Short Run, Long Story

The grass is a little greener on the west side

I took on a new full-time job a few weeks ago, and it’s been a huge shock to my system. No more sleeping until 8:45am and commuting from the bedroom to my computer in the kitchen. And I’ve had to say so long to my 3:00pm “coffee runs,” which involved me doing a loop in the park, finishing at Starbucks, and then walking home to check email again by 4:15pm. Yep, I’ve got a full on, 9-to-6 office gig with a traditional subway start and finish to call my very own these days.

I’ve managed to keep my training on track (got to be ready for The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain Half Marathon!), but all of my runs are starting to feel the same. My easy days and my hard days have all morphed into tempo runs—comfortably hard efforts that I rely on to help me deal with my new work-related stress. But while all that speed is great for unwinding my head, it’s made a tight, whiny mess out of my left calf.

Which brings me to yesterday, the final Saturday of March 2012. I thought a nice gentle run on the flat path along the west side of Manhattan would be just the thing to loosen up my leg muscles. It wasn’t. I spent more time pulling over to stretch than I did running, and after 35 minutes of stop-and-go effort I got frustrated and decided to pack it in.

I know that short, easy runs are good for your body from time to time. But part of me still thinks they’re pointless. In the back of my mind I’ve always thought that if I’m not running for at least an hour, I shouldn’t bother tying my shoes.

Still, yesterday did more good than I gave it credit for in the moment. All that stretching loosened up the knots in my calf and I was able to have a mental-stress-busting run today. I ran 7 pain-free miles at a comfortable pace, with a few surges tossed in for fun.

The moral of this long story: I need balance and I need to listen to my body (always tough for me). Sticking to a couple of hard runs per week and doing easy ones on the other days will continue to keep my mind and my muscles stress free.

Do you have trouble keeping an easy pace when you’re stressed, too? Do you wait for sore muscles to remind you to slow down?