It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.
For me, the hardest part of marathon training is often the final weeks of ramp up, before the taper. The mileage is higher, the speed work quicker, and the long runs longer. Here we are, five weeks before I toe the start line, and I am in the toughest part.
Last week’s long run shook my confidence a bit, and I started doubting my ability to not only run this marathon but do so with an effort that I could be proud of. Every time I go out, it feels like my legs are heavier and achier. I am not sure if thats because my stretching and foam rolling aren’t up to par or this mileage is higher than I’ve done in some time. All I know is that running has become a chore.
Not only am I in the hardest part of training, I also started school this week, which means classes, graduate assistantship hours, and homework. In addition to keeping my same hours at my part-time job, my life is fairly full. I actually have to schedule every hour at, including when I wake up and go to sleep, eat, and commute to and from school and work, so that I can make sure to get it all in. With all of this, running and training for the marathon has lost some of its joy, and relatedly, my runs are slower and slugger.
My long run was supposed to be 20 miles this week, but I couldn’t find the time to do it, so I ended up switching my schedule so that it is next week and did 15. My hope was to keep the pace relative to what I did long runs earlier in the training cycle and then pick it up to race pace. The first six miles felt fairly good, but then I hit a mental wall. My mind kept telling me to stop, to call it in, to give up. I stopped a few times for water, and I literally had to scream at myself to get back going. My paces fell, which only discouraged me more. Not only couldn’t I keep up the pace, I was having a hard time just completing the run.
That’s how many of my runs have felt lately, slow and excruciating. At this point, I am getting in my head about whether or not I can do this, and whether or not I want to do this. I just want it over.
Today, I ran with some people in my neighborhood. It was a cool, fall-ish morning, and we had some great conversations. I still kept tabs on my pace, wanting it to be what it isn’t, but this run contained something that wasn’t there at other times this week: joy. I actually had fun, and instead of returning home nearly in tears, there was a big smile on my face.
The truth is, marathon training is hard. It’s meant to be hard. No one trains or runs a marathon and enjoys it 100 percent of the time. You will have off days, even off weeks, but the point is to keep going. It’s about the process, and part of that process is shit. So, you keep running through it, and that makes you stronger for when you inevitably encounter shit on the race. You are prepared for it because of all those crappy, slow, hard workouts. You made it through them, and you can make it through this moment.
This wasn’t the best week of training, but I know that I must endure the tough weeks in order to truly appreciate the good ones. I keep going and going and know that it’s a new week and anything can happen.
Goals: Keeping steady mileage and working on paces.
Monday: Easy Run – 6.06 – I wasn’t planning to run this day, but really felt good about it.
Tuesday: Track Workout – 5.06 – Fartlecks of one lap on, one lap easy, two/two, three/three, two/two, one/one. Repeat. Really good. Paces got down there and I felt very strong.
Wednesday: Easy Run – 8.15 – Easy and nice through the Sculpture Park.
Thursday: Long Run – 14 + 1 mile cool down – Great for the first six or seven and then mentally fell apart. Couldn’t get the pace down like I had hoped. However, my nutrition was much better.
Saturday: Hill Repeats – 5.6 – Not sure these are going to be enough but they feel hard.
Sunday: Easy Run – 7.1 – Beautiful morning with neighborhood running group.
Next week’s goal: Stay mentally present and strong. I want to have fun on my 20-miler this week and soak up all the training as to offer.
Whenever I wake up in the morning, so does my dog Annie. She sleeps on a chair near the foot of our bed, but as soon as she hears me stirring she is up too. Her hope is that I am moving towards her food bowl.
Annie is right behind me, following me out of the bedroom, even on early mornings, like at 4:30 a.m., when I am getting ready for a run. This is hours before her regular breakfast, but she can’t tell time. She just knows she loves food, and I am often the one to give it to her. Annie follows me from the bathroom to the kitchen as I get ready to run, or sometime she sits on the couch and moves her head along with my pacing. She isn’t entirely awake, and she fights to keep her head up and eyes open. Annie is like a little kid who insists she isn’t sleepy but then is out three minutes later.
Rarely do I ever feed Annie at this time. To be honest, I am more concerned with getting a run in than her, but often, as soon as I finish, I feed her and take her for a walk. Annie should know this. It’s what we do most mornings, but still she is up with me, waiting for that treat.
On Sunday, I woke up early to eat before my long run, and there was a bit of bagel I couldn’t finish. I left it on the table, thinking I might eat it, but as I was getting ready to leave the house, decided, I didn’t want it after all. Then I looked at Annie, with her drooping eyes, and threw her the bit slathered in peanut butter.
She was so happy. Annie took three big bites and it was gone. Her persistence had finally paid off.
My dog inspired me, and as I was going out on my daunting run, I thought about how sometimes we just have to keep showing up. We may not always get the reward, but if we are consistent and we put in the effort and work, that tiny bit of bagel will eventually come to us.
My 18-mile long run was awful. I started to beat myself up after two miles, and because I kept saying “this is garbage” enough times, a trashy run manifested itself. My nutrition and sodium intake were askew, and I ended up severely dehydrated. I felt terrible during and after, and nearly quit four different times, but thanks to some of my neighborhood running friends, I finished.
Marathon training isn’t about hitting all the right paces, how many miles you can average, or even hitting that goal. It’s about showing up, for both the good and bad days, and know they are both necessary in growing you as a runner. That 18-miler was far from reassuring, but I still showed up. And, if I keep doing that, I will get my reward.
Goals: Ramp up mileage.
Monday: Easy Run – 10.5 – Ran to the running store where I work (6.5 miles) for a group run with Brooks (4 miles). A few of my friends showed up, and it was a really nice evening of running.
Tuesday: Track Workout – 6 – Mile repeats on .10 track. Do not ever do this. You will die of boredom.
Thursday: Tempo – 8 – Four miles at tempo felt amazing. I hit most of my desired paces thanks to some help from the neighborhood running group.
Friday: Run Commute – 4 – Listened to TSwift as I jogged through the city.
Saturday: Easy Run – 4 – Nothing special, just getting in the mileage.
Sunday: Long Run – 18 – This was rough. My nutrition plan isn’t working anymore, so I am going to try a few different things this week. Also, I need more positive self talk. Negative stuff has got to go.
Next week’s goal: The next three weeks are going to be insane not only because I am ramping up before the taper but I also start my second year of graduate school today. I’ve got my life planned out, hour by hour, for most of September, but I’ve had to make some training adjustments. I was hoping to get a 20-miler in this week, but that won’t happen with my schedule. This week’s goal is to stay consistent with mileage, have a shorter long run, and put in some quality workouts
Every summer, I long to be west. To be back on the prairie, with the fiery orange sunrises and the sky-filled skies. To have bonfires and s’mores and wake up the next day smelling like campfire. To be somewhere quieter so I can recollect my thoughts and head into fall with renewed optimism.
Last year, between quitting my job and starting graduate school, I drove to South Dakota, where I am from and my family lives, and then to Minnesota to visit more family. It was such an uplifting trip that I wanted to recreate it again, but this time bring my husband and add an additional stop in Colorado to visit friends.
Gearing up for this trip, I thought about all the running I wanted to do. In Minnesota, I hoped to trace pieces of the marathon route, and then re-run some of my cross country workouts in South Dakota. Running familiar streets would be a true homecoming, and even though I’ve run many times at home since I left, this time would be more triumphant. I was a more experienced, stronger runner. I was never the fastest runner, but I kept going, and here I am today, still running.
We started our road trip in Minnesota to visit my youngest brother and his family. Even on the first day, I felt crunched for time. Running was a priority, but so was hanging out with my niece and I had to wake up earlier than I wanted to on vacation in order to get my run in. My brother lives about 20 minutes from the Cathedral of Saint Paul, where the Twin Cities Marathon finish, so I decided to run there so I could a good mental image of it for visualization practices during long training runs. I ran mostly on busy street roads, even though this part of the country has much more to offer, but I did cross the Mississippi River in order to get into downtown Saint Paul. From there, I went up several big hills, reminding myself that I have got to do more hill work before the marathon, before I made it to Summit Avenue. The last stretch of the marathon follows this historic street to the Cathedral. At this point in my run, I was feeling a bit lethargic and nervous about getting home not too long after my niece woke up, but then being on that avenue, I felt the buzz. The next time I would be there, I would be 25 miles into my third marathon, with the finish just ahead. It invigorated me. Reassured me in this lengthy training process. Motivated me to keep going through the lulls and tough workouts, because the next time I am running on that street, it will be worth it.
The next day was a travel day, so I didn’t run, but in South Dakota, I again got up before the sun so I could finish my run as my nephews were eating breakfast. This was less of a training run and more of a tour of my childhood. I ran by the park in which my middle school cross country meets where held. Then along the bike path next to the Missouri River, a common route for cross country practices. I ran by the pool where I lifeguarded and spent most of my summer days. And then to the lot, which used to host the house I grew up in before it was sold and moved elsewhere. These places often appear in my dreams, and it was almost like visiting them for the first time as I ran along streets seem fuzzy in my thoughts. Going home is not always pleasant, as we are reunited with parts of ourselves we would rather leave behind, but then there are times when we can look back and see how where we came from helped us get to where we are today. This summer, I’ve been struggling with doubt on my decision to go back to school, but back on the streets where I’ve ran so many times before, I felt reassured. I was where I was supposed to be.
I did one more run in South Dakota, which was harder with the lack of sleep and the poor diet. I had planned to do a long run of 13 miles, but never got around to it. Because I was still nursing pain in my hip, I decided having more rest was probably best for me. Plus, I wanted to have the most time with my family as I could, as I only see them once or twice a year, and I just couldn’t fit running and family time in without loosing lots of sleep. So, no long run for me. I also didn’t get to run all the places I had hoped to, but that was OK.
The last leg of my trip was to Colorado for a reunion with my Peace Corps friends. I knew there would be lots of late nights and drinking, so I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of running I would be able to do over the weekend. At this point in the week, my mileage was in the low 20s. I really had hoped to get to 35-40, but it didn’t seem possible without doing a long run. Again, I had to chose between running and socializing, so I decided to play it by ear and see how I felt each morning with the intentions of getting at least one run in. On Saturday, a friend joined me for seven easy miles. We spent most of it on busy roads and should have looked up some bike paths beforehand, but we also got to run towards the mountains. Later in the day, my friends and I did a gorgeous hike, and now I am trying to convince my husband to move to Colorado so that I can fulfill my life goal of being an ultra trail runner. We had a copious amount of beers that evening, but I was still able to get up the next morning and run enough to hit 35 for the week. It wasn’t pretty, but it happened and I found the bike trail so it was less busy roads.
A bright spot is that we visited a place called Shoes and Brews — a running shoe store and brewery. It was my haven, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of such a thing. After graduate school, I want to open a running store/brewery/therapy practice. Any good name ideas?
It was a lighter week than I had hoped for, but I think my body needed it. My hip is feeling mostly good, and I am ready to ramp back up this week. The mid-training blues is starting to hit me hard, but running in new and familiar places last week reminded me that this about the process. All these early mornings mean something, and I just need to keep taking it one week at a time.
Goals: Listen to my body and work out the issues in my hip.
Monday: Easy Run – 8.17 miles – Got in some unplanned hill work, but kept the pace nice and easy. Seeing the finish line for the marathon gave me some inspiration and motivation to keep going.
Wednesday: Easy Run – 9ish miles – A run tour of my hometown, with a few sprints at the mostly to catch my nephews from riding their bikes into the street.
Thursday: Easy Run – 6 miles – This was kind of terrible, and I dragged each step, but it ended at a donut shop, so not a total loss.
Saturday: Easy Run – 7 miles – Felt fairly good, but could definitely feel the altitude.
Sunday: Easy – 4.71 – Too much beer and junk food with not a lot of sleep was taking its toll.
Next week’s goal: I am hoping to ramp my mileage back up, do some solid work outs, and really just get back into the training. I am also hoping to do more group runs since a lot of last week was solo.
October 5, 2019, will mark two years since I had surgery to
repair a labral tear in my right hip. I am in the process of writing a longer
post about this procedure and the lengthy recovery, but it was an extremely
emotional process for me. More than once, I feared that I would never be able
run again, let alone do another marathon. Thankfully, though, about a year ago,
I finally regained my strength and slowly returned to running, and by the time
the Twin Cities Marathon registration open, I had completely recovered, and my
body felt ready to go through another marathon cycle.
I trained for and raced a spring half marathon and then
entered into marathon. In most training cycles, I’ve usually taken two rest
days per week, but I stepped it down to one and slowly increased my weekly
mileage and added two high effort workouts with a long run into my schedule.
For the first 10 weeks, my hip felt great. I hadn’t had any pain in months, and
I started to believe that I could get through this cycle without any issues at
In addition to running, I often ride my bike to work, which
is about 10 miles roundtrip. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a slight nudge in
my right hip. It wasn’t painful, but it didn’t feel great either. Rather, it
was familiar. The sensation wasn’t there when I was running, or after, so I
decided to take a break from biking (also because I was tired of dodging
careless drivers) thinking the combination of activities was becoming a bit
much for the hip.
Coming off last week’s 50 miles, I was eager to post another
high mileage week, before cutting back. The first run of the week was six tempo
miles with a warm up and cool down. I started dreading the run nearly 24 hours
before the workout, but I saw this as an opportunity to bring some speed on
tired legs. Despite the slog to get out the door, it was a great run. My miles
got progressively faster, and I hit my desired paces. I felt strong and
reassured that my body was stronger and healthier than ever.
That afternoon, though, the nudge in my hip was back, and
this time it was painful. Not throbbing or wrenching painful, but enough
discomfort to cause me pause. Fatigue kept me in bed when my alarm when off the
next morning, and I decided to move my rest day from Wednesday to Tuesday, but by
mid-day I was fine and eager to run. The scheduled called for seven recovery
miles, so I decided to run commute from therapy to work. I promised my husband
that if my hip hurt, I would take a bus the rest of the way. I don’t run
commute that much, mostly because I hate running with a back pack, but this was
pleasant. The extra load on my back kept my pace nice and easy, and I took
water breaks as I needed them. My hip tightened up in the first mile but relaxed
after that and I didn’t feel it again for the seven-mile run.
At work, it was a different story. My hip tugged when climbing
up and down the stairs, sitting and standing, and bending over to pick up
boxes. Again, it wasn’t a sharp pain, but the rest day to foam roll, ice, and
soak in Epsom salts helped. I even busted out my old physical therapy exercises
and stayed off my feet most of the day. I did everything I could think of to
get ready for the next day’s work out – 18 miles.
On Sunday, my husband and I left for a week-long road trip
west to visit family, so because of travel and a full shift on Saturday, I
moved my long run to Thursday. It wasn’t ideal, knowing that I probably wouldn’t
find anyone to do that long of a run with me mid-week, but it was what I had to
do in order to get it in. And, this was a monumental run for me because I haven’t
gone this far since the 2015 Chicago Marathon. Here is the point in the
training cycle when I get into the real long distances, when I really have to
work on my mental game and reassure myself of what my body is capable of.
Going into the run, I had no expectations. It was going to
be hot and humid and three hours is a long time to be out there. I brought my
CTA pass with me and vowed to myself that I would abandon the run if I felt any
hip pain at all. I’ve normally been trying to keep my long runs at a 9:30 pace,
but for this run, I had to give myself the permission to let go of gals and
just run, letting my body be the ultimate guide.
Once, I saw someone post about how awful 18 milers are, and
for whatever reason, I’ve adopted that attitude. I can have a great 20 miler but
a disgusting 18. Because my goal was just to get through this, for whatever
reason, the mental trudge wasn’t there. For most of the run, I kept my Garmin
on watch mode and didn’t care too much about pace. It was a gorgeous morning,
and I was mostly just enjoying being on the Lakefront Path. It was a steady and
strong run, and my hip was perfect. I never had to use the CTA pass.
Before my surgery, it was hard to tell how bad the pain was
because it rarely hurt while running. I felt it biking and doing yoga, but not
during running. The pain usually came after. That’s what happened this week. I
ran for three hours without noticing my hip, but several hours later, I felt
The next day, it was a bit worse after my recovery. On
Saturday morning, I was hoping to do eight miles with my neighborhood running
group. A little voice in my head told me, that because I could feel the pain
while sleeping, maybe I should take the day off. Still, when my alarm went off,
I got dressed like I was going to run but unsure if I would. I stood in my
kitchen, feeling the nagging in my hip, and understood that this was my chance
to train smart and actually work with my body. I decided to call it, and
instead, I did PT exercises and foam rolled.
Not running, especially on Saturday, was devastating. I was
extremely upset about having to miss my first workout of this training cycle,
and I had to give myself a few pep talks to get back to a mentally sound place.
It sucked, and I was sad, but I could also understand that the break was
necessary. Instead of letting myself panic about how missing one workout could
derail my training, I tried to focus on how the rest could boost it. In
reality, this entire week was filled with mornings when I didn’t want to run,
and maybe a few rest days would actually do me good.
I am to susceptible to my external world and comparing
myself to others is practically a part-time job for me. After I made my
decision, I wanted to browse Strava and punish myself by looking at all the
great workouts that others did, and I did for a while, but then I had to take a
break. To stay mentally sound, I had to remind myself over and over that I was
on my own journey, and that means taking a few days off to calm an old hip
The day off, in addition to foam rolling, massages, ibuprofen,
Epson salt baths, and icing helped, and the pain dulled. I ran a bit on Sunday
to test it, and it wasn’t totally back to normal but it also wasn’t excruciating.
The pain is still present, but less so. I think I became too
complacent with strength workouts and recovery, so moving forward I will
keeping doing PT exercises, along with core work, and making stretching and
rolling a priority. I am confident that if I am more intentional the hip issues
should fade away. If there is still pain by the time I return from vacation, I
will consult a doctor, but I really don’t expect that.
So, this week I had to take more rest, and it was a somewhat
setback to my training, but I also ran 18 miles for the first time in four
years. It wasn’t the week I was hoping for, but that’s part of the process, and
if I can’t take the ebbs and flows of marathon training, then I shouldn’t be
training. This is all part of it, and I am still here, listening to and
understanding my body, and moving forward, whatever that looks like.
Weeks to Marathon: Eight
Goals: I wanted to build my mileage, but that changed with the hip issues. The goal was to listen to my body and change plans when needed.
Monday: Progressive Tempo – 10 miles – With a 2 mile warm up and cool down, the goal was to start temp miles at 9:00 and move down 15 seconds every two miles. I kind of figured this might not happen, but I nailed.
Tuesday: Recovery Run – 7 miles – Lovely run commute.
Thursday: Long Run – 18 miles – Amazing. Felt Great.
Friday: Recovery Run – 5 miles – Slow but good.
Sunday: Easy – 3 miles – Wanted to test the waters, hip seemed to ache a bit but in a different way than before.
Next week’s goal: I am traveling, and already had intentions
of cutting back, so my goal is to run as I can. No speed this week, just easy
miles. I am looking forward to running to the finish line of the marathon,
retracing my old cross country routes while in my hometown, and then doing a
little altitude training in Colorado. Again, my body will be my guide so I will
do what I am able. No expectations, just fun.
Tomorrow, I am running 18 miles. This is huge for me because I haven’t run that far since the Chicago Marathon in 2015, and there are a few things stacked against me. Because it’s in the middle of the week (I had to reschedule my long run because of work and travel this weekend), I will be on my own for most of it, it will be hot, and I’ve been experiencing some flared pain in my surgery hip.
Even though I am nervous, and I know it will be hard, I am excited to see what my body can do and how this will feel. I am planning to keep this at a slower pace, specifically because of the hip, and have given myself permission to end the run if there is a lot of pain. Also, I am eager to practice my mental game, which tends to falter when I am on my own. I want to practice going through the dark mental tunnels so that I know what to do in those hard miles on race day.
One of the things that has always motivated is Nike commercials. Nike has been under fire lately for how they treat their female athletes when they get pregnant, which I think is wrong and their policies not only need to change but must become more supportive than tolerant, but they sure know how to do marketing. Often, when I need inspiration or reassurance that I can do a hard physical task, I watch Nike commercials. Sure, they are meant to sell products, but they also give you hope that you can do that crazy thing.
Today is a rest day for me as I get ready for tomorrow’s long run and give my hip a break, but I am going to be watching some of my favorite videos in order to mentally prepare myself for the run and be excited to get out the door at dawn. Enjoy some of my all-time favorite Nike commercials.
We are now in single-digit territory for the number of weeks till the Twin Cities Marathon, and nine weeks feels both like forever and no time at all.
My mileage for this week topped out at 50, which is monumental for me. The last time I ran that many miles in a week was when I was training for the Two Oceans Ultramarathon. That was in 2012. Even though I ran another marathon between then and now, Chicago in 2015, my training was not as aggressive. I actually joked back then that I was halfassing the running, but this time, I am very much fullassing the training. I am building my mileage, spending time on the track, and focusing on tempo runs. I’ve even done a few strength workouts (but I could use to do more).
It wasn’t my intention to do 50, but I was so close at the end of the week that I couldn’t help but run a couple extra miles in order to get that big 5-0. To get here, I added mostly easy miles, which made this a pretty painless build up week.
One of my biggest goals in signing up for the marathon was to put a great deal of effort into the training. Almost like a coping mechanism, I wanted to immerse myself in the process of building a training place, improving my recovery, and giving what I could to each workout, hard ones and easy ones. Hitting that 50-milestone, without injury, was proof that my body can handle the mileage and that I am doing what I set out to do.
At the end of this week, I am tired. On top of running 50 miles, I worked nearly 50 hours between my two jobs and took a final exam to finish out my summer semester. This week will likely be as intense as I took a few extra shifts to make up for a vacation I am going on the following week, and so I’ve schedule out all of my runs and recovery time. I am starting to get nervous about fitting in my training when school starts back up, but that is still a few weeks off. For now, I need to revel in and celebrate a great training week.
Weeks to Marathon: Nine Miles: 50 Goals: My workouts are starting to get longer, so I made sleep a bigger priority for the week. This meant scheduling out every hour of my day, including commute and shower time, and being less social, but it helped me to get bed early for the next day runsAlso, the weather wasn’t too terrible that I felt like I had to start each run at 5 a.m. so I could sleep until 6 or 6:30, which helped.
Monday: Shakeout – 6 miles – I can barely remember this run, it was that insignificant. Just an out and back with the weekend’s podcasts to get my legs ready for the week.
Tuesday: Tempo + Hills — 10 — The TC Marathon has more elevation, inclines, and hills than the entire landscape of Chicago, but I am trying to get some practice on hills. There is one specific hill near the Lakefront that most people use as their practice, so I decided to run there one morning for repeats. To add more to the workout, I threw in six slightly-slower-than tempo miles as part of my run to the hill and back (which is about four miles from my house) and then 8 hill repeats.
Wednesday: Yoga with Adrienne. I’ve been terrible about doing yoga in this training cycle, but this 30-minute video for tired legs did help me stretch a bit and my legs were a bit more restored for the next day.
Thursday: Ladder Run — 7 — This workout always seems so easy on my schedule, but it is a beast. It’s 3 minutes at 5K pace, then 3 minutes at recovery pace, which is 30 slower than long run pace. You build up to 4/4, then 5/5, and finally work back down to 4/4 and 3/3. I wanted my 5K pace to be around 8:05, but it was a struggle to get there at times. So, I did what I could and tried not to let my recovery pace get too slow.
Friday: Easy Run – 5 – We were up before the sun on this one, but I did five quite easy miles with some members of my neighborhood running group.
Saturday: Long Run – 16 – A day or two before this run, I posted to the message boards of the neighborhood running group about finding water fountains in Evanston and further north, explaining I was running 16 miles and wanted to avoid the Lakefront Path (it’s nightmarish on Saturday mornings). I couldn’t run with CES this week, so I figured this would be on my own, which is usually when I get in my own head and have awful runs. However, after that post, four people offered to run parts of it with me. We ended up creating a little train in which we picked people up along the way, and it was really great. Also, I ran this a bit slower than my usual long runs, and it honestly helped with the recovery along with having to go to work after and be on my feet for several hours. My legs were not trashed, and I definitely felt like I could keep going. Lastly, I tried a few new nutrition options and decided to only take water instead of Nuun, which I have been running with. That worked really well, in addition to the GU I took before hand and the Cliff Blocks along the way. If you haven’t tried the GU Roctane Cold Brew Gel, you absolutely must. It’s amazing. All in all, a good run.
Sunday: Shakeout – 5.6 – I originally planned to run four, but decided to get to add a little extra to make that 50-mile mark. This was a nice, easy run with some members of my neighborhood running group. Running with people makes me happy.
Next week’s goals: My long run is 18, and I really hoping to focus on negative splitting it. I want to start more conservative and build from there. Another very busy week so again working on the rest. I want to keep my mileage right around the same level, but I will need to take cues from my body.
A year ago, my weekdays followed the fairly same routine.
Get up, sometimes work out, but most often I wouldn’t have the energy. Shower, breakfast, and then on the train for 45 minutes. At the office, I would cautiously check my email to see what fires needed to be put out, and then I would either hop on conference calls or start creating content. Lunch was always left overs or a salad from home, and the rest of the day would be set to survival mode. 4:30 p.m. came and then I was free and trying to make the next few hours last as long as I could before I would have to get up and do it all again.
I was not happy in previous career, and so I decided to make a big change in going back to school. At first, it was exhilarating and exciting, but a year later, the consequences of such a big change have been plaguing me.
As a graduate student, there is much more on my plate. In my career, I juggled projects but I was quite intentional about keeping work in the designated hours. Now, I am using every bit of the day to minimize my to-do list. With school work, two jobs, marathon training, and maintaining a life, it’s hard to fit everything in. This week, I made an hour-by-hour schedule in hopes of feeling somewhat in control of my schedule.
Also, going to school in my mid-30s has put me in a different set of circumstances than many of my friends, who are buying houses, having kids, and climbing the ranks of their respected careers. I am working a part-time retail job (which I enjoy) and living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Being a full-time student is hard, and there are times when I think I must suffer through it. I should be doing homework at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. Or, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get in a run is just part of the deal. By stepping outside of the normal routine for a woman my age, I was agreeing to be miserable with an unstable finances and uncontrollable schedule. That’s what I get for doing something out of conventional expectations.
Today was my day off, and so I wanted to take sometime to recuperate before another busy weekend. I took a two-hour deep nap, watched some trashy TV, and splurged on a bottle of $6.99 wine. When I say my day off, that’s relative. I still worked my school job (which I can do from home), took a final exam that lasted for two hours, and completed a fairly hard workout. Even so, I felt guilty about the nap and didn’t think I really deserved the wine. I argued that I was so lucky to have Tuesdays like this, that most people are slaving away at jobs, so who am I to enjoy a long nap in the middle of the day?
It’s often easy to think we don’t deserve things, or to be any kind of pleasure at the end of accomplishments. I don’t really need to take that trip to visit my college friend. Or, if only I can lose 10 pounds, I will let myself get that dress that I really want. We often restrict ourselves so much that when we do indulge we overdo it, whether it be food, alcohol, or shopping. We think that if we aren’t working hard, we don’t deserve to relax. We must sweat. We must shed tears. We must endure hardships, and then only then, can we have a reward.
This often happens in running. In May, I ran my first half marathon in eight years, and I had a big goal to break 2 hours (more on this later). However, I went out fast and was eight minutes slower than I had hoped. What I don’t tell people when I share this story is that I also PR’ed by 17 whole minutes. That is incredibly impressive, and yet I wouldn’t let myself bask in that glory because my primary goal wasn’t met.
Often, runners only focus on times, and we forget to look at other accomplishments we may have that don’t involve the clock. Maybe we didn’t get a PR that day, but we were better with nutrition and avoided bonking. Or, we encouraged a fellow runner out on the course and helped her overcome a specifically dark time. We don’t allow ourselves to enjoy successful or indulgent moments outside of our expected goals, because we don’t think we deserve them.
This morning, I dominated a hard workout, and then I spent two hours giving my best on a final exam. Not only did I earn that nap and glass of wine, I deserved it. Graduate school, and the life that comes with it, is hard enough, but I have to make time to enjoy it and take care of it. It doesn’t all need to be a slog fest. Changing my life allows me to spend my Tuesdays in a different way, and that won’t always be the case when I graduate and am building up my career, so I better enjoy it.
Just because we made a choice to live differently, to take a more unique path, doesn’t mean we have to suffer. We deserve to enjoy pleasures and to relax, because if we don’t, we’ll lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish, and we’ll lose ourselves.