why do I do this to myself?

I’m sick of being sick.

My cold symptoms made their first appearance two weeks ago Monday. I dismissed the scratchy throat and stuffy nose as mild annoyances, and believed wholeheartedly that they would be short-lived. I was, after all, practicing oil-pulling and garlic feet.

By Wednesday morning I didn’t feel any better. So I did what any sensible person would do. I went for a run.

If you remember, I made a commitment that I would run at least 60 kms in the month of April. But more than that, I also set a goal to participate in a 10k race, either on April 26th (in Toronto) or May 10th (in Vegas) – depending on my travel plans/location.

With both dates looming, and a shit-ton of training left to do, I decided to run. Despite what was by then a raging head cold.

7.5 painful kilometers later, I made a vow to my hacking, wheezing, self not to run again until I was feeling 100%.

Fast forward to the following week. No cocktail of vitamins, green smoothies, copious intake of water, or low impact sweaty activity was able to banish this scourge.

I flew to NYC on Tuesday. My plans were to get a ton of work done each day at the Times Square-area office, see some great Broadway shows AND run again in this city I love so much.

The best laid plans…

Work got done. Shows were seen. But not a single step was run.

What kind of Ebola was I dealing with? Why wouldn’t this thing die? I was bitter, but I wasn’t being stupid.

I knew I needed to let it run its course, so I could eventually run my [10k] course.

After a good, restorative, night’s sleep back home in my own bed Friday night, I awoke breathing easier Saturday morning. I hadn’t coughed in ~24 hours and both nostrils appeared to be in good working order. In short, I felt like I had finally beat this thing.

So I laced up my running shoes and hit the pavement.

lake run 7.5kIt was a lovely, sunny day. Spring had finally sprung. The lake beckoned.

On the agenda was Week 7, Day 3 of my 10k training app: a one-hour run. I hoped to better both my distance and pace. This despite the fact that my previous run took place 10 days earlier. And there had been zero running since then.

A smarter person may have eased back into training with a shorter run, say capping at 30-35 minutes, or 5k total.

Yes, that would probably have been a smarter decision.

Alas, smart decisions weren’t to be the order of the day.

The 5 minute warm up felt great. Look at me, I’m a warrior. Ain’t no stinkin’ cold gonna slow me down!

The next 6 minute run interval felt pretty good as well. And by pretty good I mean I my calves were exploding in pain with each strike on the pavement.

Apparently actual stretching before my first run in 10 days would have been a good idea.

This was not a day for good ideas though.

Ah, but then one sweet minute of walking. Thank you, benevolent run coach. One minute never felt so good. Or flew by so quickly.

And onto the next 7 minute running interval, the fourth minute of which featured an uphill climb.

The good news is that I momentarily forgot about my exploding calves when I felt the sting of shin splints as I leaned into that incline.

While my mind felt ready to get back to the work of training for a 10k race, my body was not.

But I could have fought through the tight legs, I think.

What I shouldn’t have ignored was my laboured breathing. And my running nose. And the wheezing sound I was starting to make.

I noticed all these things.

I noted that I hadn’t felt those things in 48 hours. And yet those symptoms were now back.

And I ignored them.

I kept running.

Each successive one minute walking interval felt shorter and shorter, until I wasn’t even able to catch my breath in those 60 seconds. My heart rate raced. I was drenched in a cold sweat.

In short, I was making myself sick.

And yet, inexplicably, I kept running.

All the while, having an internal conversation/debate with myself:

Reasonable Me: This is so stupid. Why am I doing this?

Stupid Me: Hey, my pace isn’t too bad, despite feeling so nasty. Why quit now? I might as well just finish the training. I’m out here already.

Reasonable Me: I FUCKING HATE RUNNING. This is so gross. My body is breaking down with each step I take.

Stupid Me: Wow! That was the fastest 1k lap yet! Keep going, girl!

Reasonable Me: I hate you. This is so stupid. I am going to do this because you are relentless. And then I’m going to do that fucking 10k race. And then I AM NEVER GOING TO RUN AGAIN. EVER.

Stupid Me: Fuck you very much then.

Reasonable Me: Fuck you too.

I made it back home and reviewed my stats. I ran negligibly farther than the previous run [7.6 kms]. But my pace was slower. And this upset me.

Note, I wasn’t upset at my decision to go for a run when I wasn’t 100% healthy. Nor was I upset with my failure to acknowledge the clear signs that my body was breaking down and getting sicker with each step.

No, instead I was upset that I had pushed through, tortured myself, and wound up with a less than stellar result.

I’m embarrassed.

No.

I’m ashamed.

I spent much of Sunday trying to get inside my own head, exploring what drives me to make some of the decisions I do.

Physically, I feel worse than I did a week ago. And what’s worse is, I did this to myself.

An ugly cough has taken residence in my chest. I’m likely to be sidelined from high-impact exercise for at least another week. If I’m smart, that is.

I’m making a decision to be smart.

I will not run again until my chest is clear.

I realize this will, in all likelihood, derail my plans to run a 10k race on April 26th, and may even render the May 10th run non-viable. Am I okay with this? No, not really.

But I have to find a way to make peace with it.

Achieving goals is awesome. But not at all costs.

Its high time I learned that lesson.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

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101 thoughts on “why do I do this to myself?

  1. I’m the same when I’m sick – not with running obviously, but with powering through and figuring everything will get better by itself – quickly 😉 Hope you feel better soon!

  2. Exercising depresses the immune system. Only for a very short while, but it’s enough for something that the body is battling with, such as a virus, to take hold again…

    Hope you’ll get better soon 🙂

  3. crazy person! Rest!!

    I am fully aware as I write this that I have done the very same thing myself and will continue to do it.

    this is completely not the point!

    Rest!!

    • I know Sam, neither of us let sickness get in the way of the daily exercise challenge. But running? Running 7.6k while sick? That was a whole new level of stupid. Even for me.

      • it really was!

        I did run when I had a cold last, but only 4kish and regretted it

        did I mention you should rest!
        or just walk…walking is good too!

      • Walked the full 10k yesterday. (See Strava!) As it turns out I can walk a 10k in 1:26’ish. So I’ve updated my goal for the run from 1:20 to 1:15. I mean, if I can walk it in 1:26, surely I can run it in 1:15, right???

      • i would think so 🙂

        that is an awesome goal too 🙂 I am still only hoping for 1hr 30 for mine…and if I don’t get back to running this week I won’t even get that!

      • I hope so 🙂

        It is a small race and the slowest time last year was 1:33.

        I am just hoping that when I am last, there are still some people running the 10 mile which is going on at the same time who make it look like I am not on my own…

      • The day after the one I had hoped to do here in Toronto. 😦
        Who knows – maybe I’ll somehow manage to run that one. In a way I just want to get it overwith so that I don’t have to train for it anymore.

        I see a long, long “down time” with no running AFTER I finish the 10k. 🙂

      • I think that is a good idea…I keep threatening to sign up for another one…but I really like doing more strength trianing and if I am running enough to train for a 10k there is not time 😦

        you might do…you are already better than I am so if you feel better in time to train…I say go for it!

        (even though I am supposed to be encouraging you to rest)

      • Seriously – when the training runs are 1hr+ in length, it doesn’t leave a lot of extra time for other stuff. Plus, I hate running. 🙂

        Yeah, I’m partly thinking I’ll just do the soonest one available, regardless how slow I finish, just to be able to tick it off the list and move on. I hate thinking that way. It’s probably just my sick/wheezy lungs talking.

      • i think it depends on how you will feel afterwards…

        will you think you haven’t done the best you can and sign up for another one?
        If you really hate running then this might not be the best course of action as you will have to do even more training!

      • I hear you. If I run it Apr 26th, without enough training, and finish in 1:23, for instance, I’ll likely feel like it doesn’t count — or that I don’t want that to be the one and only result of a 10k for me. So, yeah, I’d probably sign up for another, which would mean more training. 😦 Vicious cycle.

        I’ll hope that I can get back to training by the end of this week and then squeeze in enough miles to make a decent showing April 26th…

  4. A friend of mine claims that sometimes running while sick cures her because she sweat and snotted it all out. But, you were so close to getting better that it relapsed you. Ugh! So frustrating. I hate it when my body doesn’t do what my mind tells it 🙂

    • I found in 2013 when I had to workout every single day, that sweating it out did help me move through illness faster. But it was never high impact. I’d always do elliptical when sick. 90 mins to 2 hours – drenched in sweat, but without the added pressure on my lungs. The outdoor 7.6k was a stupid, stupid decision.

  5. It’s hard to know when it’s ok to push yourself and when to let the body rest. During my Ironman years I had a coach and the rule she taught me was – if you are feeling sick above the neck, go ahead with the workout. If it is below the neck (ie in your lungs or GI), rest the body. The followup workout – or 2 – is always a short and easy one.
    Hope that helps for the next time.
    If it makes you feel any better, I had a crappy run yesterday too and I wasn’t sick 😦
    They happen and you can only be grateful they happen during training so you can learn from them and not during a race.
    Hope you start to feel better – like, right now!

    • Thanks Joanne. That is good advice. I’m still wheezing /have laboured breathing but the cough seems to have subsided. No running for me until the lungs are back to normal. The hardest part is not the taking time off of run training rather the admission that this probably means I have to push the 10k to late May. I hate not meeting a goal I set.

      On the stubborn-as-a-mule front, knowing I couldn’t run yesterday, I walked a 10k. Turns out I can walk it in 1:26. So now, at least, my goal of finishing the run in 1:15 seems achievable. That is, when I can finally get back to training.

      • My legs felt like tree stumps by the end. I also find that really propelling yourself forward by pumping your arms aggressively (sort of punching the air in front of you at waist height) seems to improve my walk speed.

        That said, it’s pretty embarrassing that my “run” is just nominally faster than my walk time…

  6. I think you should pay the neighborhood kids to tie garlic cloves to a stick and chase you with them.
    The fear of having that all over you again will inspire you to run faster than ever, and never even notice the physical discomfort.

  7. Yep, it’s important to listen to your body. I was finally feeling like my lungs were better. After being down for nearly 6 weeks it felt so good to be back out on the trails even if only for 2 miles. Three hikes later, and guess what, I have a fricken head cold now and I’m in beautiful Canyonlands National Park…..grrr. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll try my home remedy of getting sh*t faced. Perhaps alcohol will kill those bugs because I’m so done with being sick. Here’s to feeling better real soon 🙂

    • According to my dad, hot whiskey with a bit of honey in it is better than any cold remedy on the market. Since I’ve tried everything else, I’m thinking I’ll try dad’s miracle cure…

  8. I use to push myself through sickness. In once case I went in to see my doctor and he said “you are the sickest person I have seen in a long time”. This was not a compliment and was a wake up call. After my first spine surgery I pushed myself to come back to work after five weeks instead of the recommended eight weeks. That was STUPID. When the second spine surgery came around I took the full eight weeks and still felt like crap after my first day back. Needless to say, it has finally gotten through my thick Irish skull not to push myself and take whatever time is necessary to heal as well as pace myself. Hope you feel better soon!!!

    • Thanks Patrick. You have offered sage words here.

      I think if I really analyze what’s going on, it’s two things driving my bad behavior:

      1. I set a challenge that I would run at least 60 kms in April and compete in a 10k race. –> I hate having to postpone or not achieve a goal that I’ve set for myself. This is ego. I need to fix that.

      2. I genuinely just want this whole 10k thing to be over and done with, as soon as possible so I no longer have to train for it. –> Stupid, because if I hate running so much, why is this a goal in the first place??

      I know I need to work on the mental/psychological drivers behind both those drivers. If I don’t, I’m sure to keep making stupid decisions..

  9. It’s so frustrating when our bodies don’t cooperate with what our minds–and routines–want them to do. I hope you feel better soon, but if you don’t, it’s been going on long enough that it’s probably time to see your doctor. Respiratory viruses usually last 7-10 days, maybe 14 (though a cough can linger). Anything beyond that should be evaluated (or sooner if a person worsens).

    • Thanks Carrie. I was genuinely feeling better Saturday before I left for the run. I thought I was at the tail end of the cold (and I’m sure I was…until I pushed it so ridiculously hard…). I know I’ve set myself back a ways with the run, and I’ll keep a close eye on how I’m feeling. The cough seems to be easing up. And my sinuses are feeling remarkably clear. It’s only when I take the stairs too quickly that I notice how quickly I fatigue. I’ll watch it, for sure, and will see a doctor if I don’t see signs of improvement by tomorrow.

  10. Stop being retarded. You are not 20 anymore. sorry. You are throwing yourself into exercise like you were throwing yourself into work. BAck in the day. Dedication and moderation woman. Stop going overboard.

  11. Hi Nancy! Sorry to hear you feel lousy but honestly….I agree with you when you ask,”Why am I doing this?” Of course we all do things that we look back on and can see they weren’t the SMARTest things to do….but just keep in mind that there are some really GREAT internal insights available from this experience and those just might be worth all your pain and suffering! (And think of the many blog posts you’ll get from that!) So please, please take care of yourself….your many fans are rooting for you! ~Kathy

    • Oh Kathy, you hit the nail on the head. I’m trying to use this most recent pain/suffering as a learning opportunity to see what drove the decision in the first place. I think I figured it out (as I noted in my response to Patrick above). I do like that I’m at least trying to delve into the why of my decisions, especially when intellectual me knows they aren’t smart ones…

      • Hey Nancy…I’m not expert at things like this but what would happen if you just didn’t do the run? Would all us fans throw rocks? Nah…we love you too much! Would the Earth open up and swallow you whole? Nah…the planet loves you too! Would you go to hell? Nah…I don’t believe in that one anyway and I don’t think you do either. So there you have it…You might actually have more to write about here on your blog if you DON’T run for all the right reasons than if you force yourself to do it……hm…I think I have a good idea for a blog post that I will be writing this week 🙂

  12. It seems like whenever I try to get into an exercise routine, I get sick and have to stop. At least that’s my excuse anyway. 🙂 I hope you’re feeling better. If not, try not to get too run down with all that exercise. Maybe it’s time to just sit in the sun for a while.

    • Excuses are everywhere, that’s for sure. When I was doing my 365-days-of-exercise in 2013, I vowed not to let sickness derail my plans. And the handful of times I got sick, it didn’t. I pushed through. That said, I didn’t run during those periods of illness. Running really is a form of evil like no other.

      I don’t know about just sitting in the sun, but I agree that I need to chill out on the running until I’m back to 100%.

      Hey, thanks for taking the time to stop by, read and comment. It means the world to me!

  13. hahaha okay I had to laugh that your self-talk ends up in Fuck-you’s too.

    *hugs* I hope you feel better! I know how AWFUL it is to have something so irritating (like a rotten cold) keep you from your goals. Take the time to rest! xoxo

  14. Oh, I’m so very sorry!! I am sending you good energy for fast healing! I learned long ago that when I was wheezing it was time to slow down, if I get to that point it means my body is breaking down on me, so I really hate that you hit that point! Feel better soon!

    • Thanks Kate. I guess this might not be the best time to admit that yesterday (the day after the Saturday nonsense), when I was ‘resting’ I walked a 10k in less than 90 mins. Just to see how far 10k really was. And also to see how long it would take me to speed walk it. I’ve since heard from others that 10k in less than 90 mins is what some people do when run/walking. So ….I guess my rest day wasn’t much of a rest after all. 🙂

      I’m fully retarded.

  15. Take care of yourself Nancy! I’ll second all the great comments above and share a whining moment… due to some recent, beyond my control, job changes I haven’t had a chance to exercise in 3 weeks. 😦 I feel awful and totally understand the frustration! Things will be looking up here by next week and yeah, I know I have to step back and start slowly even though I do not want to admit I won’t be able to pick right back up where I left off with the long cardio times and heavy weights!

  16. Dear Nancy, as I’m reading your post all I can think is that you are a classic type A. And I have an idea. Why don’t you do the upcoming 10k as a run/walk? That way you’ll get to experience it without pushing yourself too hard and you’ll know what it’s all about for next time.

    • Oh sweet, Laurel… You actually thought I could run an entire 10k (even healthy)? I just snorted my herbal tea out my nose!

      I’ll be run/walking regardless the circumstance. Trust me when I say that! My goal was to finish in less than 1:15, which seems achievable given that I walked the entire 10k yesterday (after I decided to rest and let myself heal ;-)) in 1:26 and change.

      I’ll see how things go this week. I know I’ve got to get to a place where I’ve run/walked at least 9k before the actual event, and I just don’t know if I have the time with the long breaks this cold has enforced.

      To your point though, I know I can *complete* a 10k. So this really is more about ego and finishing in the time I had set in my own head.

      • It remains to be seen if my ego will let me play and run the April 26th before I’m at a place that I can finish in the time I set for myself. If not, my 10k may have to be pushed. Time (and ego) will tell.

      • I hear you. It always feels great to run a good time. I’m leaving my ego at the door this year though. I’m doing Vancouver’s Sun Run in two weeks with less than stellar training so it’s going to be a run/walk and I’m even bringing my camera to stop and take photos 🙂

      • I was hoping to find a fun colour run 5k just to do for the fun of it but haven’t found suitable location /dates yet. I think 5ks are definitely more my thing, if I was to continue the running thing. Just gotta out this freaking 10k to bed first.

  17. I hope you’ll feel much better soon. Small mishaps in judgment are bound to happen, but since you’ve decided to be smart I’m sure there’ll be a long “smart stretch” before the next one 🙂

  18. I don’t know, dude. I wouldn’t have taken the first step, myself, but you sound like a total warrior. And that is cool.

    I wrote a cautionary tale about running once… I was sitting down at the time. It was kinda crap, actually.

    Anyway, hope you feel better.

  19. I hope you have learned your lesson – meant in a loving way not a finger wagging way. When I told my yoga teacher about your challenges and expressed surprise that I could do a 2 minute plank when I thought you were the super fit one she said, “Maybe her body is not the symphony it should be.” Isn’t that a beautiful expression?
    It’s all come back to bite me though. Pig-headedly doing the 2 minute plank has made my back issues flair up. I won’t be doing any more. So . . . . we’ve both learned a lesson.
    Here’s something else she said, “When considering exercise it should be something that you enjoy doing and something you can do for the rest of your life.”
    I hope this doesn’t sound like preaching. It’s not meant to. Seeing it in print makes me take notice as well!!!
    I hope you are feeling better. 🙂 ❤ 🙂

    • Hi Carol, thanks for your well wishes. Finger wagging is absolutely in order, given that I should have listened to my body and cut that run short the minute my lungs told me I wasn’t ready yet. As I said through the post, it was a stupid decision to keep going for an hour. And I’m paying for it today.

      As far as your yoga instructor and her observance that my body may not be the symphony it should be, I say she should probably reserve judgment in the absence of all the facts. I don’t think I’m unique in having a weak area (my core).

      I think anytime you put even the super fittest person in the world into a new workout environment they will struggle because they aren’t accustomed to the new demands on their body. ie: a master yogi might not last 30 minutes on a stairmaster; a marathon runner may not be able to deadlift even miniscule weight, a cross-fit trainer might not be able to hold crow pose in yoga, and so on and so forth.

      My focus on running is to continue to build my cardiovascular health. I realize I am way fitter than others in many CV regards: hiking, climbing mountains of 13,000+ elevation, over an hour on a stairmaster, etc) but running remains my nemesis. I don’t love it, but I want to get better at it, so I’m motivated. As far as the 2-minute plank, this was a simple way to illustrate a goal: to strengthen my core. Every day this month I have held various planks (forearm, high plank, marching plank, side planks) for at least 10 minutes, in intervals of 1 minute to a max of 2 minutes. I am not quitting when I do the perfect 2 min plank. I’ve committed that in April my focus is core, hence the combo of daily plank, push-ups and yoga.

      I also found the comment she made about “When considering exercise, it should be something that you enjoy doing and something you can do for the rest of your life.” interesting. 🙂 It is absolutely true. No one preaches this more than I do. In fact I wrote a giant love letter to exercise here: https://myyearofsweat.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/learning-to-love-exercise-not-urban-legend-it-happened-to-me/.

      And not to state the obvious, but I think that if anyone has adopted their lifestyle to include every-day active living, it’s me.

      Long-winded response to your comment, but in short, I’d tell the yoga teacher to perhaps consider learning more about the situation before passing judgment lest anyone call her a judgmental bitch. As I am clearly doing here. In the sweetest and sweatiest way possible, of course. 🙂

  20. You should not be so hard on yourself because that’s what we’re all here for. I absolutely admire (and am dumbfounded) over your discipline. Howfuckingever, you can NOT push your body when it’s sick. I know it sucks. Hard. But there is no way around it – you have to rest when you’re sick and that’s the tall and short of it (no idea what that means – it just came out). Personally I think it was the Broadway shows that made you sicker but that’s just one person’s opinion. And not a very smart person at that.

  21. Oh man, how frustrating! We all have that ‘Stupid Me’ voice that often takes full control of our thoughts and actions. So sorry. I hope you recover quickly and that you remain in peace with what is. 🙂

    • Thanks Maria. I’m still hurting today, so I think I’ve learned my lesson this time. As to whether I’ll be at peace with either not running the 10k – OR – running it ill prepared and having a shitty finish time… I guess time will tell. 🙂

  22. Ah, yes, I know the affliction–running myself sick. Probably did it six or seven times. Too much, too fast, and wham! The good news is, if your running is compromised for about a month, you won’t really lose much fitness. 🙂

    • I’m more puzzled as to why I’m even this perturbed about it. I hate running. Shouldn’t I be looking at this as a convenient excuse to pull the plug on the whole enchilada? 😉

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  24. This is all so familiar. Not with running, but with everything else (if inconsistency were celebrated I’d be at the Kardashian level – minus the sex tape). Please take care of yourself – no goal is worth your health. Breathe easy friend, even if that means on the couch for a few more days : )

    • On the couch is an idea I should consider adopting. Even though this cold has sidelined my running training, I’m still bullheaded on completing the other April challenges: daily yoga, daily planks and several times/week push-ups. Throw in some elliptical for cardio and I guess it’s not hard to see why this shit is lingering. Sigh.

  25. Ugh Nance. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Bloody hell woman. The 10k will be there when you are ready. Promise. I had a week off recently with a throat infection so feel your pain a bit. Back into it this week. Ran 9.23kms today – farthest ever! Legs feel like they might fall off but oh well.

    • I finally resigned myself to the fact that I won’t be doing the 10k on the 26th. The first 10 day lapse in running was followed by an 8 day lapse and now I’m into day 4 of my latest lapse. No chance I’m ready for a race on Saturday. I’m even questioning if I have enough training time to do a race on the 9th of May. As you said though, a 10k will always be available to me – and it’s not worth me making myself sicker to get there sooner than I’m able.

      When I finally do the 10k though, it will be epic! 🙂

  26. I have a different take on this. I’d take this as an accomplishment. You felt ill, pushed yourself and kept it going. Your results should not be compared to expectations of someone who is not ill. You did well!

    • Well, there’s pushing yourself and then there’s being stupid and prolonging an illness that you could/should shake in a few days. This fell more into the latter category, because I hate the idea of quitting at anything. I’m getting better at that – and finding peace in my conscious decisions, even if those decisions mean walking away from something.

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