Running as a habit… The good and the bad

Well… taking a break yesterday didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

I got home and decided to just run/walk slowly.  You need to understand that my success in running is based on habit.  I have developed a habit of running 5 – 6 days a week over the past two years.  The good thing about habits is that they become automatic as long as you do the same thing at the same time each day (not time  like a clock, but time as at the same point in your day – i.e.: after work).   Everyday I get home from work and immediately get on my running clothes and head out to run… EVERYDAY during the week.  From the time I get home to the time I am out running it is usually about 10 minutes.  I have trained myself to do this.  It is an ingrained habit that has worked well for me…

Except…

When I need rest, it is almost impossible to stop.  I do rest by taking a day off a day a week, but usually walk on those days.  A true rest day only occurs if I am sick or the day is so busy that I cannot get my run in (usually a Saturday).

So yesterday I planned on resting, but I ran.  To be fair, I ran at a pace 1 to 2 minutes slower than normal and I walked from time to time (about a half mile of the five mile run).  So it was a resting run. 🙂

I didn’t sleep well again last night.  I’m not sure what is happening.  No stress, no pressure, no caffeine or sugar.  I fell asleep late (late for me anyway) and then kept waking up.  I woke up at 3:00AM and just waited for the alarm to go off at 4:00 (and then didn’t want to get up).  Although I feel fine, I wonder if I am not fighting some sickness or something.  It has been a strange couple of days, but at least it hasn’t been more than that.

Finally, I had a hit on my blog yesterday where someone typed into Google, “278 to Boston Boston marathon 2014”.  Ha.  That was pretty neat to see.  I assume someone wondering if I qualified yet or not.  Well this runner will have to wait until at least 2015 and I probably won’t have a real chance a qualifying till 2016.

Goals.  Habits.  Life. All is good (now if I can just get some sleep).

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15 thoughts on “Running as a habit… The good and the bad

  1. I do know that not being able to sleep well is a sign of overtraining (which is not good for your body and can actually set you back in terms of meeting your goals). Running 5-6 days a week might be more than your body can handle (especially if you are coming off of an injury). You may want to try running only 4 days a week and incorporating some other fitness workout into the other 2 days a week (maybe strength training, cycling, swimming, rowing…something other than pounding the pavement). Just a thought…

  2. I did the same thing yesterday. Woke up stiff from long runs for a few days. Said I was going to take the day off and then ended up going out at night and doing a nice slow 8 miler. It really is a habit. I am going to try to take today off!

  3. Hi Tom. I agree with Kercia. The more I train and get towards overtraining the worse I sleep.
    I understand it’s a result of higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
    Warning : sorry if this is too long and comes across as a bad biology lecture!

    Borrowing from Wikipedia : cortisol’s “primary functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis; suppress the immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also decreases bone formation.”

    Training causes release of cortisol to improve blood sugar levels for energy expenditure, as well as increase metabolism, which is good and a natural response to extra stress. It keeps the brain charged with glycogen to avoid impaired mental process and allows for greater energy expenditure overall.
    Overtrain though and your levels will stay high until it starts messing with your immune system (hence so many people getting colds during their taper) and more worryingly – calcium uptake.
    The other reason for cortisol release is to kick your circadian rhythm into action to prepare your body to rise for the day. Too much cortisol over a period of time and effectively your body is always trying to get ready to wake up – keeping you awake at night but feeling bereft of energy when it’s actually time to strip off the covers.
    I now know that if I’m training a lot but can’t sleep well over a couple of nights (barring an unusual caffeine intake) that I’m overtraining and it’s time to back off.
    If I may make a suggestion – Keep your routine but make your rest days ‘restful’ by walking your five miles (or maybe just three), or light cardio/core work, so your body has the time to repair and heal. This way your habit of post-work exercise is unbroken but you’re not overtraining.
    All the best, and good luck for a good sleep tonight!

    • That is so helpful Bernie. In fact, I was just wondering yesterday if there was a physiological reason behind overtraining. It does help me understand the “behind the scenes” reasons for these issues.
      I really appreciate it!

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