Fall In Love Again With
By Mark Remy - from
At first, you couldn't get enough of
each other. The grass was greener, the sky was bluer, there was a bounce in
your step. You were running on air.
But as the weeks turned into
months, and the months dragged into years, things changed. One day, it hits
you: You've lost that spark. You're going through the motions. The thrill, as
they say, is gone.
So where did things go wrong? And more important,
can you rekindle the flame?
Of course you can. And in this Valentine's
Day month, we have dozens of great ways to help you put the sizzle back in your
Remember: Relationships go wrong for lots of reasons. Happens
all the time. The good news is: With a smidgen of effort, you can get things
back on track. You can fall in love with running all over again, and you can
keep the flame burning for years to come.
The ABC's of
Most passionate relationships follow a predictable arc, and
your relationship with running is no exception. "One model is the ABCDE-you
start with Attraction, then Building the relationship, then Continuation," says
Linda De Villers, Ph.D., author of Love Skills. "D and E are the ones we try to
avoid: Deterioration and Ending."
Cathy Hastings, Ph.D., agrees.
"It's a good analogy, because most people who begin running fall in love with
it," says Hastings, a longtime runner and marriage therapist in Lancaster, Pa.
"You're on a high, and it's really similar to the beginning stages of a
Then reality sets in. "You feel aches and
pains in running just like you do in a relationship," Hastings says. "There
comes a time when people either choose to bail out, or realize that their
relationship will take work, so they have to stand back and take stock. You
need to decide whether the positives outweigh the negatives."
course, those who see running as strictly a physical thing-who were never
interested in a serious relationship at all-will likely bail out. For them,
running is just one in a long series of dalliances that started with Little
League and will probably end with croquet or shuffleboard. In contrast, we'll
assume that you, as a Runner's World reader, are interested in commitment. Your
challenge, then, is keeping your running fresh.
It'll take some work,
but what long-term relationship doesn't? Whether you're talking about running
or romance, here's what you need to keep your love alive:
Communication. In any relationship, problems rarely arise without
warning. Learn to listen-really listen-to what your body has to say, and you
may prevent a full-scale blowup. Watch out for these early indications that
trouble is brewing:
* You're feeling pain that goes beyond the normal
aches. If so, don't ignore it or mask it with painkillers; and for Pete's sake,
don't try to "run through it." Instead, ease up on your running and maybe take
off a day or two. Or even a week.
* You're always pooped. This clearly
means you're overdoing it. "A healthy relationship leaves you energized," says
De Villers. "An unhealthy relationship leaves you drained." Maybe the two of
you just need some time apart.
* You find yourself making excuses not
to run. Face it: If someone offered you $100 to run every day, you'd definitely
find the time. Rather than hiding behind excuses, ask yourself, Why am I really
avoiding running?, and figure out your problem from there.
Respect. Running is wonderful, but if you don't respect its power, it
can lash out in painful ways. Acknowledge the rigors of the sport, as well as
your own limits. Translation: Don't over-reach. If the farthest you've ever run
is 8 miles, don't attempt a half-marathon tomorrow. If you're accustomed to
running every other day, don't go daily all at once. If a bunch of Kenyans move
in next door, don't join them for an "easy 20-miler." Show running the respect
it deserves, and it will treat you right.
Familiarity doesn't have to breed contempt. "You must be creative enough to
break out of ruts," says De Villers. "If a relationship has become too
predictable, that's where the contempt comes in." You know all those vacation
days you've amassed? Why not use one some random weekday, and go for a long,
relaxed run? Sleep in a bit and hit your favorite trail or route while
everybody else is stuck at work.
Romance. If your running has
gone blas?what you need is a little spice. Whisk yourself away for a short
running vacation (see "Six Romantic Getaways," on page 60). Or just take a few
minutes during the day to fantasize about the run you've lined up after
work-what you'll wear, how you'll look, and how good it will feel.
Quality Time. Too many runners heap on the miles, setting themselves up
to see running as nothing more than a number in the logbook. No wonder they
fall out of love; what kind of relationship is that? Three "mindful"
miles-spent deeply breathing in the sweet spring air, watching a flock of geese
winging overhead, marveling at the sheer physics of human locomotion-beats 6
miles of head-down slogging any day.
Flexibility. We don't
mean the touch-your-toes variety. We're talking here about the give-and-take
that's necessary for any relationship to survive. If your expectations are
rigid, sooner or later something will break-most likely your spirit. Not only
that, but adhering to your training schedule too obsessively may leave your
priorities all out of whack.
Running should bend to accommodate your
life-not vice versa. If you're feeling crummy, be flexible enough to allow
yourself a day without running, advises sports psychologist Jerry Lynch, Ph.D.,
author of Running Within. "If you take that day off, you'll come back with more
enthusiasm and more joy for the next run," he says.
Appreciation. Sheila Stanley-McIntosh, 40, of Atlanta, had been running
for 8 years when she slowly lost interest. (Not quite a 7-year itch, but close
enough.) "My canine running partner began to lose her enthusiasm for running,
so I shortened my distances for her. Then my weekend group fell apart. Then we
bought an old house and had it renovated, so I was managing two homes," says
Stanley-McIntosh. When she tried to run again, she was plagued by a series of
injuries. Four months later, healthy and with a new training partner,
Stanley-McIntosh finally resumed her running. "Now, when someone asks me why I
run," she says, "I reply, 'Because I can.'"
Spread the Love
As those great British philosophers Lennon and McCartney once said, the
love you take is equal to the love you make. Every relationship is a two-way
street, and the more you put into it, the more you'll get out.
are plenty of ways to "give something back" to the running community, from
volunteering at a local race, to assisting your local high school cross-country
coach, to encouraging a sedentary friend to join you for a short weekly jog.
You'll feel better about yourself, and being around new runners will rejuvenate
your own love for the sport.
Even an activity as simple as cheering
at a race counts. Remember the boost you get from the screaming spectators in
the final miles of your races? Here's your chance to reciprocate. And just try
watching a major marathon, such as New York City's, up close without aching to
train for a race of your own.
Speaking of racing: It pays to love
your competitors, too. (Well, not literally...that would be another article
altogether.) Trouble is, many of us see other runners as adversaries, enemies
we must destroy in our dash to the finish line-a mind-set that takes a real
psychic toll, says Lynch.
Instead, embrace the competition. See
competitors as friends who will help you run your best. "The word compete comes
from the Latin word competere, to seek together," says Lynch, a former top
masters racer. "When I competed, I noticed that if I showed up at a race and
thought, 'Wow, look who's here-he's such a great runner,' I did better."
So what are we left with? The initial thrill of the beginning runner
inevitably fades. You can't stay gaga forever. The good news is that beneath
the infatuation is something even better, more mature, and ultimately more
rewarding-a love that will sustain you for years to come.
the example of the hungry young runner living from one PR to the next. That's
fine, Lynch says, except that PRs are pretty ephemeral things. You can't rely
on them forever to keep you motivated.
"You earn a PR and you're
excited-but it lasts about 2 weeks, and that's it," Lynch says. "The joy of the
process, on the other hand, lasts forever.
"By age 45, I was burned
out on competition. I was afraid I was going to stop running. But when I made a
switch to nonracing, it was just the opposite: My running became even more
enjoyable, because the rewards were much more internal.
"Today when I
go out for my run, the reward is right there. It's immediate."
Copyright © 2006
Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.