By Lauren MacDonald
The month of August was a month of rest for me. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last few months in an accelerated master’s program that, quite frankly, left me with little-to-no free time. And while the schedule was hectic and somewhat stressful, it also allowed me to find new balance in my running. So when August—and its seemingly endless free time—rolled around, I was pretty ecstatic to revel in my unrestricted runs. Lo-and-behold, did I make use of that free time…by working out four times for the first week of vacation. And then, I wised up—and went on an actual vacation—to realize that working out too much now would mean I would suffer when the fall semester came a-calling. So instead, I focused on building sustainable habits that I would be able to count on when my daily schedule became cramped.
I must admit that my first love wasn’t running—it was swimming. I learned to swim and started competing at the tender age of 3 (I was quite the wunderkind). Ever since then, I’ve loved the calming influence of the water and spending much-too-much time staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool. During the month of August, I used my free time to rekindle my romance, resting my legs on an occasional day to jump in the pool and increase my stamina, arm strength and lung capacity.
During the prior few months, my version of eating well meant that I threw a few things in my lunch pail every day before class and ate breakfast before driving to class instead of eating drive-thru food and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee all the time. Having the month of August off meant that I could revisit my love of cooking, healthy foods, and balanced plates. During August, I made sure to spend plenty of time in the kitchen; as such, when I got flustered and ate McDonald’s during a moment of weakness, I promptly felt so gross that I couldn’t even finish everything in my order. The fuel we put in our bodies is incredibly important, but too often when we get busy, good food is the first to go.
Rest Days, Not Veg Days
Another key habit I developed was not “vegging” out on my days off. Previously, I would be so exhausted that if I didn’t have to run I would just stay in bed or sit in my comfy chair. However, now that I had the extra energy—and time—I would take my rest days, but I made sure to remain active, taking walks with my aunt, playing tennis with a friend, or swimming with my nephews.
Running is great; however, the real goal I think we are all trying to achieve is a healthy, balanced life. If we simply run and do not cultivate a healthy life with sustainable habits, we are likely to crash and burn—plus our running suffers as a result. The little things—the habits we cultivate during our “off periods”—are the things that affect our running and our life in the ways we cannot otherwise fathom. So, how do you cultivate the little things?