Tuesday, August 1, 2017

8 Ways to Cope When You Can't Run

I've been doing really great, I think, since my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis in December. I've run a 10 mile race and 2 half marathons. This summer, I came in 1st in my age group in a local 10k. While I haven't been symptom-free, I've had relatively mild symptoms. Any flare ups have been short lived and easily managed. I thought I had this thing in the bag.

Until I didn't. 


On Sunday, I had the proverbial rug yanked out from under me. I woke up feeling a little blah, but that isn't unusual for me. Normally a cup of coffee or two is all I need to perk me up. I prepared for my planned 8 mile run and headed out the door into the beautiful sunshine. My legs felt heavy--again, not an unusual occurrence for the first mile or so--and so I pushed forward. I reminded myself of the saying: never judge a run by the first mile. Since I felt a little fatigued, I decided to utilize my 4:1 run/walk intervals and give myself a break.

As I pressed on, the tightness in my knees and fatigue did not ease up. My pacing was much slower than usual and my heart rate was sky high. This concerned me. I considered even shortening the intervals but I really didn't want to do that. By mile 6, I raised the white flag of surrender and walked that last 2 miles home. The day went downhill from there. I ran my errands and got the laundry going, resting between loads. As the day came to an end, my pain level increased to the point of tears. 

Monday morning was no better. I had a restless night and could barely walk when I got out of bed. My knees felt really stiff and tight. After hobbling to the couch, I contacted my doctor and started on steroids. I made myself a breakfast smoothie using anti-inflammatory ingredients. I made sure that the recipe included cacao because not only is it a beneficial ingredient, I knew the chocolate flavor would make me feel better mentally. I put my feet up and pondered my situation.

Whether it's an injury or a chronic illness, managing the impact of time off your feet is a challenge for anyone who is normally very active. Athletes, and runners, in particular, are used to pushing through pain when we should be taking it easy. I am not good at slowing down and I'm sure some of my brief flares are a result of overdoing it. This current flare came out of nowhere and that kind of scared me. Obviously, I want to get moving as soon as possible. As I sit here on the couch, I considered what would be the best way to make that happen?

Rest.
Today, I feel pretty crummy, so it isn't going to be hard for me to stay off my feet. Sometimes you need a day or 2 to just wallow in your misery. It seems to me that the rest part becomes more difficult as you start to feel better. It's ok to increase your activity as your condition allows, but don't overdo it. It's a fine line. 



Refocus.
So you can't run, but maybe you can aqua jog. I did that to prepare for running Big Sur, and it was a lifesaver for me, both mentally and physically. Find something you can do that is safe for your condition but will give you a mental lift. If your body allows it, now might be the time to do some strength training--those glutes and hammies are just begging for a little attention. With RA, I don't know how long my inflammation will last. As long as I'm not fatigued, nothing is off limits. If I can't run, I can do yoga, which is a great way to help with the stiffness in my joints.

Read.
Be it blogs, social media, or books, I always find it helpful to read about running when I'm sidelined. Reading about something I love just makes me want to get back to it as soon as possible. You never know what you might learn! The last time I did this, I learned all about run/walk intervals, which I integrated into my training regimen. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Review your regimen.
While I'm on the couch with my feet up, today is a good day for me to review my training calendar and make sure I'm on track with my goals. It's also a good day to purge my playlist of all the songs that are driving me nuts and maybe find some new tunes. I've got time to review the fall half marathons that Steph and I have discussed and look for any discount coupons that might be out there. All the summer running gear is on sale too, so maybe I should do some shopping. Inknburn has some really cute new styles. Because who can't use more running gear?



Retain your routine.
Even though you can't run, maintaining your normal daily routine will help you feel like yourself. Don't use the time off the road as an excuse to stop all your other healthy habits. Continue to eat healthily, sleep properly, and take care of yourself so you'll be ready to hit the road as soon as you can. 

Reach out.
You might not agree with anything I wrote here, but let's all agree on this: not running sucks. Your family and non-running friends won't understand this. Your injury (or my flare) proves to them that running is bad for you. Someone once said to me: "don't bring empty buckets to dry wells." Connect with other runners who can commiserate with you. Don't know any other runners? Do you belong to any running forums? There are a ton. I belong to multiple running groups on Facebook--I know, we all love to hate on Facebook, but don't diss the running groups. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the support you receive. After my diagnosis with RA, I found 2 groups for runners and athletes with RA. These are my people. When I flare, they care. 

Recognize your fellow runners.
"If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter."~ Principal McGee, from the movie Grease.  There's no better thing you can do, injured or not than to go out to a race and cheer on your fellow runners. Studies have shown that the benefits of helping others include a reduction in pain, a heightened sense of well-being, and a sense of purpose. Spectating and cheering at a race may also give you an added incentive to get back out there!


Remind yourself that this is a temporary setback.
Maybe it doesn't feel like it, but yes, this too shall pass. Cry if you need to (I wiped away a few tears this morning), have a pity party, and then let common sense return. Pull out the mantras. You are a runner. You are strong. You are a warrior. You got this.

See you on the road.

What works for you when you can't run? You know writing this post helped me. How do you stay positive? Anything else you'd add to my list (it doesn't have to start with R)?

I'm linking up with Tuesdays on the Run aka Marcia, Erika, and Patti as well as Coaches' Corner aka Susie, Debbie, Rachel, and Lora.



79 comments :

  1. Ugh, I'm so sorry you had that flare up! As you know, I've had to put many of these into practice during the first 6 weeks of summer... it definitely helps to remember that it's temporary and focus on what you CAN do. The water was a life saver for me too! But wow- 2 halfs, 10 + AG 10k.. you've accomplished a lot this year!!

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    1. I'm planning on doing more. Glass half full--since it's a flare, hopefully the steroids will cut it off and I'll be back on the road later this week.

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  2. I'm sorry to hear that! So frustrating! And I needed to read this post about now - I'm going on month 2.5 of no running. I am able to do other things (cycling, Barre, strength training), but absolutely no running. Being injured stinks (mine is inflammation in both my SI joints & tendonitis in my right abductor)!

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    1. I was looking back on old posts and this is the 3rd such post I've written about being injured--altho they all have a different take on the theme. Yesterday was tough, but as the day went on (and the steroids started to work) I started to feel better. Whether its an injury or illness, it's not easy to be sidelined.

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  3. Focus on what you CAN do. You will find that it is so much more than you thought!

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  4. I have a post similar to this "in the works," but I'm saving it for awhile (Stay tuned...it may be going live than sooner than planned LOL). I certainly can commiserate....being sidelined SUCKS!

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    1. This was a totally spontaneous post. What can I say?

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  5. I'm sorry about the flare but love your perspective!

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    1. Thank you! If you can't laugh what else is left?

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  6. Sorry you were hurting; glad you jumped on the steroids quickly - I think managing a chronic illness well is key to keeping you doing the things you really want to do. Hope you are back on the road soon!

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    1. Me too! The knees are still really stiff today. Not sure if I'll get a run in before the weekend. This is a first for me since my RA diagnosis.

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  7. Thank you so much... perfectly timed post and eases the persistent dread I've been feeling. Pulled thigh muscle, haven't run (at all) for 4 weeks and counting (no end in sight). It's barely improving. I swing from "focus on what you can do", to moments of pure despair... not gonna lie. I don't feel like myself. I feel like my life right now is just watching the clock and the calendar, waiting for time to pass. However, I am better enough to brisk-walk now. I have discovered that a combo of shadow boxing with light weight, crunches, bicycle crunches, and pushups can give you a decent little cardio workout in addition to the walking (besides, of course, upper-body strength work). There's ALWAYS a substitute workout (unless you're full-on in traction or something!).

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    1. I just think there is nothing better than a run. But when I can't, and there's been way more time off the road than I like, I try to find the things that make me feel happy. Slam balls probably would have been it today.

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  8. Time off as a runner is really hard! I like to cross train while I'm not running because at least it's still exercise. And I also like to find a project to keep me busy during my normal running times. My last project was remodeling a camper...but my projects aren't always that big haha

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    1. You are way more ambitious than me! I actually folded the laundry today. How pathetic am I?

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  9. I think that you've been doing a great job staying active since your diagnosis. I love that you are still running when you can, but also doing cross training, yoga and other activities!

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    1. I'm so afraid that if I completely stop, I'll just wither away...

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  10. Bugh. Sorry to hear this. You know this is a challenge. Mental and physical. You'll find a way around it. Do I hear triathlon calling your name? It's so much kinder to the body.

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    1. That would involve swimming, right? Sigh...

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  11. These are great tips! I hope the extra rest helps and you feel better soon :)

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    1. I'm so not good at resting. But I do feel better today. Not good enough to run yet, tho.

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  12. I pushed the fine line of overdoing it most of May - no injury, just allergies. I'd feel better, go out and run, breathe in more allergens, and be back coughing and sneezing for 2 days. Lather, rinse, repeat. It took me a month to finally give in and take 3 full rest days.

    Hope your flare clears up quickly!

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    1. You and me both. Someone asked me if maybe I was overdoing it. I sure hope not. July was a blast.

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  13. Really great insights here. I especially like the one about encouraging other runners. It makes you feel like you are still part of the community, which is a huge part of running.

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    1. I find that really helpful. I was at a race, spectating while injured, and a woman next to me was crying because she too was injured. Reallly?

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  14. I cried along with and for you.
    My reasons (not excuses...I've made Peace with my lot) for not being able to run any longer are not even close to your health situation, but you're right: Not running sucks.
    I'll be writing about that soon.
    But you're right also that keeping involved with the running world and supporting your running friends helps. A lot.
    I hope that yours is a short-lived set-back.
    Hugs and love from RI.

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    1. I hope this is a short-lived setback too! I've got a few races on the calendar...

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  15. While not dealing with a flare, I haven't been feeling well on & off the last couple of weeks. So I'm resting way more than usual, and this week, I'm definitely going to miss at least one run . . . I'd add: Respect your body! If you're feeling run down, you're probably not doing yourself any favors by pushing through (and probably more harm than good).

    And finally, even though it doesn't feel like it, running is what we do; it's not who we are. We're so much more than runners (although never being able to run again would suck -- I have one friend who's really been struggling with her runs for a year now).

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    1. I know a lot of people say that about running but you know what? Running is who I am. I know that I have way too much wrapped up in this sport, but without running, my life would have taken a very different and probably not so rewarding path. I do realize that a day is coming when I won't be able to run. This flare was a good reminder of that. But I'm sure as hell going to keep trying.

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  16. OMG WENDY. This is the best post you've ever written, although I'm sorry that the root of it is your pain issues. DAMMIT. But really, man, is this ever a good resource for so many people. I love love love LOVE that quote about don't bring a bucket to dry wells. I'm writing it down in my notes section. I hope you feel better soon, my friend. XO Much love. <3

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    1. This one came from the heart, and those are always my best posts. Funny how that happens!

      Love you back.

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  17. So so sorry. I focus on still trying to get out and active - maybe a bike or walk. Then I let myself enjoy something new like more time to read or to watch a new NetFlix show

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    1. I just enjoyed some Ben and Jerry's salted caramel core, so there's that...

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  18. Ugh, what a bummer. In addition to cheering on your fellow runners, volunteering at a race is always a good way to feel connected to the running community while sidelined. I hope your flare goes away quickly!

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    1. Steroids are always a RA runner's best friend!

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  19. Being side lined is never easy and the emotions that go along with it are so intense. I'm sorry to hear that you are having such a rough couple of days but as you say it's only temporary although it doesn't feel that way. Since you are resting on the couch I say online shopping a little retail therapy always helps me.

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    1. You know me too well! I've been shopping--the sales are great!

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  20. Wendy, I would love to get you in contact with my sister-in-law! Just is 40 yrs. old with 2 young children, very active (gym rat) and was just diagnosed with RA a couple of weeks ago. Her Dr has ordered her to not do any of her usual workouts until her next appt on the 15th. She is going CRAZY! I've given her your blog site to read but think she could really benefit from "picking your brain" if you are willing. :)

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    1. Absolutely. Send her my way. I'm lucky I found a doctor that lets me be me. Tell her to let her body be her guide. Not her doctor. If she's up for it, she should workout.

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  21. So sorry to hear about this latest flare. Hoping and praying it will be short-lived, and especially that your positive attitude will hold strong. You've got this #fuckRA

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    1. This really threw me for a loop, but the steroids are doing their job. Call me grateful.

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  22. Booooo! So sorry Wendy!!! Want to make a "we can't run" club??? We can find other cool things do do-lol.
    I have a similar post next week too. :-)

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    1. We should! LOL! I'm hoping to get out for a few easy run/walk intervals this morning. Stay tuned.

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  23. I think letting yourself wallow -- for a little while -- is important. It sucks. There's no denying it, so don't force yourself to put on a happy face until you're ready. Having running friends to whine to/commiserate with also is important. Then you can follow all those other steps to recovery.

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    1. You know it's bad when I don't even want to attempt to run, which is how I felt yesterday. Today I'm going to attempt some short run/walk intervals, just to get moving again.

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  24. Great post! Focusing on what I can do instead of what I can't was a game changer for me. I was so bummed when I didn't bounce right back after my knee injury and surgery (even though everyone was telling me!). Once I redirected my energy to things I was able to do, things changed. Now I am back to some running and savoring every minute!

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    1. That time off the road sure makes us grateful for the miles, doesn't it?

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  25. Ugh, so sorry you're going through this. That damned RA doesn't know it's up against a warrior I guess. Fight on!

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    1. RA is certainly a strong opponent! This time it sent me a sucker punch. I sure wasn't expecting it.

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  26. I am so sorry, Wendy. Last year+ was rough for me not being able to run more than a couple miles at a time on my treadmill and it really set me back mentally so I can sort of empathize. All those "running friends" I thought I had disappeared so that didn't help either. BUT, I held strong to the fact that this next year I WILL make every effort to get back at it. My thoughts and prayers are with you always.

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    1. Just keep moving forward Michelle. You've got a lot to look forward to!

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  27. You have had such a great attitude through all this. I'm so sorry you are having flare ups.
    I agree being a supporter is great and sometimes just as fulfilling. Before I knew I could run long distances, I got so much enjoyment from cheering on my sister who did! -M

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    1. It's hard to be on the sidelines, but I find it satisfying cheering other people on!

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  28. Sorry to hear about your flare up. Sometimes when I can't run I just need to separate myself from the running world for a bit and then slowly come back.

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  29. Hope your setback is shortlived. I hope you can find something else to think about while you are recovering.

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    1. I'm coming back--I don't know how much longer I'll be able to run long distances but I'm going to keep trying!

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  30. I know the rest days suck! I hope this one passes quickly! No R word here unless we want to mention rum! I know you are stronger! I hope you focus on yoga and meditation - your friends are still here! Hugs XXOO

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    1. Rum? That's a great alternative to run!

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  31. I wrote this for myself when I couldn't run: Reversing the Injured Runner Blues > http://thoroughlythriving.com/train/running/reversing-the-injured-runner-blues/

    It was super cathartic to write, helped others understand where I was at at the time, and yet still it was hard to take my own advice some days. Sometimes all you need is to commiserate, like you said, and know others understand that it sucks.

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    1. Haha! I love this. You are my kind of runner--we have to just do what makes us happy!

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  32. Wendy - I love this post! You have an incredible attitude - we can all learn a lot from you!
    It helps to have a support system, and we are all cheering you on!
    I'm sorry you had a flare - hope you feel better asap!
    Have a great day!

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    1. I only show you guys the positive signs!

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  33. I'm so sorry you're dealing with a flare. I care when you flare! Definitely reach out to your tribe when you're down. It so helps.

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    1. My tribe has been incredible. I can't ask for more than this.

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  34. I am sorry you are having a flare and hope you feel better soon. I am six weeks postpartum and just got cleared to run again yesterday. I haven't run since October and can't wait to get back out there.

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    1. I remember that return to running after giving birth very well! Be kind to yourself and take it slow. Your body will remember!

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  35. <3 I'm sorry you're having it rough right now. This is a great list with lots of fabulous ways to keep that chin up.

    Taking up a new activity helps keep me from getting down when I'm hurt or can't run. It's not quite the same but it's something.

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    1. I'm hoping this is just a temporary setback! But writing about it always makes me feel better.

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  36. I'm sorry to hear that you're sidelined right now. I'm glad to hear that you've found a couple of RA support groups online. Sometimes its hard for those who aren't dealing with the same issue that we are to be able to provide the support that we need, so I'm glad that you've found others online who can help to provide that support.

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    1. I feel lucky to have found those groups. Not all RA support groups are a good fit for me--it was important to find other fitness minded folks.

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  37. I think you did the best thing you could in writing down all the things you CAN do. I know it must suck so badly to have to fight this battle literally every day, not knowing when you will flare, but you have a pretty great and long list of alternatives for the days when you just can't make a road run happen. I feel for you my friend but you should also add to the list: Motivate Everyone Who Reads My Blog By Sharing My Shit!!! Seriously. Rock on.

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    1. Ha! If my misery gets people out there, then let it flow...

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  38. Oh man, I am so sorry you are feeling like this. But I do love your attitude you see past it and carry on. Which fall races are you thinking of doing?

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    1. We're talking about Fox Valley. I do have another RnR to commit to as well, so that may change things for me.

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  39. Im sorry that sux. Rest is super important. You have a good attitude, I would probably hole up in my room and watch Netflix.

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    1. I can see how that could happen!! I really had to push myself to not succumb...

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  40. Thank you. This has helped me because, I have had this nagging knee cap pain on/off since late September. I was able to workaround it but by stepping onto my toes to combat the pain. This in turn has injured my achilles tendon and now that hurts so bad (mostly after running).. so it has become a downward spiral, resulting in me ultimately making the decision to take time off. I hope it is short lived. I tried taking last week off, but was unsuccessful because I "thought" I felt healed enough by Thursday, so it only ended up being 3 days off. I felt fine that day and Friday but Sundays' run wasn't so great and I'm concerned that it just isn't going to get any better. I hate it but not going to run for at least a full week, but feel like it will need to be more time, and why not just take all of December off.. I don't have any races until April.. that doesn't make it any easier. I just love to run.. I hoped I could just reduce my miles or take away the long runs, but even that is proving to be bad.

    So I will do my Beachbody workout videos and may go to a chiropractor in case something is out of alignment in my hips and pelvis. I've been running for almost 20 years and am so used to just running when I want to and no one to tell me no. Well I am telling myself no and I pray I can be down shorter than I think...

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