13 realisations from 2 weeks of NOT running

Swimming as cross-training for an injured runner

(Because obviously, after a fortnight of injury, I am an expert on the subject…)

For the first time in 10 years of running, I think I have an overtraining injury. Alternatively, it might just be something small and acute that I’m overreacting to (fingers crossed), but either way, my hip hurts when I run, and even when I walk for more than about half an hour, so I’m not taking any chances until I get more professional advice (and ideally, a diagnosis). On a weekend when I was supposed to be helping to pace a friend (and client) round his virtual Brighton Marathon PB attempt, instead I’m now nearing my first 2 weeks without running for as long as I can remember. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. I still look at Strava.

It was probably acceptable on virtual London marathon weekend, but I should probably nip this in bud to avoid unhealthy levels of envy. Then again…

  1. I still love talking, reading and hearing about running.

Possibly even more than usual, in fact. Again, maybe it’s a coincidence because it’s marathon season, but I swear I’ve had more running and running nutrition conversations than ever before with the doctors, nurses and dietitians that I work with (and I promise they are not all initiated by me).

  1. And on that note, being surrounded by physios and doctors is pretty handy for an injured runner.

They probably resent me for it, but I’ve been shamelessly bothering my expert colleagues on the ICU for any glimpses of sensible advice or opinions that I can get, while I wait for my formal appointments.

  1. I have instantly become far less hungry and eat much less.

This one makes total sense given how few kcals I’m burning through each day compared to normal, but I really thought it would take a while for my body to adapt and that I’d have to make a concerted effort to rein in my greedy tendencies. Reassuringly simple so far.

  1. I don’t need running to make me happy.

Or relaxed. In fact, I think I’m actually quite enjoying the lack of pressure which, apparently, I may have been putting on myself to run 5 or 6 days per week. I feel like this may be a short-term thing, as I’m still convinced that overall, running is fantastic for my mood, but the break doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm on that front just yet.

  1. I feel less tired.

Again, this one obviously makes some intuitive sense given that I’m expending far less energy, but I always assumed that overall, running gave me energy. This is another one where I feel it might really be just a short-term effect, but it’s interesting nonetheless, and perhaps demonstrates that routinely running 60-90km per week on top of a job that’s never anything but very busy might not always be what my body needs…

  1. I am finding a bit more time to blog and dedicate to the business.

Even though most of my running is functional and time neutral (e.g. commuting), I’m finding I have a bit more time, or perhaps it’s just motivation, to spend on the business, and in particular, this blog. Lucky you!

  1. Minimum 1 month off per year for me in future

Or at least a very low mileage month. Normally this would happen in May after a spring marathon, but with no such big race in the calendar for me this year, I had no real running downtime, and have a sneaking suspicion that this contributed to my current plight.

  1. I don’t actually miss running that much, yet.

Less than I’d expected, in any case. I miss proper racing of course (who doesn’t), and especially the excitement that comes with building up to a big event, but not so much the day to day running. Not yet, anyway. However, I do resent having to pay for 2 tube journeys every day, and I really need to properly embrace swimming ASAP to keep me in some sort of shape, because…

  1. I am starting to panic about lost fitness.

I’m telling myself that 2 weeks off means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and I’m not training for anything specific right now anyway, so it’s come at a good time. However, I occasionally think ahead and wonder what may happen if this drags on. Pre-injury I think I’d reached my highest ever level of running fitness, but didn’t really get the opportunity to translate this into race PBs. Aged 36, was that my running peak, or am I being melodramatic?!

  1. I’ve started being late for things

I’ve realised that subconsciously I take Citymapper and Google Maps directions with a pinch of salt, because I’ve always been able to make up time with a jog if need be. This doesn’t apply when you’re standing on the escalators and walking at ‘normal person’ pace.

  1. The washing machine gets used A LOT less

I don’t think I produced a single bead of sweat last week.

  1. I will never again take fitness for granted (and what I’ll change in the future)

I always assumed I was one of the lucky ones – naturally quite light on my feet and therefore perhaps less injury prone than other runners. Even if this does turn out to be something relatively minor, my future attitude will have been changed for the better. This year I had already incorporated much more stretching, strength and conditioning than ever before, but will really prioritise this when (I’m not saying ‘if’) I get back to serious running.

I will definitely incorporate more cross-training. I’ve always been pretty casual on this front, but will aim for once a week instead of a running session, to spare my ageing joints and limbs.

Finally, I think I will have to give carbon-plated shoes a try. Up until now I’ve dismissed them as techno-doping, and there’s no doubt that they have forever changed the running landscape. However, things have changed. Loads of brands are coming out with their own versions now, and most serious runners are wearing them when it matters. Yes, they confer a huge advantage, but why be a luddite? After all, I am scientist, and science and technology (not least sports nutrition) continues to progress, so perhaps I just need to embrace these shoes as the future. I don’t think they’re going anywhere.

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