Two weeks ago I talked about putting in the necessary work to make changes in our lives, and then last week I talked about the need for getting proper rest — and refreshment — to properly take care of ourselves. And Jessica followed up with a great post with some signs that indicate you might need a rest. It’s a tricky balance sometimes, determining when I need to push myself and when I need to pause.
For me, it comes down to determining between the mental and the physical.
While running is a physical activity, I’ve come to find that it’s very much a mental game. In the Couch to 5K plan, there are numerous running/walking combinations. Even as the running part lengthens, I take great hope in the fact that soon I’ll be able to walk for a bit and catch my breath.
Then comes Week 5, Day 3: Run 20 minutes with no walking. It is a scary day. It sounds way too hard. I’m really not sure I can do it and I start filling my mind with negative thoughts and doubts. This is a mental barrier, and I simply must figure out how to push through.
I turn up the volume on my music, and I start changing the words that are flying through my head. I start to fight for positive thoughts.
I can’t. You can, for a little bit longer.
This is dumb. I could just walk. Think of how good you will feel when you finish.
I want to quit. Just keep running. Just keep running. You can do it!
And before I know it, the 20 minutes is over. And woo hoo! It feels so good to have pushed through!
On the other hand, there have been a couple times where my barriers were not mental but physical.
I entered and finished my first 5K back in March of 2011. I took a short running break after that 5K, but then tried to get back into gear to do another 5K with a friend in June. I was running just fine, but later in the day my shins hurt so badly and I could not walk without pain shooting up my legs. As much as I wanted to be able to run that next 5K, I knew that pain was a signal of something being wrong, and pushing myself was only going to make it worse. I needed to pause. A little bit of rest and some new running shoes and the pain went away.
Last spring, I missed a step on our front porch and not-so-gracefully ended up laying on the sidewalk. I wasn’t really sure what happened, but I knew my ankle was in a lot of pain. I had a sprain, and it took a long time to fully heal. In fact, I re-injured it by trying to get back to working out too soon and ended up hobbling around for our family vacation. Once again, I had to pause. It was not my choice, but it was for the best.
The thing to remember about a pause for a physical issue is that it’s only temporary. And you don’t want to sit out too long or start to give up, because then you’re back to having a mental problem. When I sprained my ankle, I ended up taking most of the summer off from exercising. That was a mental mistake. I should have found some exercises to do that wouldn’t have bothered my ankle. I lost a lot of ground because my physical injury turned into a mental excuse.
So, push through when your mind is telling you to stop and take a pause when your body is telling you to stop. That’s a pretty simple formula that will help you balance between work and rest.