Every time I take a little step back from running (as I did mid February) it forces me to recognize (again) that running is a central piece of my life, for better or worse.
And suddenly I feel like a ‘normal’ person… waking up and starting my day without a run, having more time to sleep in, maybe squeezing in a spin class or 30 minute strength session – but with zero stress about if/how/when my run will happen. It’s kind of nice!
And I’m reminded, again, that to run for the sake of fitness and good health, 30 minutes is really all you need. However, I love running with the end goal of new race records- not overall health. Is that okay? Is that something I should be doing year after year?
I recognize that “runners” can be a little bit crazy in pursuit of our goals.
Here’s an overview of the difference between running for fitness vs racing:
Running for fitness:
- 30 minutes 3 days per week is sufficient for heart health, bone health and cardiovascular improvement
- Injury is rare as the body is not overtaxed and as plenty of time for proper recovery
- Moderate exercise balances hormones
- Metabolism is balanced
- Healthy weight is easier to maintain
- Hunger is regulated
- Sleep is improved
- Immunity is improved
Running to race or really push the limits:
- Often requires at least an hour per day, with one or two days off or cross training
- Injury is more common as the body is frequently overtaxed
- Hormones are more likely to be out of balance, particularly estrogen which can be suppressed
- Metabolism is more likely to be out of balance and confused if diet is not a careful consideration
- Healthy weight can be harder to maintain (too much weight loss for some, weight gain for others)
- Hunger can be hard to regulate, especially for endurance athletes
- Sleep can be improved but can also be lacking as sleep needs continue to increase
- Immunity is hampered
With my rational brain, I can see that less running and more cross training has more benefits for my health. With my emotional brain, I want to push my limits for a few years and see what I’m capable of!
Is one better than the other? When I’m injured I start to think I’m crazy for ever pushing so hard! But when I’m in the middle of it there is nothing more fun and satisfying!
The aches and pains pop up for a reason – to ensure we are taking care of our bodies and not crossing the line into poor health when what we’re doing should be good for our bodies.
Bottom line: If you’re not pushing yourself and running as much as the “crazy” runners, be confident in what you’re doing- it is (in many cases) better for you! You should never feel “less than” for not running crazy amounts of miles.
If you are an endurance athlete, continue to pay careful attention to all of your bodies signs so you can do so in a safe and healthy way. If you ever get to a point when it’s no longer giving you the same amount of joy, back off and know that your body will get just as many benefits (and likely more) from doing a little bit less!
Do you consider yourself running for run or running to race?
Is it hard for you to remember that less can be more? Do you ever feel like you’re never doing enough?
I find social media often tries to tell me I’m not doing enough. I’m content with my training and am able to (mostly) ignore those messages, but they’re intense!