So far this year I've run 98km in races alone. I can't actually bring myself to count the hundreds of training kilometres I've clocked up since I donned trainers and pounded pavement for the first time back in January. I've cycled over 500km (although at one time I used to do that in a month) and since August I've dropped a whole dress size and I'm on the way to another thanks to a whole range of improvements to my training and eating for my activity levels. I ran a freakin' marathon for goodness sake.
But since October hit, so has a bit of a wall. The marathon hit me hard and it took a little bit of my soul with it when it was finally over. That combined with additional work responsibilities, a trip stateside and the darker nights means in a month I've exercised less than 5 times, compared to the 4-5 times per week I was getting through this summer.
Y'know, it feels great. I'm really looking forward to going to running club a couple of times this week and not feeling that I *should* be doing something at a certain level, but taking it at the level I currently find myself at. I'm excited to plan some new PT with my trainer and for the first time in months, I don't feel guilty or lazy or ashamed that I haven't really done that much. Mostly because I came to realise I needed to take a break.
Goals and targets are great, regular sports and exercise are great too, but there is such a thing as too much and it's ok to need time to recalibrate as one goal comes to an end and you rethink your approach to whatever your fitness of choice may be. It's ok to accept that you can't do everything all the time and for some people (I include myself here) there are more important things than making yourself go for a run in the dark which will leave you hurting, feeling miserable and with a growing sense of failure. For some, the 'go hard or go home' approach coupled with the mantra 'you'll only regret the workout you didn't do' is much needed motivation, I'm pleased for you if so. We all have to find a way to make shit happen. But if you're already a driven person. if you tend towards being perfectionist or obsessive about reaching targets, your brain and your battered body might just thank you for signing out of instagram, twitter and pinterest, and going for dinner with your friend rather than sticking to your training plan, going away for a weekend and not packing your trainers for a long run before breakfast on Sunday or admitting that your twingy ankle is going to benefit far more from a marathon session of The Good Wife than it is a threshold run.
I've found it so easy to be swept along with signing up for event and event, session after session and hauling my behind out of bed at 0600 on the one day of the week I don't need to, just because ohmygodIhaven'texercisedenoughI'msuchabadhuman hits me. If you spend 6 days of your 7 day holiday worrying about your training plan has fallen to pieces because the most exercise you've done is swimming across to the pool bar, is that really any more or less healthy than the not doing anything in the first place? I'd say you're not doing yourself any favours.
In this brave new world of hotel room workout videos and social media schedules, it's time to give yourself a reality check. It's someone's business to post a daily fitness routine, it doesn't mean you have to do it. Hotel workout youtube videos might be great for someone who has to work away a lot, but is that what you want from your holiday? And most of all, listen to your body and your mood and your own sense of wellbeing. Feeling constantly under the weather? Injury that won't quite go away? Feeling reluctant every time you don trainers? Maybe it's time to take a step back and breathe. Enjoy life. Take a deep breath. Reassess. And don't you dare allow yourself to feel guilty for it.