career lessons from running: week 2 of 14

If you are tired rest, don’t quit.

As you may know from my previous post (read here), I started training for a race three weeks ago after a hiatus from running for several months. I decided to document and share with you my reflections from running, in relation to navigating the world of work.

The first week on this training, as you can guess, was a thrill. I was happy to get back to running. I enjoy running. I enjoy how I feel when I run, when I power through a challenging uphill without having to stop or walk. I feel strong, when I am able to run really long distances and can take deep breaths without feeling out of control. I am grateful that my bones and my muscles can carry me through from start to finish. And what I like the most is that I am able to see the progress I make with each run, how stronger and skillful I am becoming; oh yes! What an athlete I am now. A runner.

Yet in the midst of the joy ride, adulting happens. A few late nights, mostly to push through a deadline (bad sleeping habits do not go well with running). A trip away from home (breaks in routine also do not go well with running). A few drinks (thirty-somethings, gather here, let’s talk about why one glass of wine is one too many in the thirties. Plus alcohol definitely does not pair well with running). And well, all the adulting things that you have to do- for which a 24hr day is not enough- all happen at the same time. Breaking that that nice streak of consistency. And now, running enters the fight for space on the daily to-do.

Last two weeks were more of a challenge for me. I could not run in the morning, because I was trying to catch up on sleep. I could not run in the day, because I was doing my 9-5. I could not run after work, because my toddler is home from pre-school. We took a mini-vacation in between and that threw me off balance, in part because we drove 12hrs of 24hrs on one of the days and it rained so much on the other days. And yes, I am too tired to run at night. Yet the night was the only option I had left. But I won’t lie, I was tired. I did a run at 8pm after my child’s bedtime, just to make sure I put in a run. Three times, actually, I have had to run late in the evening in the last two weeks. Very unlike me. But that was me, trying to stay on course. Effort.

Isn’t this how work is though? First you get the job (and you probably wanted it so bad). You are excited, you want to meet colleagues and learn the organizational culture and take initiative and do everything. You love it here. You love this job. You got this job (in this economy!). Oh yes, you even iron your clothes in the morning just so there are no signs of creases. You want to look your best. (FYI, you will never catch me ironing. If I need to iron it, I am not wearing that thing. If I really like it, you will see it with the crease… Ok, I digressed!).

Anyway, somewhere between being on the job too long, and realizing that your salary is not enough to pay all your adulting bills, you get tired of the job you loved so much. The triggers are many- a not-so-good manager, a tiring colleague, a challenging task, a non-challenging task, a promotion that never comes, whatever, you just need a change and get out of here. You are off balance. You are tired. And what you could do so effortless, you wake up each morning dreading to do it. Life happens.

My lesson in the last two weeks, is to acknowledge how I feel and respond in an appropriate manner. If I feel tired, what I need is rest. Time off work, time out of certain spaces and even sometimes, making time away from certain people or situations that drain the life out of you. No excuses. Take that time off. Rest is sometimes the most productive thing you can do. And sometimes, taking a break is the most constructive thing you can do for a situation. It does not always need to be a long vacation, it can also mean taking a couple of minutes away from your desk, going outside and taking a walk to get some fresh air, before you respond to that email.

I also learned, in the last two weeks, that a pause is not the end. Just because I missed four days of running does not mean that I am no longer (a good) runner. I am a runner because I run, and when I run. I had to say this to myself on all the four days I could not run when we travelled. And the two days after that, when my leg was so sore from peddling the brake and accelerator for 12hrs on the road trip. But you know what, I rested. I could tell that what my body needed was rest and sleep. So that I what I gave myself the permission to do. I stayed still in bed, recovering. And you know what, the run two days in a row after I got better, including a 6.5km run which I ran easily, at an admirable pace. And I went out again, challenged myself to put in a speed run, on which I was able to pick my mile pace to 8’18”. Fast. And Fun.

I am thankful that I gave myself permission to rest. Because when I am well rested, I make a real great runner. And I am able to enjoy my runs, a hobby that I truly am thankful I stumbled upon. And so, I will be with my work. Pause. Rest. and begin again, stronger.

*opening quote from Banksy

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