Finding Balance in Running and Life

University of Louisville’s campus, pre-flying squirrel impression.

Life has become hectic lately for me between helping care for my mother post-surgery, teaching, starting a new chapter in my writing career, being a mother and wife, and, of course, running. I was forced to take a step back a couple of weeks ago when I did a flying squirrel imitation, landing on concrete and bruising an upper rib, badly, as well as a forearm when I was running around UofL’s campus. A moment of distraction earned me aches and pains and two weeks off of running and cross training. Tucking my mouthpiece from my bladder into the front pocket of my hydration vest certainly didn’t help as I landed right on it. 

Stepping back made me rethink how I’ve been balancing life lately, quite poorly as a matter of fact. Late nights writing and early mornings running and tending to my mother while trying to be a present parent, partner, and teacher had me wearing myself down without even realizing it. This post will detail 3 things to keep in mind about balancing running and life.

  1. Your body can’t distinguish between types of stress—As coach and founder of SWAP Running (Some Work All Play) David Roche often points out, your body can’t tell the difference between life stress and running stress. We often think it’s the miles wearing us out when the work stress, family stress, sleepless nights, and anxiety are really the culprit. The last two weeks, I did something I haven’t done in forever, I napped. I also read, wrote, baked pretzels and a birthday cake for my husband with my daughter, and, admittedly, watched Hamilton several times. Little aches I had been ignoring are gone with the added rest, and I’ve gotten to spend more time with my family, rather than running around, literally and figuratively, all day. I’ve seen my daughter become an expert on her bike with training wheels, something my husband normally does with her, and gotten so many restorative snuggles from my sweet girl. She’s a good little nurse for a five-year-old, albeit a little forceful with her affection at times. 
  • Time off is okay—I’ve built my mileage up recently to around 35-40 miles a week, some a little less, averaging a little over 150 miles a month for the past four months. I took several months of slowly building up to this mileage, and I saw real gains from it with my pace and perceived effort going down. The trial of miles and consistency served me well. Going from 40 to nothing has been more mentally tough than anything. The extreme heat and humidity the past two weeks made me not too disappointed to have to take time off right now, and the pain the first week made me not even think of trying. This last week, I keep having to remind myself that I’m not losing all of my fitness. Some of it, sure, but not all of it. The gains will come back as I start back and ease my mileage back up. The muscle memory is still there. My body knows what to do. 
  • Running isn’t going away—Whether you take a day off or a week or two off, your running shoes aren’t going anywhere. The roads and trails aren’t going anywhere. It’s still all out there waiting for you. As I’ve been laid up, I keep thinking about how good that next sunrise run on the trails will feel, how different the trails will look. I’m plotting out new routes around my neighborhood, new places to explore. I ordered some new gear from Skirt Sports and some new Ponya Bands, the best non slip headbands and bamboo sweatbands. Instead of focusing on what I’m missing, I’m planning the next adventure. Sure it throws off my 50K trail training (Knobstone Knockout, how did I forget you were rescheduled and not canceled?), but I have plenty of time until mid-October because I had built that consistency in my mileage. Focus on the future, don’t dwell on the present.
Letting the shirt, and new Ponya Band, determine my mood.

This time off due to injury turned out to be, in a way, just what I needed to remind me to bring that balance back to my life. It’s been good for my mind and body as I realized how much stress I had been running off rather than dealing with. I’m looking forward to lacing up my shoes for a trial run later this week, taking it easy as I start back in. This time, I’ll be more mindful of sleep, stress, and getting as many of those little girl snuggles as I can. How do you balance life and running? Tell me in the comments below!