When Resting is Harder than Working Out

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About two years ago I decided to give running a real shot. I noticed that when I travel, the best way to explore the area I’m in (and make up for all the unhealthy food I ate) is to go for a jog wherever I go.

The rush you get from traveling combined with the insane confidence you feel when you finish a long run was something I wanted to experience. And it’s oh so sweet. All I had to do was fall in love running. Easy, right? Not exactly.

This hill is really big. Why did I do this? I HATE running.”

This was basically what was going on in my head every year for about 5 years until I was 18. And before that, I hated working out in general. Was I unmotivated? Probably. Tired? Maybe a little. Lazy? Absolutely. And it didn’t get better after 18. It only got worse.

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I grew up playing sports but I was also very lazy. This meant that I was pretty descent at the game, but I didn’t apply myself the way I should have. I fell in love with sports but I was not in love with good health and that was the difference. It was the reason why I ultimately struggled with motivation.

I played water polo for almost ten years. It was hard and amazing. I hated the training especially the running. There was this hill our coach made us run up. ‘Skyline’ is what they called it. It was hell.

That was 8 years ago. I settled with the fact that running wasn’t for me, and that I was never going to be one of those people I see on the streets who look legitimately happy just running. That was 8 years ago.

So I started by running up and down my street, less than a block. I moved up to a mile, then two, until I was able to run at least four miles a day, three times a week. Some days were better than others, some days I hit 5 miles, but most I stayed between 3 and 4.

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Three weeks ago I finished my first ultra marathon. For those who are unfamiliar, it’s anything over 27 miles. It was a 24 hour/100 mile run. Runners were encouraged to run what they could until the 24 hours was up. Some made it to 50 miles, some made it 100, and everywhere in between.

I had never ran that far in my life. I’d been training, but not for 100 miles. Needless to say, I learned a lot. I learned that my shoes were to tight, although for almost six months they felt perfect; I learned your ankles get swollen to an unrecognizable state; And I learned that you really do get to know yourself in a way you never could have imagined. I learned enough to write a book (and I hope to someday), but the biggest lesson I learned was this: resting can be way harder than working out.

In the midst of painful blisters, cheers from fellows runners, and not being able to decide whether I was hungry or not, I realized that something was happening with every step, I was actually falling in love with running. I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t stop. It was then that I realized I was a part of something bigger than myself.

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It was an amazing run and I pushed it to 65 miles before my body said, “take another step, and you won’t take another one for a very long time,” so I cut my 80 mile goal down to 65. And I was happy with that. What I wasn’t happy with was the after.

After the run I thought, “now that I just ran 65 miles, simply a few days of rest and I can start running 5 miles a day no problem!” I was so excited.

Problem.

Many people will tell you running 100 miles can’t be good for your body. They might be right, if you don’t give your body what it needs. Rest is probably the most important aspect of working out. And I needed it. My ankles were the tightest I’d ever seen. My knees were killing me, my feet were swollen for four days and my body was drained. The energy was there, but my body needed to catch up. Rest is when you recover, when you build. And after you’ve ran 65 miles, your body NEEDS to rest. But for how long? As long as it needs.

That’s the scary part about running an ultra marathon for the first time. And that’s been the hardest part for me. It’s been two weeks since I’ve jogged a mile and I miss it. I’m resting for a full three weeks before I attempt to get back out there.

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People kept asking me, “are you considering the possible consequences of this?” How you won’t walk for a day or two and probably won’t see your ankle bones for a bit. I took all of that into consideration. What I didn’t think about was that I may fall madly in love with running, and then have to take a break from it.

It’s like finally admitting to your crush that you love each other, but then not being able to see them for a whole month. But I’m not going to be a creeper and keep calling my date so he runs away– just like how I won’t push my body to run again when it’s not ready, or I may never run again. That’s a scary thought.

But just like love, I must be patient, for true love never really leaves you, and I don’t believe my love for running will. I’m walking normal again, but my ankle is still tight, so I’m waiting another week. It’s hard because I feel this need to get back out there or I’ll lose the spirit.

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As I was wallowing in my misery, a close friend reminded me that I should actually feel very happy. “Your mind has changed. Ten years ago, you couldn’t have expected to feel this way, in fact, you felt quite the opposite.”

Perhaps instead of thinking about what I can’t do at the moment, maybe I should be thinking about how much I’ve changed. Ten years ago, I was a different person. And when I hit the ground running again, it’ll be a reminder of exactly how far I’ve come. Sometimes you just need that time to rest. When you push yourself so far, it’s the rest that allows you to push again, but next time even further.

Today, I make it a point to run everywhere I travel. From the hills of Los Angeles, through the greenest neighborhoods of Oregon, and the breathtaking skyline that’s downtown Seattle. Running is now a part of my journey.

I wish for just one day to be back to my 14-year-old self, looking up at that hill in fear. If I could talk to her, I would tell her, “Don’t be afraid. You’re going to run 65 miles one day.”

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