My Dad’s Running Advice: “Don’t Push Yourself”

It was Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and I was visiting my parents at their place, which is my favourite spot on the planet. So welcoming and relaxing.

Image description: Painted sign with image of lake and trees and says, “Welcome to the Lake.” Propped up against a yellow and pink flowering plant with green leaves, piece of driftwood in the background.

Sunday morning it rained so I put off my long run (12K scheduled) until the afternoon. This is usually a mistake because it’s so easy to skip it if put off.

The weather turned glorious, brilliant sunshine and blue skies. I sat down at the lake and took in this unexpected October glory. My dad joined me and we remembered Thanksgivings past, some where it even snowed and the unwinterized pipes on the original seasonal cottage froze.  Soon it was 3 o’clock. Then it was creeping up to 4 o’clock. If I was going to get my run in I had better get going.

But I didn’t feel like it. I griped a bit and said out loud, “Okay, I’m going.” As I gathered myself together to get out the door, I said, “Ugh. I’ll start with 6K and then check in with myself about the other 6K.”

That’s when my dad gave me his advice: “Don’t push yourself.” I had to chuckle because in lots of ways running is all about pushing myself. If I never pushed myself I wouldn’t run at all. I would walk. Not only that, this is uncharacteristic advice coming from a man who I thought was all about “pushing yourself.” After all, he was a fully credentialed practicing physician by the time he was 22 years old. It’s kind of a high bar.

But his words made a difference because in the end I decided not to push myself, and that made it possible for me to get myself out the door. It was hot and sticky out by then, but I ran to a beautiful little 2K stretch of cottage road that’s fully in the trees. It’s a quiet, hilly 1.5K to get there. Once there, it’s a good place to do flat repeats because there’s a ton of shade and almost no traffic. It’s also incredibly picturesque.

Taking Dad’s advice, I didn’t push myself. I’m already a fan of doing less, have been for ages. I put on my music and took it easy. I stopped to take a few pictures because everything looked so damn beautiful yesterday.

Image description: treed lane with sunlight streaming through green and orange trees, some fallen leaves in the foreground.
Image description: Another treed lane with blue sky and clouds above, orange trees and plenty of shade.

I ended up doing 8.25K instead of 12, backing out of my prescribed sets of 2x5K at a moderate pace with 1K easy in between. After three repeats on the shady lane I made my way back to my parents place and went straight down to the lake.

Image description: Tracy’s feet in robin blue running shoes in the foreground, resting on a weathered wooden dock with a swim ladder going into the water, the lake, tree-lined shore, and cloudy skies with a hint of blue in the distance.

Then I made up for taking it easy the day before with a steady 5K yesterday, pushing myself hard not to stop on even the most brutal uphills that I usually walk. I’m sure that even if he said “don’t push yourself,” Dad didn’t mean never push myself. Both runs felt good.

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