Monday, November 15, 2010

“Listen to What Your Brain Tells You”

If there is advice that I would relay to anyone who is asking themselves whether they should take some time off from training – it’s the title of today’s blog.

It’s taken me a long time to get here, but it’s something that I should have done long ago. I started this blog back on January 8, 2008 as a diary of my exploits to lose weight and run myself into shape to do some things that I never thought possible. And I did. I ran my first marathon that June. Along the way I found myself running distances that would belie my couch loving body with the strongest remote control fingers in the world just a few months earlier. The gains (both speed and distance) were motivating. I tackled my next marathon a year later and make an amazing 30 minute improvement in my PR. Along the way I saw other PRs smashed and completed a Pfitzinger Training cycle, maxing out at 55 miles per week. What a transformation! I was pumped.

I set my sights next on the new and improved L.A. Marathon – through the streets of the city I was born and raised in. I trained. Hard. Along the way new PRs were set. The miles stacked up. I was ready. I hit the road out of Dodger Stadium and made my way to the Sea.

But somewhere along the way something broke. Not physically, but mentally. I finished. And then wondered – “What Now?” I tried to train, but the spark was no longer there. Many of you gave me some pretty sound advice – take some time off. I especially remember lindsay being quite adamant with that advice. You would think that 50 plus years on this planet would make me wise in my old age. But nooooooo. I dug my heels in and decided that I was going to fight my way through the doldrums. Bottom line is I watched my 2:07 HM PR become a 2:40 HM in Laguna Hills, a 2:32 on the streets of San Francisco, and a bone chilling 3:07 in Long Beach. I step back and look at some of my blog titles over the past few months:

Well, I think you get the point. I’m sitting here on the 15th of November, 20 pounds heavier than last March and unable to clock a 10 minute mile.. Hell, I haven’t seen 10:30 in forever. The bottom line is I’m exactly where I would have been if I would have just admitted that I was sick of training, sick of putting in the hours, and sick of the routine and just stopped for a couple or three months. Hmm. And I probably wouldn’t be almost two stone heavier.

So kids – don’t do like Dad does. Do like Dad says. Listen to your brain. If you’re asking the question, the answer is “Yes”. Discretion is the better part of valor…

*There is some hope. I put in a 5 mile training run on Saturday. It was invigorating. Made me look forward to getting out of the house on Sunday for 4 more miles. No pressure. No worrying about pace. Just checking to make sure my heart rate stayed in the aerobic range. I’ve got to admit – it’s been a while since I had the feeling I had after Saturday’s run. I finished last week’s training as well, and put 20 miles in the ledger. And feel fine.

This week:

  • Monday: Scheduled rest day
  • Tuesday: Run 4 easy miles
  • Wednesday: Row 4 or so miles
  • Thursday: Run 4 easy miles
  • Friday: SRD
  • Saturday: Run 7 easy miles
  • Sunday: Run 3 easy miles
  • Total plan: 22 miles


  1. You and I, Glenn, have the same running gods choosing our paths this year. I haven't run well since March and am 10 lbs overweight and my pace is a good minute slower than where it was. So frustrating. But these things happen for a reason, I think - when we DO come back running, we will run all the wiser and not take our running for granted - oh how strong mentally we will be and will fight that much harder! Right??? At least that's what I'm hoping! We've got marathons to tackle and blog meet-ups to do so take what you need to get healthy and let's meet in San Fran this next year!! :)

  2. Running just for the sake of running is always liberating. Sometimes it seems like you put too much stress on yourself about this running thing but any exercise you get in on any given day will help you along the fitness path. Staying in shape and maintaining a healthy diet is not easy for anyone. It is not something you can leave to chance and hope that it turns out for the best. Consistency and Discipline is what will get you the results you are looking for. And remember, if it were easy, than everyone would be eating a perfect diet and looking like perfect athletes. Don't be so hard on yourself, but don't throw in the towel either.

  3. Make that you, Jill and I, Glenn. 2010 has been a constant struggle for me as well. That's why I've been on runnbatical for almost a month now. Come join us. I've got a spot reserved just for you!

  4. Glenn - This is a terrific post. I appreciate your honesty in the post and think this is great for those that are newbies and those that have run for ages. We all hit a wall due to some reason and sometimes we have to back away and re-look at the point of the run.



  5. Aaah, with age comes wisdom. Way to step back and really take a look at what was happening, Glenn.

  6. A very self aware post. Glad you've found your way again *hugs*

    And thanks for the advice on my training. I'm still finding my way in this running world and I really enjoy getting advice from those who know more than me :)

  7. glenn, i only continued to 'lecture' you because i had been through the same thing! a great race way back when, and then a downward spiral as my legs got slower and my body heavier. sometimes you just have to learn these things yourself though.

    as for the weight well i'm still working on that but i have at least found a joy for running/training again, and that is the most important part (to me anyway, although being a few lbs lighter would be ok too).

    anyway, embrace these "pathetically-low" mileage weeks. if you only run 10-miles, so what! run when you want, do some other sort of activity when you don't (like the ol' erg). i'm still taking my "rebuild" slowly - i worked my way back to 20-30 miles in sept/oct, and nov-dec i plan on running 30-35ish. i am not scheduled to hit 40 until the last week of 2010-first of 2011.

    glad to hear you are enjoying your runs - now this time it better stay that way! we don't get paid to do this, we may as well enjoy it! :)

  8. Never give up!

    When the time is right you will find out just how easy it is. Until that time a least try to stay in the holding pattern.

    It has been quite difficult for me for the last few weeks. Fortunately, I am not burned out from running (yet) and have 55-70 miles per week on the calendar for the next few months.

  9. Emphasis there on "easy miles," good going. Do what's fun!

  10. Well at least you got in some miles.

    My last run was on October 24 during the RnR LA 1/2. Since then I am overwhelmed with working and school that I haven't ran a single mile.

    My class ends in Dec.

    I don't even want to step unto a scale until several weeks after my class ends.

  11. Yeah, with age comes wisdom is overrated! Bang your head against that wall enough times and you'll eventually learn....

  12. Very good post and good timing for me. I was pumped up to do something stupid in March of 2011, and then realized after the marathon, it was foolish. Too much Too soon. I finally listened to my brain instead of my imagination fairy land people inside of my brain. lol. I am going to chill and run enough and work on my diet as to not gain weight over the next 25.2 days now. Thanks for sharing. You will get there, and thanks for the advise.

  13. Good post.

    I learned a similar lesson a few years ago when I didn't take time off for an injury early on and ended up taking 3 months off whether I wanted to or not!

    The body knows. The brain just doesn't always listen.

  14. Finding the joy in running is important. It can be so frustrating when you aren't enjoying the run. I think we have all been through this in some sort. Hopefully you will be back to loving it soon!

  15. I remember when I came to that same realization. You might enjoy reading "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" because it talks about the impact of age on ambitions. I loved it.

  16. Glenn, you are such a cheerleader for so many of us, of course we are going to support you now. I agree with Lindsay, celebrate the low mileage weeks. I have found myself to enjoy running much more once I said to myself that it was ok if my longest run was only 6 miles. No need to do more just to call myself a "runner."

    And thank you, by the way, for your email this weekend. It meant a lot to me. I really mean that.

  17. I agree with the others and will add more. You might consider just running without the Garmin or even of having any idea of how long your going. I can identify with your journey. It's much more fun when you feel like you're running is just getting better and better as opposed to backtracking. But sometimes you need to take a step or two back before you can go forward. I also like Anne's recommendation of "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." Wonderful book!

  18. Thanks for a very frank post. It sounds like there are a lot of people, myself included who have gone through the cycle of ups and downs,,,I look back at some of my earlier races and think really I ran that fast! I think it's a balance between:

    A beginner knows nothing vs information overload! Three years in we run with Garmins, know about LT, LSD, ATP, slow twitch fast twitch, our bathrooms are piled high with Runners World, Trail Running and he like!

    Keep it simple my friend and your mojo will find you!