For all of April and May, I ran a grand total of 8 times. And 6 of those times were prior to April 15.
After the first week of April, I shut down all my running and embraced our collective lockdown. I basically went into personal hibernation, focusing on cleaning up and slimming down my diet, my only exercise most days being an occasional walk.
After years of mostly uninterrupted running and active life, I decided to give myself a long break for the first time in a while, and see if extended inactivity would help me physically once I started to train again. So far, so good.
After “beta-testing” a variety of workout approaches over the last couple weeks, I’ve settled on resuming regular running, with a long term goal to train for 5K running, then for 10K, then for the Half Marathon distance, then finally to train for (world events permitting, of course) the 2021 Vancouver Marathon in May 2021.
Part of this is a semi-fortunate change in my work schedule. For the better part of the last two decades, I worked weekdays 8 to 5 in offices like most people. Much of my creative efforts to consistently train were built around this schedule and lifestyle, and to be honest I got a lot out of myself that way.
But now, my job requires I work more of a swing shift, from late morning until the evening. Plus I work on the weekends, with my days off during the week, and since the company’s retail outlets are open all the time, I work on most bank holidays as well (except the big ones: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day).
This doesn’t sound ideal until I point out that my job can be done remotely. Though I do work in the office (now that we’re open, of course) on the weekdays, I work from home on the weekends. This eliminates the commute, allows me a ton of flexibility with meals, plus makes recovery a lot easier since I don’t need to move far for anything that day.
Plus, and this can’t be understated… for the first time in a while, my work schedule allows me to sleep in if needed. I can sleep in even later on the weekends despite having to work those days, because I’m working from home. Before, if I had trouble getting to sleep on a work night, I was likely ruined the next day. Now, it just pushes back when I wake up, and I still usually get 7-8 hours of good sleep that night.
That’s a big improvement on my recovery, because before I frequently ran into short sleep nights that interfered with recovery.
This also gives me more control over my diet. When you’re at the office, your food options are more limited. Working from home allows you to do things like cook for lunch while working. Also, since the workday starts later, this gives you more flexibility with breakfast, not to mention more time to prepare food if desired. Granted, I’ve been intermittent fasting so I’ve usually been skipping breakfast. But it’s great to have the option.
Most of all, instead of having limited morning time to train and thus usually training tired in the evenings… I now have hours in the morning to train as desired BEFORE going to work. I also do so with full energy first thing in the morning. Plus, instead of having to logistically figure out how to get a workout in following work, I have full control over what workouts I can do first thing in the morning.
Plus, with two weekdays off, I don’t have to deal with more crowded pathways and streets on the weekend. Most people are working weekday mornings, so the trails and sidewalks are mostly clear for longer runs.
So those are the benefits I’m experiencing now. After adjusting to the new schedule, I found it suited my training needs a LOT better than my prior lifestyle.
Meanwhile, my biggest struggle right now is the actual workouts themselves. Remember: I hadn’t run much at all since early April, and am just now getting back into regular running. Even though I feel mostly better after the break, any running at all is now a struggle as I work back into shape.
April 4th, 2020 was the last time I ran at least 3 miles. Even now, running 2 miles is a somewhat arduous effort. Only in the last week have I managed multiple runs in a week for the first time since April.
Yes, the dry Las Vegas summer conditions are a factor. Even training in the mornings, temperatures at dawn are already in the low 70’s (Fahrenheit, 21-24°C), and if you wait until the 8am hour the temps are already above 80°F, 26+°C. Even with the desert’s very low humidity (20% in the morning, 5% by afternoon), the runner’s heat index is in the 120°F (49°C) range. Plus, Vegas is almost always sunny. The heat and sunshine get you hot very quickly.
Still, having experienced Chicago’s very different but similarly tough heat, I know the difference between heat wearing you down and just simply lacking aerobic endurance. A lack of running makes it easy to realize it’s probably way more of the latter.
So, while I’m looking forward to 10K morning runs, 10+ mile long runs, and 400-800 meter repeats… right now the first goal is just for 3-5 miles to feel normal again. Until then….
One of the biggest mistakes athletes make when returning from time off from training is to pick up where they left off.
We all seem to forget that it took months if not years to get to where ever we were when we started our break.
I remember after my first marathon thinking that my next one would be easier. Right!
Training and racing may teach you lessons that will help you in the future, but fitness fades away all too quickly.