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SALT LAKE CITY — With two young girls at home, a physically demanding job, chauffeuring duties, household tasks and holiday chaos mounting, I recently found myself fantasizing about a day filled with nothing. I shocked myself when I actually told my husband that I missed being sick, which last year allowed me to hang out in my daytime pajamas, watch movies and play Scrabble. I realized I needed a break, so I cleared the family schedule and penciled in “Nothing” on the calendar.
The first day was great. No alarm clocks. Aside from absolutely necessary tasks such as making sure everyone’s teeth were brushed, I did what I felt like doing. Cookies were made. Puzzles were solved. Movies were watched. Yes, Scrabble was played. Day 1 was blissful.
Day 2 started out just as promising. I woke up and changed from nighttime pajamas into daytime pajamas. I ate the previous day’s cookies. Started another puzzle. Watched another movie. Played my umpteenth game of Scrabble. By noon I’d had enough. The sheen had worn off my self-imposed hibernation. I was ready to be out in the world again, so I herded the family together and set out to rejoin it.
Too much of a good thing is simply too much. Whether it’s ice cream, a favorite song or time off, there comes a point when the love starts to fade. The same could be said for running.
Some of my running friends may disown me for saying this, but every year around this time I just need to take a break from the sport I love most.
Running did nothing wrong. In fact, it treated me very, very well this year. Running made me a strong woman these past 12 months. It taught me about my own strength and limitations and gave me confidence in ways I never expected.
Running gave me joy during those early-morning summer runs when I found myself alone on my favorite path taking in the gorgeous Utah sunrises.
Running took me places and introduced me to people I would never have encountered otherwise. It opened up a whole new world of friends and possibilities.
But I know if I don’t take some time away, running can just as quickly turn on me. Injuries, illness and burnout are all conditions I’m too familiar with.
With that in mind, I take a step back every December. Not because I’m injured, but because I’m not injured. Not because I’m burned out, but because I’m not burned out. I ease up before it gets ugly.
Early in my running life, if I felt good I pushed harder. If I felt a little twinge or pain, I ignored it and kept plodding along. Soon I’d find myself deep into a serious injury. I’d nurse myself back to health — only to start the vicious cycle again.
I love running and I see myself running long into my future. These short breaks keep my mind fresh. They keep my legs itching for more. They keep my heart in the game. I don’t stop running altogether, but I put it on the back burner. I run when I want, but don’t beat myself up if my heart’s not into it. I erase the tempo runs and speedwork from my schedule. I eliminate races and spend my weekends chasing kids on sleds rather than PRs.
I feel good. My legs feel fresh. Marathon training starts soon and I’m filled with excitement rather than dread.
Sometimes the best training plan is no training at all.
*Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner who will rediscover her love of running outdoors when temperatures hit the balmy double-digits.**