Around AMR, we have the occasional What Would Another Mother Runner Do? series, a collection of questions for collective input that are both serious (skipping a marathon you've trained for because you just don't want to do it) and humorous (bringing two left shoes to a triathlon). The next in the series falls into the more serious category: a BRF writing in about her BRF who seems to be overdoing it. (Note: Names have been changed.)
Here's the situation, told from a concerned BRF's eyes: Gina, my running partner, got a new job a few months back. She now gets up way before humans should: 4:30 a.m.. Some days she does a morning workout before leaving for work at 6 a.m., then she will do also a workout before bed, around 9 p.m. She works full time; has a 30-45 minute commute one way to work; is the mom of two kids in elementary school and after-school activities; and is married.
I'm worried she's burning herself out. I've noticed this pattern in her even before she had her new job. I have said something to her, but her response is something along the lines of, “I'm fine. I've got it under control.” I'm not sure what her goal is or what she's out to prove. She was telling me what she ran and what cross-training activities she did over the weekend, and I told her she needed to take a rest day or she would end up getting injured.
Her response was, “I know. I will take it easy.” But I can see her Strava account, and I know she isn’t. Since it's crummy winter weather outside and her schedule has changed, we don't do a lot of together workouts anymore. Read: my keeping her exercise in check isn't so easy right now.
Besides saying something to her husband, I'm not sure what else to do. I don't want her to get injured or hurt, but I don't want to nag her, either. I'm afraid she's burning the candle at both ends and it will end badly. I don't want to lose my BRF if I keep bringing it up, but she's getting out of control with her workouts.
I'm glad she's diligent about her health, but how much is too much? If she was your running buddy, what would you do?
Dimity says: First of all, I love your concern for her. That said, it sounds to me like she has a form of exercise addiction; like alcoholism and other addictive behaviors, the impetus for change has got to come from within—and chances are, you saying anything to her either will fall on deaf ears or, as you mentioned, sabotage your relationship. (I also think her exercising habit is likely one of the only forms of control she has in her hectic life, so, as weird as it sounds, it likely brings some fulfillment and calm to her perspective.) I wouldn't talk to her husband or her again in the near future. Instead, I'd keep the runs you do together as moderate as possible and keep an eye on her from afar. If it becomes too crazy, I'd consult a professional. My hope, though, is that this is just a phase and she'll find some balance in her life sooner than later.
Sarah says: As someone who had a borderline, if not full-blown, addiction to exercise when I was going through marital problems then life as a newly divorced woman, I feel for this woman. I like to think I would say something to her husband and maybe any mutual friends we had, as I think the people in her life need to band together to spur her to take action (or, rather, inaction). I also would tell her I was taking a break from exercising with her as I wouldn't want to be a party to her obsessive behavior. She needs to know her level of exercise (and lack of rest!) is troubling to those around her. It's a tough stance to take with a friend, but I think she'll eventually thank you.
Managing Editor Maureen says: I agree with Dimity in terms of control issues. This is probably one place she can hang on for dear life and feel like she is in charge of the output. I also agree with Sarah: You can't work out with her an enable her behavior. It sounds like she needs a plain old BF more than a BRF right now. Ask her if the two of you can meet for coffee or breakfast on one of those early mornings. Or meet her for one of those early-morning runs, but come with coffee in hand and ask to chill in the car and catch up. Rather than point out her Strava account, ask her about everything that's going on right now. She might be more likely to open up once she covers work, home life, and more.