The Self-Critique

My feet are falling heavily. My stride is too short. A small stitch in my side comes and goes. My shoulders are tight and clenched. My breaths feel forced and inconsistent. My pace is all over the place. I used to be good at running!! What happened??

Oh yea. I didn’t run for a solid 10-11 weeks during the last trimester of pregnancy and then had another 5 weeks without running after giving birth. Despite other cross-training, I had a solid 15 weeks of no running. Bouncing back is hard!! And that is one of my¬†first problems. I had all intentions of literally “bouncing” back. While I certainly didn’t expect to hit my previous paces out of the gate, or distances for that matter, I simply set my expectations a little too high. I did enough reading of other running mothers to know that a return to quality running could be done somewhat quickly, but I guess I neglected to remember (or simply blocked it out) that I can’t compare myself to other runners. Just like in training and racing, I can only compare myself to myself. And so on a recent 5-miler when everything felt hard, I tried to focus on the pure fact that at least I was running. But with every other stride all I could think about was extending my stride, picking up the pace, slowing back down to be smart. I was all over the place.

Rebuilding vs Training

I came out of pregnancy with a 10k on the calendar for Nov. 9–a race that I was signed up for long before I was pregnant so I as I started to run again, rather than approach my return to running as an “ease into it” experience, I’m pretty sure I went straight into training mode. This is a mental and physical challenge. On one hand, I know that I needed to rebuild a base slowly, that I should have stuck to my original plan of run/walks and just taken my time to get comfortable again. On the other hand, I really wanted to believe I was training. I wanted to add mileage and increase speed. I wanted to set myself up to run this 10k in under an hour. I’ve only been back to running for six weeks. I have no clue what is realistic. I wish there was some formula that would tell me that based on how much time I took off times (or divided by?) the previous miles I’ve logged, that would equal a certain pace and distance I could expect to do comfortably. But that formula doesn’t exist.

Instead, I am stuck in this strange place between rebuilding a base and training. In this place I spend half my time thinking about how hard running is and how poorly I’m doing and I spend the other half of the time obsessing over how to improve, how to be comfortably running 10 miles by the end of December, how ultimately all I’m doing is gearing up to train for Boston.

Now that I think about it, if I’m not critiquing my return to running, I’ll be critiquing my training runs, my form, my cross-training, my stretching (or lack thereof). Running represents a constant state of improvement. There is always something a little more to work toward.

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