My Reality of Over-Exertion: A Different Type of Self-Care

Running: a sport I decided to try because of the simple fact that I was awful at all the others.

For a long time, running was a huge part of how I saw myself and how others saw me. Throughout all of high school, I ran almost every day, leaving Sundays as my only day off. The vigorous schedule came with the territory of being on my high school’s cross country and track teams, where the training was intense but simultaneously so much fun. 

Even after my 2018 high school graduation, I continued to train. There may have been no races to look forward to, but I enjoyed using running as a way to escape from my uncertainties and worries about college. 

Courtesy of: Deirdre Kelshaw

After my college classes, I’d walk to the campus gym and run 4-7 miles on the treadmill every day. At first, I felt empowered by my stamina and persistence. However, as time passed and this pattern continued, it began to feel much more forced. Running no longer felt like a central facet of my identity, but more like a chore.

I continued though, signing up for my first half marathon and, shortly after, a second. I started to incorporate workouts into my training routine. Tempo runs, hill sprints, 200s, 400s, you name it. As it turned out, my races went well, but I still didn’t feel excited about my progress. Despite it all being successful, running wasn’t making me happy anymore. It just left me feeling more stressed out. 

So, I stopped. No more casual runs, no more workouts— just me, doing other things that I enjoyed more. I chose to allow my mind and body to recover from what had been nearly 6 years of devoted, strenuous effort.

Courtesy of: Deirdre Kelshaw

As a result, I realized that breaks are a healthy and important step to avoiding burnout. I decided to take a month off to focus on myself as someone with new different interests. Running transitioned into walking and my stressed-out frame of mind turned into a much more motivated mentality, restoring what was once there. 

I later returned to running, but at a much more moderate rate. I left out the workouts, and ran at a pace and distance that I felt like pursuing. I followed no training schedule and no longer beat myself up about times and miles. Running reverted back into its original form: a fun hobby to keep my mind and body healthy. 

Although not everyone’s the same and there are many who find happiness in a strict training plan, I find that everyone needs and deserves time off— this can mean one day out of your week or a whole month out of your year. 

Use the break to get in touch with yourself or to set new goals and acquire new strengths you previously didn’t have the time or motivation to develop. In the middle of my time off, I chose to focus my attention on drawing and painting— a pastime I used to do regularly. You may not be running, but you’re still maintaining productivity in some shape or form.

In the end, I’ve learned that although training is beneficial, it’s also a heavy stressor. The human body can only handle so much stress at once without it becoming a problem. I admire those who can stick to a strict running schedule and benefit from it, but resting is undeniably essential to that success. 

Credit: Pinterest

Burnout is real and it can make it difficult to bounce back motivation-wise once it starts. Don’t lose that motivation, but don’t let your training take over. Taking a pause doesn’t make you less than. In fact, a break shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, but instead a strategy for self-care. It’s all about finding that perfect balance as we navigate through a pandemic, protests, online coursework and whatever worries you may face. Although it may be hard to find that balance, it’s important to always be kind to your body and mind.

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