I am no stranger to feeling guilty after having a rest day or not feeling like I’ve done enough if I haven’t pushed my body to its limits after every training session. These feelings often exacerbated after scrolling through Instagram only to get caught in the comparison trap, worrying about what everyone else is doing rather than focusing on myself. Although I know it’s important to remember that social media presents a very small fraction of a person’s day, painting the ‘best versions’, it can often cloud judgements onto our own personal efforts.
I’ll be the first person to admit that more often than not I have gone forward with the mentality that in order to be faster or stronger or better, you need to train harder, longer and more frequently. However, as one would expect this is fundamentally the wrong attitude to have and can (and in my case did) lead to a both physical and mental burnout. This topic came to mind after a particularly tough interval session on Tuesday where I just didn’t feel like I had been running my best and immediately dismissed this session as failure.
As the weeks progress in my training schedule, my body is slowly adapting to the increased mileage and so what I thought would be a relatively easy day left me fairly frustrated. After torrentially raining all morning it conveniently cleared up as I headed out for my run and I was feeling positive, thinking that this would be quite easy, despite my achy legs. I was doing 5 x 1k intervals with 1 minute of rest in between, for moderately hard efforts (aiming for faster than 5k pace). I was running on a trail near where I live and since it starts off with a few hills I used this as a warm-up so that I could do the intervals on the flat part of the path. As I got to the start of the path I realised that I had forgotten to charge my Garmin watch which was kind of annoying as it meant I couldn’t see the specific pace I was running at and was just going to have to go off how I was feeling. Luckily, Josh was running with me so using his watch we ran a warm-up of 1k just so we could measure our interval. After this the first hard effort began, Josh, being quite a bit faster than me sprinted off ahead. I started running hard after all 1k is not really that far if you think about it. However, by the second interval I could feel the fatigue setting in quicker than anticipated and I finished the run feeling deflated and disappointed in my performance.
In reality I was probably not running my fastest because my legs were tired from the previous week of training and in the grand scheme of things, one run does not define your ability as a runner. We can’t always expect to be at our 100% and its okay to have an off day. That’s why its important not to compare yourself to what everyone else is doing. So, I guess having said that, the aim of this blog post was just to say that we shouldn’t be punishing ourselves for not running as fast as we think we should or having a rest day. Instead we should look at them positively, as a part of training that will allow us to recover and help achieve our goals of becoming a better runner. I speak for myself when I say this, but I’m sure others can agree that sometimes I feel scared of taking rest days or admitting that I struggled during a session that should’ve been easy. I think that if I’m not putting my all into it, that means I’m losing fitness or progress in my training. However, the truth is actually the opposite and in order to make improvements we need to let ourselves rest and recover to adapt from our training. To reach our goals many pieces of a puzzle have to fit together, working with a coach has helped me to learn that we need to trust the process, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Ultimately instead of taking to Instagram or Strava or whatever it is, to compare ourselves we need to prioritise listening to our bodies! If you feel like you need to slow down, then remember that’s okay. I’m finishing this week with a chilled-out Sunday recuperating, ready to start fresh on Monday.
I hope you have all had a great weekend, training or not!