On November 2nd, I’ll be running my first half marathon since 2010. Falling off the fitness bandwagon and pretty much staying there has been my closeted shame since my son was born in 2012.
I had spurts and fits of starting up again, but I was pretty inconsistent due to developing a thyroid condition postpartum (Hashimoto’s if you’re curious) and going to grad school when kiddo turned two. Getting back into the swing of things has been humbling and has taught me a great deal. Until I finished school, I had not been able to be reliably active for more than 12 weeks at a time. My greatest success was when I hired a personal trainer, but as soon as that funding ran out, so did my ability to commit to activity. Each start and stop over the years eroded my confidence more and more (can you relate?), but this last time I started up with what had the greatest reward potential and the lowest obstacles: running. I’d had a long, successful history with running and the time flexibility it offers is second only to having an in home gym or class you really like. Here’s what I’ve been learning about myself over the last 5 months coming back to fitness from “Square One”:
- You’ve got to let go of your past Self. Once you’ve been away long enough, comparing yourself to your past self is just as foolish as comparing yourself to anyone else. Who I am now is nearly a decade older, structurally different after having a baby and losing significant muscle mass, and still navigating a complex medical condition. Each run gave me a humbling lesson in accepting a slower pace, acknowledging that this new body needs more rest and recovery, and that it also needs to beef up the muscles around the joints if those joints are going to last. The more I left Athlete Aimee in the past the more I was able to enjoy and appreciate what I was slowly building up to in the present. This made staying consistent that much easier. One of the ways I protected myself from making comparisons was to run for time rather than distance for the first few months so my Ego could take a chill pill (ie – run for 20 minutes rather than run for 2 miles).
- Some is Better than None: Some weeks fatigue took me a step back or life got busy again and my mileage suffered. Because I was focused on creating a habit and not an end goal in mind (like a race) I could adjust as needed and remain flexible yet consistent. Two miles is just as good as five is that’s all I have time or energy for. Once I was imperfectly consistent enough to get in three runs a week for a month and build up to 6 miles, I pulled the trigger and signed up for a half marathon several months out to allow enough time to be imperfectly consistent and still safely run a long distance race.
- Acknowledge and Respect the Hand of Chaos: Mom Aimee has to be much more flexible and forgiving with her training schedule than Athlete Aimee did. While I could have trained for a half in 12 weeks, I gave myself 16 weeks to make accommodations for the hand of chaos which is an inevitable part of the landscape now. Sometimes my training schedule called for a 5 mile run one day that ended up being a 2 miler and a 3 miler over two days. For a couple weeks work pushed out activity and threatened to derail my efforts but I recommitted and set firmer boundaries around my running time, enlisting the support of my partner. Once I accrued enough endurance, I paired my workout with a family errand (I ran to the Farmer’s Market and they met me there) to both motivate me and eliminate the temptation for what I wanted (this race) vs what needed to get done (weekly food shopping).
- Once the habit is established, begin to branch out. I’m now in the habit of exercising 3-4 days a week, which honestly still astonishes me because that hasn’t been the case for years. After my half, I’m going to shake things up by adding weights back into the routine to build up that muscle mass I lost and give my 40-something knees more support. I’ll be playing with high intensity intervals and heavy weights, cycling them with my hormone status. Even though I’ve done this with clients, my own fitness has been inconsistent enough that I’ve not yet fully implemented this in my own regimen. I have a base of strength and endurance now to play with some more complex training and that is sparking my excitement enough I believe I’ll stay consistent post-race. Having a plan post-race will keep me moving forward. This is a strategy I’ve implemented with all my runners to help prevent the post-race blues.
Have you ever fallen off the bandwagon and stayed down for a significant period of time? What worked to get you back on track, or are you still struggling? Comment below and let me know!