I’ve been running for 16 years, and I need a break.

Workout at 1.

I read the text from my trainer, Will, and groaned. Yesterday was Track Club Nationals. You may also refer to it as The Most Embarrassing Race of My Life. 

One time in high school, the guy I was crushing on swooped in for a kiss ten seconds after he asked me out. Which sounds great, except I popped an Oreo in my mouth twelve seconds before he chose to lay one on me. Not exactly the minty freshness we all strive for.

To put things into perspective, I would rather relive that high school experience than yesterday’s race.

When I crossed the finish line, I swore I was taking my body off the road and throwing it into the pool for a solid month of rehab. Instead, I woke up this morning and ran seven miles. I felt horrible.

I came back to my apartment, showered, iced both Achilles, and made breakfast tacos (there are very few things in my life an eggs+tortillas combo can’t fix.)

I’m taking the day off. I texted back. Besides, I told you—I’m not doing any more isolated movements.

For the better part of this year, Will’s been trying to make me lift like a body builder. He actually tried to give me a chest day. Sorry bro, but on my list of Thing I Envy, muscular boobs just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

I know—I’ve given up on that for you. I want to hit it hard. He sent back.

Hitting it hard is Will Speak for brutal circuit training. At that particular moment, I could name 48 things that sounded more enjoyable. Like plucking out each one of my eyelashes with a tweezers, for example.

Sometimes, you hit a wall that just won’t budge. 

I cannot remember the last day I didn’t wake up in pain. Wait, hold a minute—yep. It was late winter of 2014, and the first part of 2015. That’s the last time I didn’t wake up feeling eighty.

When I was in college, the physical therapy department at Des Moines University Medical School used my track team as guinea pigs. The first time I met with my student (who was hot as hell, might I add), he asked me if I “had any pain.” It took everything in me not to laugh in his face. I gave a nod, so he continued down his clipboard—how long had I experienced such pain? I thought for a second. “Six years?”

In the past 16 years, I’ve taken two hiatuses from running—once by choice, once by force. The first came my senior year following surgery on my plantar fascia. The second came three years ago when I became so anemic my hemoglobin dropped to 8.8. In case that means nothing to you (because it sure as hell didn’t to me), a blood transfusion is automatically given to any person who drops below 8.0.

Something as simple as iron deficiency anemia took months to figure out. I wasn’t injured; I wasn’t sick—I just felt bad. I went from running ten miles a day to being unable to climb a flight of stairs.

Sometimes, I have these dreams where I’m running a race, but my legs won’t move. I’ll get down on my hands and knees, literally clawing at the grass trying to move forward. That’s what running with anemia feels like.

In the months leading to my diagnosis, I kept pushing myself to move forward. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed, until I waved the white flag and finally said FUCK IT.  I will never forget the day I laced up my Asics and jogged out of my apartment for an easy three-miler. I made it a grand total of two blocks before I couldn’t take another step. Then I sat down on the curb and cried.

I gave running a big fuck you, and joined a CrossFit gym—much to the amusement of my run club. Since hemoglobin carries oxygen to cells, those with a deficiency often feel breathless. I might not be able to run, but I could lift. And I could lift heavy.

When I figured out what the hell was going on with my body, got healthy, and returned to my run group; my love for running was still there. Actually, I felt rejuvenated and excited to hit the track, because I missed it. I spent four months waiting for the day I would finally feel like myself again. When that day came, I remembered why I love running so freaking much.

Yesterday, running didn’t give me that high. It made me feel the same way I felt when I sat crying on that curb.

A “break” is not permanent. 

At one point, running was my life. It’s not anymore. It is a small piece mixed in with work, freelancing, friend-time, and other priorities. And I need a break.

Sometimes, we push ourselves to get the thing we want, without any sign of progress. We keep pushing, pushing, pushing—not realizing the whole time, we’ve been pushing against a concrete wall.

So give it a rest. Not forever, just long enough to let yourself fall in love with it again—whatever it may be. It could be:

  • An industry you’re trying to tap into within your career
  • A relationship that just doesn’t feel right
  • A workout that just isn’t for you.

Considering running is one of the most unpopular things amongst the general public—second only to traffic circles and the IRS—I’ll venture to guess your it thing is not the same as mine.

If your knuckles are already bleeding, stop punching the wall that won’t move. Give yourself a break, then come back and find a way around that wall.

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