Not the Welcome Back I Wanted

Those halcyon days of post-hike jumps for joy are long gone, I'm afraid. Ask me to do this after a current run and I have one finger that'll jump. Credit: Jared Seymour

Those halcyon days of post-hike jumps for joy are long gone, I’m afraid. Ask me to do this after a current run, and I have one finger that’ll jump. Credit: Jared Seymour

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had a glorious vacation that gave me a badly needed break from technology. It’s hard to really explain what that week away from my phone and computer did for my brain, but let it suffice to say that it was incredible.

But that didn’t mean I just sat around meditating and reading all day (although that, too, sounds amazing). No, we stayed quite active.

Every day involved at least two of the following:

  • Hiking (like, challenging trails — no easy walks in the park for us!)
  • Stand up paddleboarding (I rented a board from the nearby Naturally Superior Adventures, then paddled and did yoga and other exercises using the board on the lake where our cabin was. Check out my SUP workout here — it’s my new favorite thing!)
  • Swimming (I brought my wetsuit and did a long, open-water swim with Jared kayaking alongside me for safety)
  • Kayaking
  • Yoga

Now, pretty much every day also involved a bigger than usual breakfast with blueberry pancakes, but it was blueberry season up there! What was I supposed to do? And we might’ve had several dinners of fried fish from the day’s catch. And, you know, I was on vacation, so while I picked up some fruits and veggies for snacking, I was also a little more lenient with the “sometimes” snack foods.

Also? Beer.

Still, I was so active each day that I truly thought I’d come home and jump right back into my workout routine. Never mind that I’d taken the week leading up to the trip a little easy due to some back pain, and, I mean, I know I didn’t run while I was in Canada, but I sure hiked a lot, and that’s basically the same thing, right?


SUP on a cold lake TOTALLY beats running in the Florida heat. Ugh. Credit: Jared Seymour

SUP on a cold lake TOTALLY beats running in the Florida heat. Ugh. Credit: Jared Seymour

My first run after returning felt like the first run of my life. I was sucking wind within minutes. My legs felt like they were made of 500 pounds of cotton candy — simultaneously heavy and weak and soft. I did a little more than two miles and called it quits. Sweat was pouring down my nose, and I felt like I could puke. I nearly did.

Hold up. Didn’t I just run 13.1 miles? Didn’t I just complete a freaking long-course triathlon? Hell, I did the swim leg of an Olympic triathlon relay the Saturday before I left town. It’s not like I’ve been a sloth all summer, letting myself get completely out of shape. How can two miles hurt this badly?

It’s a sad truth that it takes far, far longer to get into shape than it takes to lose the level of fitness you’ve built, and one type of exercise doesn’t necessarily translate to another sport — just ask any runner trying CrossFit for the first time, or vice versa. No matter what, the first time back after a break (even a fairly short one) is rough. Really, really rough.

But it gets better.

The next day, I went out and was able to hold on for another half mile, and while it wasn’t anywhere near pleasant, I felt a lot less like I was going to die. A couple of days later, I ran a little over four miles. It wasn’t easy, and I might’ve needed an extra puff from my asthma inhaler (damn you, Florida humidity!), but I did it. And I kept doing it, and you know what? It got better.

That’s the real benefit to having years of sports and running and races under my belt. I’ve been through enough of these metaphorical hills and valleys to know that I can be at my best one month and at my worst the next, but I can always climb back up to my best. So when people tell me, “Oh, I could never run. I can’t even run a mile,” I can honestly tell them I know how they feel, and that, if they want to run, they definitely can.

Do you struggle this much when you come back to running after a short break? What tricks do you use to keep pushing forward? Is just knowing that it’ll get easier eventually enough? —Kristen

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  1. Jay Scott says:

    So true Kristen, just a little while away from “normal” fitness activities and the cardio starts to diminish.

    The body is an amazing machine, and if you don’t need it, it doesn’t keep it.

    The great thing is that it starts coming back really fast when you start up again. Great blog, and really the first time I’ve ever seen someone write about this. I too have noticed it in both myself and my clients.

    Keep up the great work!


  2. I always try to “disconnect” even just one day each week… two days if my time permits. It makes me feel good after… it makes me feel human. 😀

  3. Aqilah says:

    I’ve heard something along the lines of ‘muscle memory’ and that our body actually remembers us being active at some point in life so it gets easier each time we take a break.

    And yes it does get easier eventually.