Saturday, August 25, 2012

This is Your Brain on Running

This weekend was stressful. We headed to a baseball game out of town Friday night and spent most of Saturday seeing our parents and some of M's extended family. We left home Friday evening after a full day of work, stayed out late for the post-game concert, and spent Saturday out of town much longer than I had originally planned. We had to get home in time to prep our house for Hurricane Isaac, and I needed to fit in a run.

I was a horror Friday and Saturday. Everything that changed our schedule even slightly drove me into a fit. I was biting heads off left and right. Could it be a coincidence that Friday was a rest day and didn't run until evening on Saturday?

Well, the short answer is most likely "no". When I brought up this phenomenon to K during our run tonight, her response was an emphatic "THANK YOU!" Apparently we're at the point in our training when taking a day off sends us into a spiral of bad-attitudiness.

Running lifts my mood, keeps me grounded, and releases endorphins that keep me positive and feeling good. Rest days are necessary to recovery, but if I'm not able to workout at all on those days (no gym, no run, nothing), then my patience grows short. It's like any more than 24 hours between runs sends my mood plummeting.

So how do I fix this? Rest days are a necessity, but being inactive on those days turns me into a monster. Even being up and walking (which I do for roughly eight hours a day when I'm teaching) isn't enough to stave off this wretched attitude. And let me clarify: on these days, I feel fine, but I'm more likely to be annoyed, upset, or angry when little things go wrong. I'm more likely to be outrageously irritated by small annoyances, like someone trying to talk to me while I'm concentrating on something. One minute I'll be perfectly happy; the next I'll be snapping at someone. My fuse, as they say, is short on these days.

I can't stop taking rest days, even if I only take one or two a week. So what can I do?  If I take the day off and can't get to the gym, what's the alternative? How do I stop myself from wanting to throttle people just because I have built up energy I can't spend?

I guess the answer is to do some other form of exercise on those days off (easier said than done, given my schedule), and I could do some yoga poses if I can't get to the gym. Or we could schedule days off so that our next run is in the morning, not evening, keeping our off-hours at 24 instead of 36. Both of these options are things I'll need to work to incorporate into my training, because being the teacher from the Black Lagoon twice a week is definitely not an option for me.

Running is supposed to be a wholly positive thing; but this, then, makes not running a negative (instead of neutral) thing. This makes "rest days" an oxymoron: good for you and bad for you all at once. In order to be successful, this needs to change.

I'm confusing myself. The bottom line is that I don't want to be a terror on days I don't run. Insights are welcome!



  1. Oh, I feel you. My tipping point is when I can't get outside and/or moving briskly in some way (by myself) for a couple of days, like when on family vacation or a crazy time at work. I have to remember at those times to go for a walk if nothing else (even if I have to bring the baby with). I'm okay with my planned rest days and even the occasional unplanned rest day as long as I get outside, which is usually not an issue.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. "Moving briskly" even on days off is important to me or else I begin to feel frustrated and pent-up. I'm glad you're usually able to fit in some outdoor time!