June 28, 2018

8 Things That Happened When I Quit Running


The year 2017 was a big game changer for me. In January and February, I was at the peak of a 10-month episode of depression, and it was worse than any I'd experienced before (although I didn't write much about it, and I certainly downplayed the severity). I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and my psychiatrist prescribed me a mood stabilizer. The diagnosis, medication, and a big breakthrough in therapy made me feel like I was starting a whole new life.

I stopped worrying about what others thought of me, and I decided that I was going to do what made me happy. I wanted to become the happiest person I could be.

One of the biggest changes I made was that I stopped running.

I had dreaded each and every run for about a year, or maybe more, and I just didn't want to do it anymore. I was tired of it! I would spend my rest days dreading my next run day. When I was actually running, I was doing whatever I could to just get through it, and I hated every minute of it.

So, I quit. Indefinitely.

I had no idea if I'd ever run again, and I really didn't care. I had a bit of an identity crisis confusion, considering I'd been known as "Runs for Cookies" for six years. Who would I be, if not a runner? Would I still blog? Would I have to change the name of my blog? Would I gain weight?

I had a thousand questions with answers unknown, and I dove right in to discover them. From the moment I made that decision to quit running, I felt better. I didn't dread the following day, or the day after. I didn't ever have to run again, unless I wanted to, and it was okay!

Unexpectedly, I started to miss it sometime late in 2017--not the act of running itself, but just the way it made me feel afterward. My body had started to feel "soft", and even though I was back down to my goal weight of 133, I felt fat. There were some things that I hadn't expected to happen in my time off of running.

I am now back at it, although nothing like before. I'm not training for PRs, or any race at all; I'm not building up my distance; I'm not even "training"--I'm just running a few times a week to feel good about myself and exercise my body.

Anyways, all of that said... I've been thinking about the things that hadn't occurred to me when I first decided to quit running over a year ago. And if you find yourself in my (running) shoes, dreading each run and feeling burnt out, maybe it'll give you something to think about, too!

So, here goes: 8 Things That Happened When I Quit Running...

1) I discovered that I am a lazy person by nature. When I quit running, I had every intention to do other forms of exercise--daily walks, bike rides, and just live a very active lifestyle (minus the running). Instead, I turned into a version of my "fat self" (i.e. before I lost 125 pounds).

My activity came in the form of cleaning--I cleaned my house like a crazy person, because my depression had lifted and I finally had the time and energy to do so. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing--my house looked fantastic--but other than the cleaning, I still didn't want to "exercise".

2) I realized that I didn't need running in order to lose or maintain my weight. In fact, I lost quite a bit of weight once I quit running! I was about 160 pounds when I was diagnosed with bipolar, and when I decided to start doing what makes me happy (and NOT doing the things that didn't make me happy), I realized that excess food wasn't making me happy (more about this in an upcoming post). My weight naturally dropped down to a comfortable 130-135 pounds.


3) I learned that food isn't a "reward" for exercise. My blog title, Runs for Cookies, suggests that I earn my sweets by running (and that's exactly what I intended when I chose the title). However, when I quit running, I still loved sweets. And, in the aspiration of making myself happy, I wasn't about to quit eating something I love just because I quit running.

And you know what? I learned that two cookies taste just as good as a dozen. I also didn't need to feel the urge "to run it off" after indulging in those two cookies (or any indulgence, for that matter). I knew that I wasn't OVER-indulging, and that I was making my body (and my soul!) happy.


4) About eight months after I quit running, I started to miss it. Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with my weight. I was at my goal weight, but I felt fat. I wasn't pushing my muscles or my lungs and heart to a level where I felt like I was really working.

When I first quit running, I wouldn't have cared about this. I would have been thrilled to just be at my goal weight and not have to run to get there! But I found that I missed feeling sweaty and a little achy after running. I missed setting goals and making plans to reach those goals.

5) I found that I actually enjoyed the regression in my fitness level... to an extent. When I first went for a run after my hiatus, I couldn't believe how challenging it was. What felt like a 9:00/mile pace was actually approaching a 12:00/mile pace. My body had definitely lost its cardiovascular shape. BUT. This regression made me excited! I realized that it would be a challenge to run a sub-30 5K (where before, it was a typical easy run).

I realized that running "just" three miles was a really big deal--prior to my hiatus, three miles was practically a waste of my time! I felt like a beginner again, which made it exciting to me. Every little improvement was something to celebrate, versus before, when I was mad at myself for not being able to run a consistent sub-8:00 mile as I had for my 2016 10K.



6) I said "to an extent" in #5 because there are certainly drawbacks to the regression of fitness. Runs take more time than they used to, and they certainly feel more difficult. I can't keep up with friends who want a buddy to run with (unless they are slower than me, and, currently, I don't know anyone that fits the bill! haha). I do wonder if my days of shooting for PRs are gone (I don't worry about it, though--I am just genuinely curious). Other than that, the regression hasn't bothered me.

7) I don't care about the running numbers AT ALL anymore. One mile is the same as three miles; a 12:00/mile pace is the same as a 7:00/mile pace--it truly doesn't make any difference to me. When I run now, I don't care in the slightest sense of the word what my pace is! I'm not embarrassed to run slowly, or to be a 35:00-ish 5K'er instead of a 24:00-ish 5K'er like before. Last night, I ran just one mile, and I felt as good logging that mile as I would have if I'd logged 10.


8) Most importantly, running is not my identity. I thought of changing my blog title because, soon after I'd quit running, I felt like it was a dishonest title. But running was a huge part of my life (and I guess it still is, in a way) for such a long time, and I feel like it'll always be a part of who I am.

The difference is, I'm not JUST a runner (or, "hobby jogger" might be more appropriate now). There are so many other things that make up ME, and I wouldn't have discovered many of those if not for taking an indefinite hiatus from running.



Over the last several months, I've been discovering a nice middle ground for running. I make time for it, but it's not a very important part of my life anymore. I don't really have any desire to race (although, I did train with my husband for a half-marathon, and learned many things about myself as a runner along the way).

Maybe I will want to race again someday, but for now, I'm good with just running here and there as I see fit. I don't place "rules" on myself as far as distance or days of the week, or anything like that; I run just enough to feel like I'm doing my body some good without forcing it.

My body is not as "tight" as it was when I was running a consistent five days a week and training hard for a race. I'm not fast, and I don't run long distances; but, I no longer work my life around my training schedule. I just fit in a few runs when it's convenient for me, and if I miss one, I know that life goes on. I enjoy dessert without "earning" it, and it tastes just as good.

And my weight? It's followed the same pattern it always has. I hit a depressive episode of bipolar in December (thankfully, a "mild" depression, and nothing like it was before I was taking the correct medication), and I gained 15 pounds (I always gain weight when going through depression.) I was running throughout the entire springtime, and my weight held on to those 15 pounds, so the running wasn't a factor.

I am sure that as my mood improves, the extra pounds will come off, just as they have in the past. (Here is a post that shows the interesting up and down pattern of my weight and how it coincides with my bipolar disorder.)

Right now, I am having fun working on my Cookies Summer Challenge--a checklist of runs (or walks!) that are done for enjoyment and not "training". Last night, I ran at 12:53 AM (so, it was technically this morning) to run at the peak of the strawberry moon!


3 comments:

  1. I’m glad you didn’t change your blog/site name. It is a true definitition of how you got to where you are today! I come to read and while I know the title I know that running is only one small part of your life! :-(

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  2. Separate from weight or getting fit, but more for meeting supportive friends, have you ever looked into whether there is a fitness group called Fit4Mom near you? I joined their Body Back workout group and it is the most supportive, friendly environment I have ever exercised with. I find myself going more for the camaraderie than the workouts (but getting toned has been nice). Not sure if you have one near you, but you may enjoy it :) It has been getting me through some rough times. Overall, I would say the impact it has had on my mental health has been the biggest. And beyond that, I have some severe back issues and I've really strengthened my back and my core and my back pain has subsided significantly.

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