By Dr. Daniel Shaye, Chiropractic Physician

There are many, many motivational articles and images to help get you out the door and inspire you to push your limits to the brink. This article is not one of those. This article is about when NOT to run.

Most runners (and athletes of all stripes) have had the experience of not feeling like running, whether due to the weather or a mood. Most runners learn to push through and past those mental barriers, moving out into the early morning hours for a run that eventually becomes a wonderful and wise choice. I'm all in favor of running and pushing through the reasons not to; but there are times when it's wise NOT to run. Here are a few:

  • When I'm really, really tired and under-slept. Sleep is restorative time, healing both the mind and the body. I've worked out "tired," but if the sleep has been abysmal I bag the run (or at least the morning workout, to get extra winks in). Running is about building up, not just tearing your body down.
  • When I'm sick, and running will make it worse. I run my own practice, so when I don't show the show stops. As in running, I've learned to push through. One morning I wasn't feeling well (the cause was later determined to be salmonella poisoning from a local eatery), but I was determined to go to work. I got out of bed and made it 2-3 steps before collapsing to the floor. That was a no-work day (week)... and also a no-run day (week). Now, when you have the sniffles your excuse for a no-run day is a bit lame. Make a sound judgment call about which illnesses are barricades, and which are just speed bumps; and don't confuse the two.
  • When life's workload is excessive. Your job has taken over your life. You have an article to write for your local running club. Your family needs you, and you just found out your water heater needs to be replaced. Sometimes there's just no time for a run. Give yourself a break. Yes, I know that competitors and champions always find a way; but for most adults who are not competing for schools and who are not Olympic-bound, "life" on occasion will crowd out feasible time and/or energy for a productive run. If you're not peaking for a major event (must... win... Grand... Prix!), and unless you need a mental health run, give yourself a break.
  • When I can't. I'm not talking about when running is hard. I'm talking about when running is completely unfeasible. Examples: You brought 2 left shoes, and you've never run barefoot before. Another example: You're on vacation, and the hotel environs scream, "Welcome to mugger-ville, population YOU!" Be wise, be safe... and cross-train. Today's a good day for working your core, learning to activate your glutes, and practicing yoga like you promised!
  • When my relationships demand attention. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines addiction as "a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)." Regularly running doesn't fit the addiction definition unless it's "harmful." When running actually detracts from life, I'd say that's harmful. If your family or friends need your time and attention, and you need to make a decision between a run and time with your dying mother, consider ditching the run. That's good for your soul, and a body isn't a healthy home without an equally glorious soul.
I'll see you on the roads and trails, my friends.

-Dr. Daniel A. Shaye
Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician
Fellow, International Academy of Medical Acupuncture

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