In case you were wondering…you’re basically an amazing human + you have some mad skills out there on the trails. You also really enjoy the time you get to spend in nature + love the tingly sense of accomplishment that comes with long hours running or hiking along dirty single track. Yes, you do…we promise!
We’re telling you this because sometimes you forget. We all do. It’s okay, memories are fickle + occasionally reality will pop up with some brutal truths that have you forgetting all of the wonderful times you’ve had outside. These are the moments when you question your sanity + wonder what the hell you’re doing hours away from your car, sweating buckets as you struggle up another steep climb. In a few days [even hours!] you’ll be able to confidently talk about the rugged trail + laugh at the misery…but right in the moment it sucks. A lot.
All of this is okay + completely normal. Really, it is! Ask any avid outdoorist or trail runner out there, they’ll tell you this has happened to them, multiple times. So, here’s the deal…even when it’s rough + even when you’re struggling to justify what you’re doing remember that you are awesome + you love this. Just not right now.
You love climbing hills. Just not this hill.
You love trail running. Just not this mile.
You love backpacking. Just not at this campsite.
You love exploring. Just not on this trail.
You love speed work. Just not this repeat.
You love descending. Just not this gully.
You love being outside. Just not right this second.
A lot of things can + will be awesome; just not right now…
Don’t be ashamed of those seconds or minutes or hours or even days where you’re struggling with yourself + with your body. Don’t let those moments define you. Instead, use your strength to survive them + gather up some knowledge to better prepare yourself next time.
All of this may seem like really obvious information, but in the moment of misery it is so incredibly easy to forget about the good. It’s also really easy to get wrapped up in the doubt + negativity of the moment which leads to a whole slew of questions about why you’ve signed up for that race or jumped on board a friend’s backpacking trip.
The real trick to surviving these bouts of trail misery + doubt is remembering it’s just in this moment. It’s not a forever things…it just might be your brain or body telling you it needs a breather. For many, this is the cusp of burnout, whether physical or mental. You really have two options — push through it + hope for the best or give yourself some down time.
Initially pushing through seems like the right answer. How else will you survive the rough patches on race day or the long day of backpacking if you just give up while training? No, really…that’s an honest to goodness question + a huge source of the “must push through” mentality. However, when is pushing too much? It’s a purely individual thing but…it’s something that lurks around in the back of all of our minds. Who actually knows their exact “this is too much” limit? Not very many of us, at least not without a lot of trial + error while pushing past the limit.
That’s where the second option comes into play…giving yourself a bit of down time. Depending on your overall mindset, goals + physical foundation this could be a day off, a week off or a month off. You get to decide. Yes, you…even if you do have a coach or hardcore training plan. This is the moment where you get to learn more about you + your limits, before you break anything.
Once again, that empowering yet terrifying choice of what to do with our minds, bodies + goals that has us all talking the ears off our trail buddies, reading up on articles like this one + changing our minds every 23 seconds. It’s the “anything can happen” uncertainty that has use chasing each other around the trails…it’s why we ultimately love what we do outside, just not right now.
I would love to read some stories of women who are older and just getting into running trails. I’m 71 and just starting to run. I am so slow and struggle doing it. I really want to do this. So for now I run at the local park and I’m getting ready to run our greenway trail which is around 3 miles.
I can’t speak for every area — but I know when I started running trails [started out on roads] I would meet up with a local running store’s run group on the weekends. We had people of all ages + speeds/distances. I don’t live in that area anymore, but I still follow the running endeavors of some of the runners — a handful 60+ years old. I’d check into your local running groups + ask around with the employees there.
I’d also suggest checking out some local trail races + offering to volunteer. The longer distances have a surprising number of older runners [a 69 year old runner just finished the 240 mile race I worked in Moab, Utah this past weekend!]. They’re also extremely chatty + may have some great pointers for getting out there + for finding people to run with!
Thank you so much for this. I just rewatched Krissy’s Ted talk this morning, in seeking support for coping with on an acute note: a fractured rib, and on a chronic note, injury off and on since 2014 from lack of being healthy and resting: Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.
This was poignant and exactly what I needed to hear. I’m on day 10 of total rest, apart from (v slow) walking and honestly breathing well.
My heart hurts for the trails, and I’m moving back out to British Columbia to rekindle my relationship with dirty shoes and full lungs of mountain air.
“That’s where the second option comes into play…giving yourself a bit of down time. Depending on your overall mindset, goals + physical foundation this could be a day off, a week off or a month off. You get to decide. Yes, you…even if you do have a coach or hardcore training plan. This is the moment where you get to learn more about you + your limits, before you break anything.”
Mental strength is a muscle we can also flex, hey?
You’re very welcome. I find myself in this sort of ‘it’s okay to take it easy’ kind of self talk more often than I care to admit. That said, learning to allow yourself to take some down time is huge, at least for me.
The most important part is getting yourself back into a position to get out there again, over + over, in some capacity or another! Heal quickly!