Note: This is our fourth (and last) in our 2018 Running Goals Series. Missed the other posts? Grab them.
Live—and run—long enough, and you’re going to face a setback. (And probably more than one. Sorry.)
Cortney Sloan’s appendix burst in August. Yikes!
“Sudden,” in her words. “Not so much fun.”
For four weeks, Cortney couldn’t exercise at all. Stitches holding her incision together meant no swimming. The communications manager at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (cool job!) had to stay home from work for two weeks lying on the couch.
When her doctor finally gave her the okay to exercise again, she spent two to four weeks of run/walking no more than 3 miles at a time.
Which is exactly the way anyone who is forced to take time off for injury, illness, whatever, SHOULD return, but as we all know, being cautious is SO hard. Because…
“I gained weight because I had to be sedentary,” Cortney says. “The fitness gains I’d made disappeared a lot faster than I would’ve imagined.”
(Indeed, a recent study of “recreational” [charity] Boston marathoners who mostly quit running for 8 weeks after that race showed they lost fairly significant cardiovascular fitness after 4 weeks of relative inactivity.)
The good news is, the longer you’ve been running (consistently), the quicker your return.
Cortney’s love affair with running began in 2003 when she started dating the man she’d marry. She and Kevin went for runs, signed up for races, joined the Montgomery County Road Runners. “It was part of who we were as a couple.”
They ran the Marine Corps Marathon together in 2007, although Cortney is quick to clarify: “We’ve always had a rule that we run our own races. We are not the couple that runs together and crosses the finish line holding hands.”
After their son, Elliot, was born in 2012, Cortney decided that she liked the half-marathon for all the reasons that every mother runner knows and why women make up more than 60% of half-marathon finishers:
The half-marathon feels like a big accomplishment, which it is! But you don’t have to spend 3-4 hours on Saturday mornings training, coming home depleted, exhausted, starving, and unable to bounce back and be a present parent. Never mind all the foam rolling and stretching, because who’s got time for that?
These days, Cortney goes to the weekend long runs her running club hosts because she likes the accountability and socializing. Kevin is perfectly happy doing solo long runs later in the day. That’s how they manage the running/parenting equation.
Cortney's Realistic Stepping Stones for 2018
First Step: Just Finish
The Austin half-marathon in February is “really about being ABLE to finish,” Cortney says. “That’s where I am right now.”
Yes, yes, yes, SO smart. Cortney’s aim is to regain fitness and strength. When your training has been derailed—for whatever reason—your comeback goal has to be simply to come back.
Bonus: Austin! Fun!
Second Step: Make Peace With Where You Are
“I am running about a minute slower per mile than last year,” Cortney says. “That’s harder on the ego than the body.”
We hear that. The run-away ego has led many a returning runner straight into injury. A comeback plan starts where you are—not where you left off. Just because you could run [whatever pace] last year doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy—or even doable—this year. The quicker you can mentally make peace with that, the better.
Third Step: Take on Half-Marathons in May and October
On the upside, Cortney is setting a benchmark in February. That said, she’ll have to beware the comparison trap. If everything goes perfectly and she improves her times, hooray! But if it’s too warm in May or October, which is entirely possible, return to the first goal—just finish. This is the year to regain strength and fitness, not set world records.
PS Happy 40th Birthday in October! What a fun way to celebrate! May you have many more!
Fourth Step: Watching the Weight
Cortney likes the accountability that Weight Watchers offers: “It’s somebody else checking in on me, not caring what my excuse is.” She found a weekly meeting that fits into her work-life-running schedule.
Even better, she and Kevin sit down on Sundays, plan out the weekly menu, and go grocery shopping so the house is stocked with healthy food for breakfast, packed lunches, and dinner. She’s already lost a couple of pounds. Woot!
The other thing she’s working on is finding a cross-training activity that fits that work-life-running schedule. She loves Body Pump, but the class time isn’t convenient. Solid Core—“basically Pilates gone crazy”—left her too wrecked to run.
Fifth Step: Asking the Right Questions
I love that Cortney’s 2018 Goal Sheet is full of checking-in questions: What needs to be moved? What choices are you making to stay on goal?
It’s a good reminder that a year is not something we can just power through, checking off each month without assessment. They wouldn’t be GOALS if they were simply a to-do list, right?