Have you ever had to force yourself to slow down?  What about if you’re looking for better results?  This seems counterproductive, but sometimes it’s quite necessary.  For me, I’ve had to recently go through this when it comes to exercise.  Specifically, with my running.

My Wife The Motivator

I was never a runner at all until a few years ago.  In seventh grade, I joined the track team and dropped out a week later.  It was just never my thing.

But a few years ago, my wife got the idea to run a 5K.  That seemed like a huge deal, and I tracked her progress closely.  I was really excited when she ran her first race successfully.

The next year she jumped up to wanting to do a half marathon.  At this point, I started thinking that if she could get into running, maybe I could as well.

While I never rallied to run a half marathon (she did finish hers), I did start running pretty regularly.  So much that I’ve had to shut myself down.  Twice.

Two Times The Ouch

Both times I’ve had to stop running it was because I started developing problems in my feet.  The first time, I started getting symptomns of plantar fasciitis in both feet.  This was painful and could only be corrected by rest.  So I shut down for a few months.

After the soreness went away, I started running again.  I started using some inserts in my shoes to help give me support, as it turns out that my walking and running step is a bit uneven.

The supports helped.  I ran regularly for awhile, but eventually had to shut down again.

The second time wasn’t exclusively plantar fasciitis, but it again required a shutdown from my routine.

Both times it happened, I had been increasing my intensity.  As it turns out, I’d been overdoing it.

Now, I started running again.  This time, I’m purposefully slowing myself down in three key areas.  All of these are designed to help me prevent having to shut my routine down for a third time.

Frequency

Both times when I started feeling soreness, I was running 5-6 times per week.  This is too much.  I wasn’t letting my feet get the necessary rest between workouts.

Now, I’m forcing myself to run no more than four times per week.  My current routine is to run Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

This way, I’m never running more than twice per week.  When I do, it’s only on one occasion.  And, except for that one back to back, I’m getting an important day of rest.

Distance

Last year, I got into running outdoors.  Prior to that, it was all treadmill for me.  I got into running outside so much that I really increased my distance.  I was going 5-6 miles per run at least 2-3 times per week.

Again, that was just too much.

Now, even though I’m indoors until the weather breaks, I’m still limiting myself to 4 mile runs.  Between cutting back the number of days, and the length of the runs, I’m probably cutting my total distance by about half.  The current routine definitely feels more comfortable.

Pace

When I work out, I always challenge myself to improve.  If I lift weights, I look to lift more weight or do more reps.  If I do cardio, I strive to increase my pace or distance.  I’ve always done this.  During both of my past running regimens, I was focusing on this as well.  Probably a little too much.   Last year, I started off running at about a 10:30 minutes per mile pace.  By the time I shut down, I had shaved about a minute off of that.

That all sounds great, and definitely felt good when I logged them, but my feet told me it wasn’t a great idea.

Now, I’m forcing myself to slow down.  I now look to finish with about a 10:45 minute per mile pace.  As it turns out, this is just fine.  I still come away very sweaty.  I still burn a lot of calories.  That feeling of accomplishment?  Still there.  And what’s the difference really?  For a four mile run, it’s about three minutes.  I’m willing to add three minutes of running time to my day if it means I can keep my routine going longer.  It seems like a perfect trade off to me.

Lessons Learned

In the end, I’ve realized that bettering myself isn’t always about getting better.  I have forced myself to get out of the mentality that I have to push my limits.  Not only is it bad for my feet, but I have to probably accept my age as well.  The time for targeting personal best after personal best was probably 10-20 years ago.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t running then.

But I am now, and I’m trying to be smart about it.

Readers, do you ever find you have to slow down when it seems opposite of what you should do?