It’s almost the end of the year, and that brings up one question: What’s your yearly mileage look like?
Runners set all kinds of goals every year – from joining a group run to signing up for a race to hitting a certain number of miles by Dec. 31.
Setting a goal is important – you need something to work for, even if it’s just to get outside for a little bit every day.
But it can also feel oppressive when you’re staring at your shoes and it’s solid ice outside. Or you’ve been working a ton and just want to spend Saturday morning watching TV with the kids. (My 6-year-old and I love watching vapid tween shows together, I confess.) Or you just need a break from always having to do something – fold laundry, buy groceries, get a run in.
Friends, it’s going to be OK.
It’s the holiday season, and everyone’s calendar fills with more, more, more. More sweet treats, more holiday parties, more eggnog, more stuff, more eggnog lattes, more eggnog with adult beverages in it, more adult beverages. If getting out for a run or meeting friends for miles followed by coffee is your salvation this season, then by all means, get out there.
But if you find yourself dreading it, and spending every footstep obsessing over your to-do list, then I’m here to tell you to give yourself a break. Your world will not end if you take a day off. You will not be shunned by the running community. You will not suddenly go from couch-to-5K to 5K-to-cinnamon rolls.
You’re still a runner.
Even on your day off. Especially then. Ask any coach (hey Grant and Jacqui, we’re talking to you!), and they’ll tell you that time off matters as much as time on. That’s true for any kind of training.
For me, I used to start to panic if I didn’t hit a weekly mileage goal (or race time, or whatever). And then, a few years ago I told myself that I was going to take time off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s a little odd – lots of folks choose that time to build a streak: Run every day from Thanksgiving to the end of the year – as a way to beat the stress of the season.
I took a different approach. Fall usually means a race, and because so many longer races happen when the weather cools down, it usually meant a goal race of a certain distance (hey there, marathon). After that, there’s the usual sort of letdown, the ‘what now’ as you recover. And then I would just feel rudderless yet compelled to cram in the miles. I mean, I was already doing long runs, shouldn’t I keep doing them? What would happen if I took time off from weekly mileage goals? I had worked so hard!
It would become a loop of anxiety as the pressures of the holidays would build.
And that isn’t why I came to running. I came to relax. Unwind. Decompress. Look at the trees and the sky. Not to hate myself.
And the first year I told myself it was OK to slow down, it turns out I didn’t slow down that much, and I didn’t skip that many miles. It was barely noticeable. But if I felt like taking a spin class or yoga or just going for a walk, I went ahead and did that, and I didn’t feel bad. More often than not, I made up the miles by just running more on fewer days. It wasn’t intentional – it just happened.
It isn’t that I didn’t run – it’s just that I didn’t have to do anything. Normally don’t get out of bed for anything less than 6 miles? Not this season. A sweet 2-mile run followed by a dog walk sounds glorious. Or, better yet, spending that hour drinking coffee and reading a book while the rest of the house is asleep. Swoon.
If you’re someone who loves to streak at the end of the year, that’s awesome – and I want to hear about it.
But if you’re like me, and you just need permission sometimes to step away from training and keeping a log and obsessing, then that’s awesome, too.
Happy running. (Or reading. Or watching every episode of “The Crown” in one weekend. Or eggnog-drinking. Or whatever you’re doing this month that keeps you sane.)
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.