It's often hard to practice what you preach. Generally, your "sermon" is your description of an idealistic you, while you know in your heart that the old "easier said than done" expression is applicable. I always tell new runners if they are going to listen to anyone, listen to their bodies. When people ask me about rest days, I tell them it is not necessary to schedule a rest day, but rather to be open to taking one if your body sends you the signals.
The sheer magnitude of this week sort of snuck up on me. I was running in Central Park on Friday wondering why I felt so run down and so sore. It seemed like my mileage was fairly low. But, as I started to look at how much had changed since last Saturday, it dawned on me that it was one of my most intense weeks yet. Saturday morning, I ran a 5K in Charlotte. Granted, the time wasn't blisteringly fast, but it was a hilly course and I still worked hard. Less than two hours after the race, I was on a plane moving to my new home in New York. I unpacked my stuff and went for another run. The next morning, I was up at the crack of dawn for a 17 miler. Monday, I started my new job. I've run every day and done two high-quality, high intensity workouts and another long run since then. Most of my runs have been in Central Park, which is a relatively challenging place to run.
With all that on the table, it should be no surprise that when I started toward the Hudson River path for this morning's run, my body rejected the plans. I had 11-12 miles on the calendar. My body had 0-0. At first, I told my body to shut up. I pushed on toward the water, each stride a reminder of who was boss. The protests of my quads, my hamstrings and to some extent, my calves were getting louder. I had to give in. I could tell I am not injured, just tired, sore and in desperate need of a a day off my feet. Less than three minutes into the run, I turned around and walked home.
For many, that's a simple thing to do. For me, it's always tough. It's been more than a month since the last time I took a day without running and that's because when I don't log the miles, I don't feel like the day is complete. As a runner, the most challenging days on my schedule are not the mile repeats, the tempos or or the 20 milers, but rather the off days. Those are the days where I have to go against everything I want to do and do nothing because it's what I have to do.
But what is the alternative? When you run on sore or tired legs, your gait inevitably changes. Any amount of miles you run with that altered gait could turn that soreness into an all-out injury, and then we're not talking about days off. We're talking about weeks.