Ever since I started running in June 2011, I’ve always had a race on my calendar. At times the race has been months away (hello, marathon season 2019), but I’ve always been working towards something: a finish, a goal, etc.
For the first time in over eight years, I don’t have any races on my calendar, and I don’t know when that will change.
I’m on the cusp of moving into a more unpredictable season of life. Because I don’t know exactly what the next few years might hold, I’m hesitant (read: unwilling) to put down big bucks on a race almost a full year in advance (read: the Chicago Marathon) when it’s totally possible I might not be in a position to participate in the event come race day. I don’t feel comfortable committing to year-long race plans or goals right now, and since you have no choice but to commit to something like that with the Chicago Marathon, that means that race specifically is out of the question until things settle down a bit for me. Obviously every race isn’t the Chicago Marathon, but since I have a lot of uncertainty about how things may shake out in the coming months and years, I’m not particularly interested in committing to any races or running-related goals for the time being.
My priorities with running have shifted, for now, from chasing goals to maintaining a base. For the first time ever, I might be able to accurately answer the question, “How many miles do you run per week?”! Finally! (Previously, the answer always depended on what particular race I was training for at the moment.)
I’m actually not running at all right now. I used to always take a full month off of running after a marathon, and I’ve returned to that habit this year. Though I didn’t bring it up much (at all?) during marathon season, the plantar fasciitis that started in my right foot in February hasn’t really improved (imagine that! Continuing to do the same thing that hurt me with absolutely no rehab didn’t magically make it go away!). Because it’s always been more of a nuisance than an actual problem, I haven’t been overly motivated to do anything to try to make it better. In the limited time I’ve taken off since February, however, I’ve noticed that the one thing that consistently eases my plantar fasciitis is not running. So, I’m not running for a month. If it’s STILL bothering me after that point, then I’ll go to physical therapy. Maybe. I’ve known I could probably benefit from physical therapy for over six months now, but since this hasn’t really gotten in the way of my running (or my daily life, outside of having to hobble out of bed every morning due to my sore sole), I haven’t wanted to make the commitment to taking care of it. I don’t really want to deal with this for the rest of my life, though, so if one month off doesn’t fix the problem entirely, I should probably seek out additional help.
Once I do start running again, I’d like to maintain a running base that would allow me to run a 10K or shorter at any time, and allow me to be five or six weeks away from running a half marathon. I plan to do two weekday runs in the three to four mile range and one weekend run of six or seven miles, at least for the remainder of 2019. If I feel like I’d be happier running slightly more than that (three to five miles on weekdays, six to eight miles on weekends), I’ll make adjustments in 2020. Six to eight miles feels very manageable for a consistent long run, as does three to five miles for a weekday run. Anything more than that is when I start to feel like my runs are eating up a bunch of my time, which is one thing when I’m training for something specific, but another thing when I’m running just to maintain fitness. I’ve always used goal races to motivate me to run, and that helped me get through more burdensome longer runs. Since I won’t have a goal race to work towards, I don’t want to put myself in a position where I resent running in general or feel like it’s just one more thing to check off my to-do list. I think keeping my weekly mileage in the 12 to 18 mile range should keep that from happening. Of equal importance, these are all distances I feel like I can handle on the treadmill if necessary. I don’t know what the outdoor running situation will be like in the winter around my current apartment, so I want to keep my mileage at a treadmill-friendly level until I have a better idea of how good my area is at cleaning their sidewalks. If it’s anything like the neighborhoods where I lived in Chicago, I’m not exactly optimistic I’ll find ice-free conditions 😛
In the mean time, I’ve renewed my focus on strength training, this time with an emphasis on my upper body. I have an event coming up in January where I’ll be wearing a dress that shows off my back and arms, so I’d like to see if I can coax a little more definition out of them. Over the past year and a few months of strength training, I’ve done two days of legs and one day of upper body per week. I’m flipping that between now and January, doing two days of upper body and one day of legs. I’ve found that consistent strength training over about three months or so does amazing things for the muscle definition in my legs, and I’m crossing my fingers that the same thing will happen to my back and arms if I work on those twice a week instead. I’m not unhappy with how my arms or back look right now, so if nothing happens it’s certainly not the end of the world, but I figured it was worth a shot. I’ve also been doing some light cardio (like, 20-minutes-on-the-stationary-bike cardio), and doing HIIT workouts from Fitness Blender once or twice a week. Those workouts are no freaking joke, so once or twice a week is perfectly sufficient for me.
It’s weird to not have any definite races coming up (I might do a turkey trot on or around Thanksgiving. TBD.), but it’s also nice to be able to take a little bit of a break from the constant grind of training. I have a few weekdays during the remainder of the year where I know I won’t be able to get a workout in, and it’s nice to have the flexibility to rearrange my schedule or take an additional rest day to accommodate other life things (like getting a crown next week, ugh. I’d rather do a HIIT workout!). I’m looking forward to a more low-pressure fitness life for awhile and am interested to see how running for running’s sake works out for me.