“Guess who’s back? Back again. Lindsay’s back. Tell a friend.”

Today I got to do something I’ve been waiting weeks to do. I layered up, laced up, and hit the pavement, Burton by my side, for a chilly and wonderful 3-mile run. 

burton

What are you trying to tell me?

I’m back! Oh, running, I’ve missed you so.

Everything felt great. Even my pace, an average of 8:15, was comfortable, far better than I expected. I wanted to run for 10 miles but chose to play it smart and keep it short – tho I did sneak in another half mile around the neighborhood with Blitz so she could get in on the fun too.

Yes, today ends The Great Experiment. It has been four weeks filled with change, discovery, and learning.

On the one hand, it has been four weeks – an eternity for someone who doesn’t like to go more than two days without a run. On the other hand, it has been four weeks – in the grand scheme, really not that long. Looking at both sides, here’s what I took from those four weeks with no running. The results of The Great Experiment.

Four weeks is long enough…

…To notice change in mental health
Although it has been small, I have noticed a slight dip in my mood from not running. Maybe that’s due to rapidly decreasing daylight. Maybe that’s due to some busy weeks at work. Either way, I have noticed I’m off…just a little bit.

This was actually the most refreshing surprise of my time away from running. So many people have asked me how I’m doing and rightfully so. I imagined it would be a nightmare. But, as much as I’ve missed running and totally been “THAT” person who stares a little too long when I see someone running, it hasn’t been too bad!

…To try something new
Between SpinSanity, JoeFitness, and gaining a small amount of grace on the Stairmaster, I’ve taken great advantage of this break from running in terms of stepping outside my normal routine to try new things.

While four weeks might not be long enough to see the results of trying something new, it’s still plenty of time to do the work.
 

…To heal
For the first time in months, I feel strong and healthy. The pain in my right arch is barely nagging. And short of a hard leg day with tons of deadlifts, the stiffness and soreness in my hamstrings is no longer there.

If you had a significant injury, four weeks wouldn’t be enough time to heal it. But for a girl whose body was so burned out on running and crying for relief, it was just the right amount of time.

 
Four weeks is not long enough…

…To see much change in physical appearance
The past four weeks, I focused most of my workouts on strength with cardio a secondary focus. And I don’t think I look any different. Still have a big, muscular lower half, a belly with some jiggle, and a strong upper body. Boobs haven’t grown back either. My clothes still fit the same as always, too.

Now, I will say my body feels a little different. I feel a little more bloated and heavy. My eating habits haven’t changed, which has been a surprise in itself – figured my appetite would resume to that of a normal person by now. I’ve chalked that up to the lifting and continued cardio keeping my metabolism high. What has changed is my body’s natural rhythm in, shall we say, getting rid of excess food not used in the gym. You know what I’m saying.

…To make significant fitness gains
Similar to physical appearance, I don’t feel I made major strength gains. While I feel good and strong, I’m not crushing 160-pound squats or moving past the 35-pound dumbbells.

That being said, my leg workouts have seen notable improvement. No longer worried about overdoing it with running and leg workouts, I’ve been able to focus my full attention on rehab for those muscles.

…To make significant fitness losses
My high school dance coach used to tell us that, in one week of not training, you lose 25% of your fitness level. Go two weeks without, you lose half of your fitness level.

Coach, I think you lied to us. I think you were trying to justify practices over the summer and holiday breaks. And rightfully so, we were a bunch of undisciplined high school kids that needed to keep the mental focus more than the physical training. I understand why you did it.

I believe coach’s theory was flawed, at least for me. My run today is proof. Yes, I limited myself to three miles, just to be on the safe side. Could I have kept running another two, three, even four miles and suffered no injury? Very likely, yes. Also, my pace had not suffered. Cross-training no doubt helped me keep my endurance, lifting kept my muscles strong, and the combination kept my mental game on point.

What I learned from this is keeping health and fitness a regular priority leads to a stronger body and mind, overall. Taking a break, even a long-ish one like mine, isn’t enough to erase years of consistency.

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Can’t wait to add a few more to the collection.

I think that’s probably my biggest takeaway from The Great Experiment. I may have placed too high a value on running as the overwhelmingly leading contributor to my mental health, physical strength, all of it. It’s really more about the overall lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to; making time for strength, cardio, and mindfulness, to reap all the benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, tho – I’m giddy to be back with my BFF running. So excited to jump in with some cold winter running and, very soon, start official training for full marathon number nine in May.

p.s. My oldest brother and I may or may not have registered for Chicago Marathon 2017 last week. So any chance that I’d come back from this break not super eager for all things running…yeah, no.

Curious about any of the workouts I tried during The Great Experiment? Or do you have a similar story of stepping outside your normal fitness routine to try something different? Comment below or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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