The Balancing Act - Running, & Life
By: Ashley Arnold
Over the past couple of months I've been working on a short film for Nathan Sports about ultrarunner Stephanie Howe (also a Nathan athlete). While at first glance, Stephanie's story appears to be about nutrition (she is a sports nutritionist and coach among a myriad of other things), it was quickly revealed to be about balance. ... And not the kind of balance you achieve from doing one-leg squats on a bosu ball, but the kind of balance you achieve from a healthy well-rounded life.
"Running isn't everything," she told me in one of our on-camera interviews. "It's part of my job, but it isn't everything."
She goes into much greater detail about this, but I don't want to spoil anything quite yet, so, I'll leave her quote at that and dive into some other components of the word balance.
It's a hard thing to find especially when it comes to ultrarunning and, especially, when you live in a place like I do: Boulder. Sometimes it feels like everyone in the running community is trying to one up everyone else, trying to be the fastest, the strongest, the most "fit"... all the time. And with a sport as grueling as ultrarunning, we're finding those people are breaking at a staggering rate. And why wouldn't they be? Adrenal Fatigue and overtraining syndrome are easy to stumble on when you're participating in 100-mile races that require long, hard training days piled on top of what is likely an already busy schedule that includes a full-time job and perhaps a family. So how do you find the balance to prevent an epic fail?
(Photos by Ashley Arnold)
Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way:
It's Just running.
Yes, this refers back to the quote from Stephanie at the beginning of this post, but it's something I still feel we might as well reiterate over and over and over and over and over to infinity. When you're goal oriented (and a lot of runners are), it's easy to let running take a larger seat at the table than it deserves. I'm guilty of this at times, and I'm sure you are, too.
In the past, I've let my race training take the front seat to relationships, sleep, food, work ... all of it. I did this to the point of burnout and psychological distress. It's simply not worth it. When (or if) you feel running become an added stress, take a step back and reasses. Remind yourself it's just running; it's a piece of your life but not all of it.
Don't become an addict.
When I find myself growing anxious about not getting a run in one day because of scheduling or because of some unforeseen event, I make it a point to "check myself."¬ù I ask myself what the root of the problem is. Quite often, it's not the running but rather some need to eliminate nervous energy or expel stress. While these are all good reasons for a run, they also hint at the possibility of a dependency and therefore a sign it's time to find another healthy outlet for those feelings. Meditation anyone? It would be a shame to rely on one thing and one thing only to make us feel better all the time. This is a problem a lot of runners I know collide with.
To not get sucked into this kind of cycle, seeking an outside non-exercise activity (like meditation) is helpful. It provides an alternative course of relaxation and stress management that restores and balances your energy.
Take a day off.
A lot of training plans I've seen in the past have an optional day off (What?!) that suggests off or cross training. And, honestly, I know a lot of runners that don't even take a day off except for maybe once a month. That is simply ludicrous! Give your body a real break and spend that hour you would be running to instead catch up with a friend, read a book, etc. Whatever you choose to spend your time doing, really take it off. And enjoy it!
Carve out a day every week that has nothing to do with running. Hell, don't even say the word running (even if you work in the running industry!). Letting go of minutes and miles entirely for a day will revitalize your whole system.
[Editor's note: I like to take my off days on Monday because it's usually after a couple hard efforts over the weekend and it seems my email inbox is always piled high that day.]
How do you find balance? Do you have more tips to share. Please join in on the conversation and leave a comment here or on our Facebook page!