you, from whatever social media access I have! 🙂
Learning balance is part of learning running, IMHO. People tend to fall into 2 groups– and for Type As like us, holding back and doing less can actually take more discipline than doing more. I completely get this and still struggle with it but I’m learning. Thanks for your honesty! A big “Yo!” from Philly.
I definitely used to do too much. Since cutting back the number of runs I do per week, reducing the high-impact training and starting to do yoga, there has been such a difference. injuries reduced, strength improved and I’m running better than ever. Great advice as ever Tina.
Instead of obsession I always choose determination! I completely agree with your post, which was an excellent read!