Zero Week

This morning was an awesome one for running here in NYC.

It was warmer than it probably should be on December 10 — a sweet 46 degrees at 5 AM — and there was a crazy fog in the air allowing for about a foot of visibility in any direction. There was a teeny tiny drizzle coming down, too — enough moisture to cool you down from the humidity but not so much that you were wishing someone had invented a running umbrella.

(Though, note to self, invent a running umbrella. That sounds amazing, dangerous and practical.)

A fun morning for running indeed.

At least, I assume it was.

I wouldn’t know.

I didn’t run this morning.

And if tomorrow is gorgeous and sunny, I won’t run then, either.

New York City waking up last Friday. How special, right?

The same goes for Wednesday, Thursday and every day until at least next Monday. After that, we’ll see.

Starting today, I’m initiating a self-imposed Zero Week.

I’m not injured. I’m not sick. But I’m also — ready for this one? — learning from past mistakes and hoping to avoid making the same ones again.

Look at me, getting all smart and shit.

So why the Zero Week, capitalized for formality and effectiveness?

Let’s take it back a year for some reminiscing…

I started training for the Hamptons Marathon in July 2011. I loved training. I loved every short run, every tempo run (WTF?) and definitely every long run. Even that long run where I ate an “I swear it tastes like frosting” vanilla Gu and puked all over Central Park. I even loved that run.

On Race Day, September 24, 2011, I was psyched and ready to rock my first marathon.

Finished—and ready for the next!

So I did that, or something like “rocking it,” despite totally hitting a very early wall at mile 13, and I rode a runner’s high for a very long time. I couldn’t wait to run again after the marathon. And so that’s what I did, as soon as I could. I took a day off for full rest, and the following Monday I was back at the gym for some “light spinning.” I went running soon after.

Then I jumped right into training for the Las Vegas Half Marathon, which was on December 4, 2011. I ran a few short races in between, like a Turkey Trot and a 4-miler, both of which I PRd, and I felt I was in the best running shape of my life.

After Las Vegas, I wrapped up the year with a 15K to complete my 9+1 qualifications for entry to the 2012 New York City Marathon.

As the new year began, I was still high on running. It was still my favorite thing to do and I wanted more of it. More specifically, I wanted another shot at the marathon. I set my sights on the Eugene Marathon in April 2012 and started training for it in January.

I never made it to the start line in Eugene.

In addition to illness and injury, I faced a bigger problem: serious mental burnout.

My runs started to feel more difficult, in part because I was physically exhausted, but more so because I had lost my mental drive to get out there every morning. It wasn’t as fun as I remembered it being. So I got a big DNS for Eugene but I knew it was for the best. As soon as I bailed on that race, it was like a huge weight was lifted. I was relieved.

April came and went, and my friends still trekked to Eugene to nab life-changing personal records.

Meanwhile, I was dealing with some nagging shin and hip pain, and I had picked up cycling in addition to trying out some fun classes at my gym.

NEW HOBBY!!!!!!!!! That I’ll probably never do again. Stupid crash.

By the time summer rolled around, my injury was gone and I was ready to start loading up my running mileage for the November 4 New York City Marathon.

My training didn’t go as planned, but I still did my best to get my runs in. There was some Crohnsing here, a hospital stay there, and a lot of “this isn’t going according to plan” meltdowns.

I may have lost a bit of my health, well-being and sanity, but I never lost my will to run. Even on my sickest days, I wanted to be on the Bridle Path.

And my love for running paid off when I ran the Manchester City Marathon in November. I loved every step of that race. I loved feeling fresh going into it and I loved shaving 22 minutes off my Hamptons Marathon time.

Naturally, I crossed the finish line, got a drink and was immediately on the couch at Margarita’s talking with Emily and Lauren about “what’s next.”

“OK, Emily, you find us a race. I’ll plan the outfits. LBC, you start thinking about ditching that 3:18. IT’S GO TIME.”

There was talk of returning to Eugene for a redemption race.

I scoped out the L.A. Marathon, wondering if that was something I might be into. Will Ferrell ran it once, I think.

I even stalked race forums about “running at altitude,” debating signing up for the Salt Lake City Marathon.

I took a few days off after MCM, but again I was high on all things running. I returned to Central Park just three days after the marathon — as soon as the soreness in my legs started to subside — for a victory lap of sorts.

But now, more than a month after that race, I’m ready for my break.

I’ve only done easy runs since the marathon. My mileage isn’t spectacular, and neither are my paces. I’ve done some runs without my watch, and I never plan where I’m going. I’ve just been running casually — but for the past few weeks, I haven’t been enjoying it as much as I thought I would.

I’ll miss you this week, Reservoir, but I’ll be back when I’m ready. Try not to be too puddly when I come back. My shoes are already filthy enough.

I’ve stopped thinking about Eugene, L.A. and Salt Lake City. I’ve lost my urge to sign up for a spring marathon — at least right now. I’m not ready to commit to something as huge as a 26.2 mile race without feeling fully emotionally invested in it.

So for the next week, I won’t be spending any time in my Brooks. I’m combating burnout before it officially hits and I’m hoping that after a week without running, I’ll feel excited to jump back into it. And if by next Monday I’m not all “Wheeeeeee Reservoir!” I’ll keep Zero-ing. I’m not getting back out there until I’m dying to be back out there. I’m in no rush.

I’m excited to return to the other things I enjoy. Like sleep. Like Matt P.’s spin class at Crunch. Plus, I’m hoping to conquer some of those silly New Year’s Resolutions I promised I’d do, like take a dance class and go to Yoga to the People.

Now might be the time to tell you — with my thumbs fully intact — that I did tackle one big resolution last week.

That’s a carrot on the left. Not one of my fingers.

I got my friend Lauren to go to that knife skills class with me. Not only did I leave the class with all 10 fingers still attached and un-bloodied, I also learned a lot!

Lauren and me with scary eyes and big knives.

The instructor taught us about all the different kinds of knives and taught us several ways to chop, slice and dice things. The class was so fun, and at the end we got to eat all the stuff we chopped, which the chef combined into a gazpacho soup.

My first gazpacho! It was spicy and delicious and I HELPED MAKE IT. See that finely sliced basil on top? Yeah. What up? I did that.

If you’re in NYC, here’s the class I took. Not mega-cheap, but you do get lessons and a meal out of it.

So that’s an update on my running life right now: It’s temporarily non-existant. I’m recharging.

I’ll be back in the park eventually.

Until then, I’ll be on the couch, at the barre, searching for a “SoulCycle for poor people” deal or in my living room, perfecting my Shake Weight technique.

Enjoy your miles, friends!

AND TALK ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE WORKOUT: I want to use my running break to try a few things I neglect when I’m in training mode. I’m thinking Physique 57, a return to the vastly-different Refine Method, Yoga to the People and a dance class. But if you’re a city person and think I’m missing out on something amazing, let me know! I want to flex my non-running muscles.



37 Responses

  1. Oh my gosh… I need that knife skills class! I had no idea something like that existed. I stabbed myself in the hand while trying to depit an avocado earlier this year and frankly cutting everything with a spoon just doesn’t work as well. I must find one by me!

  2. Wait, so a “knife class” isn’t a class on defending yourself with a knife? I feel like such an idiot-how many people walk around with knives in their bags?

  3. Great idea. And a great opportunity to get back on the Lexa, eh??

    I had four weeks of ‘fun running’ after my big Autumn race and it was great for recharging my batteries!

  4. This is a GOOD idea. Sometimes a little break is all you need to really crave something again. What’s that saying about absence? Anyway. I seriously recommend the Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp. Myrna is my favorite instructor—she does early morning boot camps and has the most insane positive attitude ever. It’s such a good start to a weekday. Enjoy your Zero Week!

  5. I live in DC and my favorite spin studio (Revolve) here just opened up a NYC location. Definitely try it out, and I’m sure they’ll run some Groupon/LivingSocial deals to get people in the door. They have combos of barre and weights with spinning. Christianne used to be my fave instructor down here until she moved back to NYC.

  6. I have my last race (the 15k) for the 9+1 this wknd! On top of being slightly burnt out, I also just broke my I’m really looking forward to a zero week as well. Very jealous of your yoga/dancing/spinning plans. Would love to hear what you end up trying and loving!

  7. I’m doing a Zero Week this week as well. It felt a little weird to be on the stationary bike instead of running this morning, but I know this is the right choice for me. I love TRX workouts, although I haven’t done one in months. Also, I want to try a barre method class and spin. I’ve been meaning to try both for a year now, so my plan is try at least one before the end of 2012.

  8. I’ve run 5 races in the last 8 weeks, all of them being 10-26.2 mile races. My last one was on Saturday and Sunday I rode my bike (couldn’t get my HR up) and ran a few miles easy. Me: “I was thinking I should take a week off running, but I’m not injured, I feel great!” My BF: “When you think you should take a break and aren’t injured yet or burnt out yet, yeah, that’s called being SMART and proactive!” Okay, so a week off running is exactly what I started today as well. Good to know I’m not alone!

    1. Dang girl! That’s a lot of racing! Good for you — and I’m with the boyfriend. Take the break before you NEED to!

  9. I am such a slug. I’ve been in Zero Week for about a year now. I’ve exercised in fits and starts and I have lost any level of fitness I had AND gained almost 20 pounds. Not thrilled about it at all… I need to get out of this Zero phase but just don’t have the oomph to do it.

  10. When I take time off from running, I love going to yoga classes, sometimes as much as three or four times a week. I feel like they really help my muscles and joints recover from all of the pavement pounding. I also love taking classes at Refine and Flywheel. Both are so hard, but I always leave with a smile on my face.

  11. I’ve never been more proud! 😉

    There’s still a lot of time to think about spring marathons and race plans, high mileage and tempo runs. But for now, I think a mental and physical break from running is the right thing to do. I say this as the self-appointed president of the “Eat Your Weight in Cheese December club.” I just know 2013 is going to be the best year yet, and I think you’re super smart to give yourself a break before then.

  12. I am so glad to see other people go through periods of just not feeling it also. I almost feel like I’m in a slump. Perhaps a zero week may be the answer. Thanks.

  13. I love this post! I am always so hesitant to take time off from running because “i think i’ll lose speed, endurance, etc.” when really time off might be exactly what we need physically, but more importantly mentally. I am having a zero week next time i’m feeling blah about running. thanks for the inspiration!

  14. I am excited for your Zero-Week! It sounds so refreshing! My husband and I are going to do a zero week-end, Barnes and Noble style. We are going to Barnes and Noble, getting fancy (ends in-iatto) coffee, and reading nothing academic. Nothing. Not even the news.

  15. You’re doing the right thing, taking time off running always makes it so much better when I go back because I miss it to much! And you know Refine Method is my favorite class in the world, I love it so much that when I found out Jersey City trains would not be running this past weekend, I drove in BOTH days to make it there.

  16. I just wrote about how I’m not running for at least a week. After making myself run for a couple of really crappy weeks I admitted to myself that I was not looking forward to my runs! I think I was waiting for injury, so that was stupid. Come Thursday, we’ll see if I feel like running, if not I won’t run. Crazy. I’m doing something totally out of my comfort zone tonight – some yogaish core class.

  17. You have got to try Pure Barre. I swore by that workout while in NYC, and I miss it every day. Great music, great workout, and you see the result quickly.
    Give it a shot.
    And Yoga to the people is fantastic so enjoy!

  18. I really like Warrior Fight Club at Uplift Studios! It’s a combination of yoga and boxing. And lots of conditioning.

    Physique 57 is fun and different, and I like Refine Method a lot as well.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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