Pyramid of Running
|November 23, 2017
|Posted by Melinda under Ultra Running
For the last couple of weeks I haven’t been able to get the image of a running pyramid out of my head. I finally sat down and drew it out.
It wasn’t a surprise that sleep is the foundation of the pyramid. For me, nothing happens without enough sleep.
It’s also the reason I have a hard time committing to anything regularly in the mornings like running. I LOVE waking up early and having those magical early morning hours to myself but despite having a regular 9pm bedtime, I’ll often feel the need to sleep in well past the 8 or 9 hour mark. Typically I don’t set an alarm clock during the week and I’m able to follow whatever my body’s need is for that time (and still make work on time). Sleep is how I deal with stress, depression, sadness, anxiety, and anything else that is going on in my life. It’s a healthy coping mechanism and forms the bottom of my pyramid.
Beyond confirming what I already knew, the pyramid had some surprises for me.
The first lesson of the pyramid
These 2 levels are the most difficult for me to remember, take seriously, and commit to. When I was putting my pyramid together I immediately thought of sleep, nutrition, and running. But it didn’t feel right to stack running on top of nutrition, there was something missing. Once I acknowledged these levels existed, I wanted to stick them on the top of my pyramid. Of course I would get to them….some day. A lofty later goal to consider when ummmm….I had more time or energy or motivation or something.
But that doesn’t work. I don’t run to support X-training/injury prevention or to enhance family support. Those are things I do to support running.
Running rests on top of them, just like sleep and nutrition – whether I like it or not.
It’s a whole lot easier to run and cross-train with family support than without it.
The second lesson of the pyramid
Sometimes when I’m not running it’s hard to remember how other non-running activities are directly contributing to my training. The pyramid makes it clear – there’s a whole lot of pyramid I can do – even with a potential stress fracture that directly contributes to my run training.
- I can get enough sleep
- I can put the right things in my mouth
- I can spend time with my family and bank some good will. Take advantage of this “gift of time” and pitch in more.
- Get this issue diagnosed, read a bunch of stuff, do research, take rehab seriously.
In fact, the only thing I can’t do right now in training is actually run. But that’s literally just the tip of the iceberg/pyramid. I can’t run a 100 miler without the whole pyramid, including the running part – but for now I can do four-fifths of it and that’s pretty good.
I think this is part of why I’m not going crazy (week 2 of not running….). I still feel like I’m training for my upcoming races.
The third lesson of the pyramid
As I was copying the pyramid from my paper notes into the computer I realized I was missing something that isn’t part of the pyramid but has a major influence.
I have been under an enormous amount of stress in the last couple of months. Not directly related to my current job, not related to the blog, and not something that improves my anxiety by talking about it. Maybe some day I’ll have enough distance to be able to share it with you but not right now.
How much stress? I’ve had an eye twitch for 2 1/2 weeks whenever something happens that increases my level of stress – even if it’s incredibly minor. That’s how close to the edge I am. I can’t deal with any more drama than I already have on my plate and find myself retreating into my little hole with minimal social media and no sharing of anything that makes me feel vulnerable. My mind has felt fuzzy and uninspired. I took 3 wrong turns driving to the oil change place to pick up my husband 2 days ago – a shop we’ve used for almost 10 years.
How’s it affecting my pyramid?
I’m having to sleep at least an extra 1-2 hours a night in order to make good nutrition choices and be at all functional.
It has stressed my family relationships and I need to spend more time and energy making sure they are maintained.
I don’t have the energy to do much research/rehab/x-training portion of the pyramid. I’ve made a doctor’s appointment and spent an afternoon calling around trying to get a different doctor that could see me prior to Christmas (I did, it’s scheduled for December 4th).
Normally when I’m stressed I can reduce it by briefly flip the pyramid on its head – if I run then sleep comes easier, I’m better to be around, I eat better etc.
This isn’t sustainable for very long. Yes, running is an excellent cure for life’s ills (IMO), but to the body stress is stress, whether physical or mental. The body can only handle so much without breaking down (such as physical injuries, mental burnout). I’d rather spend my body’s “stress allowance” on actually running thank you very much!
Running with an upside down pyramid can be a part of addressing stress, but the stress has to be to eliminated or I have to solve the stress problem so that the pyramid is flipped and running has a proper foundation again.
Right now I can’t run. I can’t flip the pyramid. What do I do?
- I’m focusing on the 2 bottom layers – I can sleep, and I fuel my body. Two very small micro decisions throughout the day that support my pyramid and make it more resilient to that nasty stress storm.
- I’m actually acknowledging the stress storm exists and is hammering on my pyramid. It sounds stupid, but until I drew it into my picture, I didn’t fully realize how much it was impacting me. I realized couldn’t remember the last time I drew a full breath, or focused on a single thought for more than a moment. My brain is racing all the time. I can feel years of my life draining away (yay….something else to be stressed about) and the effects of extended elevated cortisol racing through my body. It’s a terrible feeling. I feel helpless. Now that I’ve defined the problem I’m actively working on it. Consider it the “cross training” part of my running pyramid. Yet another layer I’m reinforcing instead of allowing to crumble. I’m considering meditating (what???? really???? yes. That’s how desperate I am). I’ve cut out all multi-tasking. I’m trying to ask for help from friends and family (yay for yet another layer and an almost intact pyramid).
When I think about the past, it was the times I couldn’t flip the pyramid to get myself out of a situation where I fell apart. Instead of reinforcing the pyramid, I let it disintegrate under pressure and it took months to put everything back together. That isn’t going to happen this time.
Sometimes all it takes is a picture.