It has already been close to a month since my last race of the season, and I have really been enjoying my time off of training.
I’ve been partaking in fun gym classes to stay active–usually whatever “quick and dirty” options are available over my lunch hour. On the weekends I haven’t done much.
My body is more rested. I’m sleeping well. I feel strong. I’m having fewer over-training symptoms. The grocery bill has stabilized. But mentally, I’ve noticed something.
I’m so anxious. And I feel so many feels.
Like many other fitness nerds, my hobby melded around a teenage eating disorder in the 1990’s. My EDOC was anorexia for a while, and then bulimia for a lot more years.
Every female I grew up with had some sort of food or body image issue.
We wasted so many years of our youth trying to be skinny. As if most of us would look like supermodels even if we weighed 12 lbs.
As an adult, I’ll never be bulimic again, I don’t ever diet, and I have a great relationship with food. I eat everything in moderation. I eat crap so I don’t covet crap. Just not a lot of crap. (And none on rye.)
But I also know, through therapy, that those core issues are probably never going to go away. I’ve traded one habit (puking) for another (running), and pass it off as “being healthy.” It can be healthy. For me, it is not always.
If I don’t run and run and run, those same feelings that led to an eating disorder come rushing back.
Anxiety. Insecurity. Depression.
Suburban girl problems.
Random thoughts pop into my head, and I agonize over things I said or did… 15 years ago. It makes little sense.
Two days ago, REI called me and left a message about a sports bra I’d ordered that got lost in the mail. Could I call them back, please, so they could refund me. Just the thought of calling made me panic, and filled me with despair. It took me two days to muster the energy to call REI. That makes no sense. It was just a phone call. ABOUT A REFUND. That’s a good thing, right? My perspective becomes warped.
“Help me!” I’ve screamed in my sleep, waking up my husband, as I was dreaming about home invasion. By a Bergen.
I have dreams about the first day of college, over and over. I can’t find a classroom. I don’t like my roommate. I miss my kids and want to drop out.
It’s an endless loop of things I feel anxious about, real and imagined, that hold no bearing on my present.
This doesn’t happen as much when I’m running a lot.
Running erases those thoughts for me. I’m too tired at bedtime to care. The endorphins make me feel positive, more frequently.
Don’t get me wrong–I like my life, and I consider myself happy as a clam quite a good portion of it. But like everyone else, I have issues under the surface.
Taking an off-season is an excellent time to take stock of my issues. I’ve been sick a lot this fall. Is that due to over-training as the season wound down? Did I not recover from my marathon properly?
Speaking of that marathon and my issues, running it pushed me beyond comfortable physical and mental limits. Is doing that distance the best thing for someone who doesn’t have a good sense of when to take a rest day?
And more importantly, it’s a good time to remember the reasons I appreciate running in the first place. Because it reduces my anxiety, and makes me feel better feels.
So that part about trading one unhealthy habit for another, and passing it off as “staying in shape”… being a runner CAN be healthy. So long as I’m smart about it, conscious of my limits, and honest about my motivations. If I’m running constantly when I’m sick, running too many races for my body and passing it off as “having goals”—it’s not.
This remains a work in progress for me.