When To Push and When To Pull Back

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on September 4, 2009

I have to get this off my chest :D


This was amazing!!!!!!!

Recipe coming soon!

When To Push and When To Pull Back

Today on Twitter, I made a plea for help. I was not feeling motivated for my run at all. I felt tired and had a lot of tax stuff left to do and I was in a good swing of things.

My friends on Twitter came to the rescue as always with these awesome replies:


How is that for motivation? :D

So I laced up my shoes, put on my gear, and headed out the door with an optimistic outlook.

However, the run was another story.

I felt tired and my legs felt like lead. It was also very hot out. My head and body just weren’t in the game today!

And that got me thinking.

I started to wonder if sometimes not wanting to workout is actually our body trying to tell us something. I think we often associate wanting to skip a workout with laziness, boredom, and/or lack of discipline, but sometimes it may be none of those things! Sometimes there is a valid reason to skip the workout.

I think my body was trying to tell me that it needed another day of rest. I think the long runs I am doing now require more down time. It makes sense because when my long runs used to be 5 or 6 miles, I needed 1-2 days, so why would I expect my body to bounce back with oodles of energy after 10 miles (full of hills to boot)?

So how do we know how to trust our bodies? How do we know when to push and when to pull back?

On Wednesday, I ‘pushed’ because I didn’t want to do 10 miles but I knew it was just laziness on my part seeing as I hadn’t been for a run in several days. Once I got out there I felt great.

Today felt different.

Instead of pushing, I decided to pull back. I reduced my speed and I ran a couple miles and change instead of my planned 6 miles.

The run:

Distance: 2.91 miles

Duration: 29:29

Pace: 10:09 min/mile

Avg HR: 149 bpm

Max HR: 169 bpm

Today I pulled back and listened to my body. The next time I am feeling like I really want to skip a workout (especially after an intense workout) I am going to consider the possibility that maybe my body is trying to tell me some useful information and it isn’t just a motivation problem.


Today’s question:

How do you know when to push and when to pull back? Do you find it is hard to tell the difference?


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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Tay September 4, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Oh goodness that waffle!! Great run. Even though it wasn’t what you planned, it’s what your body wanted and needed! I’m so happy mine (and all of our tweets!) helped you out :-) I don’t think I’ve done that great of a job listening to my body in the past, but I did yesterday. My run was awful, and I pushed myself a little farther rather than give up after only 1 mile, but I still cut it short. Our bodies are unique things and they have voices too!


Marina September 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I am not very good at listening my body. For example, yesterday I was tired and hungry all the time, my leg was hurting like hell, and I forced myself to do some cardio exercise. Well, at least it was only for 20 minutes…


aron September 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm

glad the twitter motivation helped you :) BUT good job on listening to your body and knowing when to pull back. its a really hard thing to learn, but sounds like you did the right thing. i know sometimes i have a really hard time distinguishing between the 2, but sometimes your legs will just TELL you the answer :)


Cara September 4, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I think if you REALLY do not want to it probably is. But sometimes I am just being lazy and would rather be catching up on twitter instead. hahaha. But you definitely have a point!!


Liz September 4, 2009 at 3:37 pm

It is a tough balancing act to know when to push and when to pull back for sure. I have a bad habit of just pushing and pushing until I wind up injured. Good for you for trying to run but then deciding it wasn’t the right thing to do. Cheers!


shelly September 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Since I’ve started training for a half marathon, I’ve definitely given myself permission to slack on my other workouts. For me- maintaining a habit is very important so I still do something at least 4 days a week, but I’ve done a lot fewer weight workouts and a lot more Hatha yoga. Plus, if all I’m up for is 30 minutes on the elliptical machine (my “cheat” workout b/c it’s easy and lets me watch TV) then that’s just fine considering how much running I’m doing otherwise. I’m trying to be very mindful of not wearing myself out. Overtraining will get me no where.


Angela (Oh She Glows) September 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm

love this- very wise!


shelly September 6, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Thanks! It’s working pretty well so far. :)


MelissaNibbles September 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I completely agree. It’s important to listen to our bodies and not overtrain. There are times when I’ll run more miles than I planned and times when I run less. I figure it all evens out :)


Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) September 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Hi Angela. Such a timely post. If you check out my blog I did a post last week (I think) called “Overtraining? Moi?” Check it out. I definitely think that as exercise enthusiasts, we can pop in and out of the overtraining camp. Have a read and let me know what you think. BTW, I think you’re right about pulling back- we need to listen to our bodies when they talk to us. :-)


Allison September 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

It’s so important to listen to your body! But I am glad the twitter motivation helped :)

Maybe your body was saying “I’d really like to do 3 miles today Angela. Not 6!”

Can’t wait for the waffle recipe!


Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) September 4, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I can usually tell when my body wants me to take it easy … or when it is just my brain telling me I’d rather do something else. I listen to my body, and tell my brain to shut up sometimes :-)


Emily September 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

If i feel like I can’t make a planned run, I try to cross-train instead, or go for a walk. Then I can’t be “mad” at myself for not going, because I was active, and I usually feel better. I’ve definitely had those dead legs awful feeling days.


Tyler (Raspberry Runner) September 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

i love to run, so when i don’t feel like it, its usually me being truly tired, not laziness. that being said, sometimes it is hard to tell when you need a break. i just finished a five hour waitressing shift, and i’m trying to decide whether i feel like going on my run today. also, i bike to work, so that’s even more exercise. i think i might try a 3 miler…more for mental health than exercise :)

p.s. that waffle looks fantastic!!


Claire September 4, 2009 at 4:38 pm

It’s taken me a while,but I have learned to forgive myself if I do a smaller workout or don’t work out at all.I know that sounds weird.For a long time,I made myself do it whether I felt like it or not.As a result,I would A) hurt myself or B) not get any quality in my workout and feel like it was a wasted effort.If my body isn’t feeling it,I just don’t push anymore.If my mind is saying,”but I don’t want to!”I will push my inner brat a little and do something.Most of the time,I get going and do an entire ( worthwhile) workout.Sometimes it takes a few minutes to determine if it’s just mind or body.A few pep talks to myself don’t hurt either.hehe…cc


Angela (Oh She Glows) September 4, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I totally felt like I wasn’t benefiting from my run today. My body was dragging, which is why I turned home!


Leah @ Simply Fabulous September 4, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I haven’t worked out once this week. I just knew I needed a break between flying, starting back at work, organizing things, etc. It’s nice to have a break once in a while!


Angela (Oh She Glows) September 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I totally agree…I think it is really normal to have cycles of training. Its actually cool to think about!


Jess (Fit Chick in the City) September 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Angela, this was my exact run today. I decided to take it easy right in the middle of doing 1 mile repeats. Listening to our bodies is so important, even though sometimes its hard to interpret.


Ann @ Healthy Tasty Chow September 4, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Yummy looking waffle:) I’m just trying to get back into working out after too long of a hiatus. Worked out 10 minutes and realized I was starving and had no energy – although before the workout I wasn’t hungry since I’m such a snacker. A bummer of a start but better to listen sometimes and next time will be better… or the next? :)


Mary September 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Yummy looking waffle. I haven’t made waffles in years and you are giving me the idea it might be worth it to make some yummy fresh waffles this weekend:)

I do the same thing…I push myself to run even when I’m not feeling it. I always think once I get started it will be good. But, I’ve had those runs when I struggle to make it. I did find that doing the 10:1 when I’m tired really helps me pull back some. I have even started out running and ended up walking the last mile because my legs feel like lead! I guess my theory has always been something is always better than nothing. Maybe when you are not feeling it, start out walking and see how it feels. Then if its working start running??? Just a thought!


Jodie September 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Yummy waffles.

I love working out and running a lot so when I don’t feel up to it, I know I am not being lazy. Yesterday, I just was not feeling it ( running)my body felt tired, and my motivation was weaning and giveing myself a pep talk was not working. So I did an hour of Pilates instead. I felt great after and no longer tired, but still decided to pass on the cardio. Best decision, today’s run was great and a lot faster than I normally run.


Jess September 4, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Glad the motivation helped, but I’m even more happy that you listened to what your body was telling you! Yes, it does take a keen discipline to know when it’s being lazy, or needing time off. I know for me, it’s mostly just being lazy!


Courtney September 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

When a workout starts out super tough I always give it about 15 minutes to “warmup” and if I don’t I lower the intensity or head in. Don’t let pride and good intentions lead to an injury or overtraining!
adventures in tri-ing


Angela (Oh She Glows) September 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

I think it really helps to see the ‘big picture’ each day too. One day or one week isn’t going to make or break anything. I figure as long as I got my long run in, the rest is just cardio training anyways right? lol


Paige @ Running Around Normal September 4, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Awww, I love the twitter community, and social media community in general :D

I think you’re right about listening to our bodies. So many of us have such structured plans, that we only take a rest day when scheduled, instead of allowing our bodies to tell us when to take a rest day. Good job on doing that!!


Julia September 4, 2009 at 5:35 pm

That waffle looks sooo good! Now I want a waffle!
Sometimes, you really do just need a day off!


Shannon September 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I have a hard time scaling back when I go out planning to do a certain number of miles and then find I am not feeling it. But pushing too hard got me hurt, so I have learned that I need to fight that little voice that tells me I “have to do this” or I “should go so many miles.” It’s not worth it. Good for you for knowing today was a day not to push!


Stephanie September 4, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I felt the same way today and yesterday. I attribute it to allergies and that time of the month. I decided to pull back too. I’m still feeling horrible so we’ll see what tomorrow brings! Good for you on listening to your body. It’s so smart!



Madelin @ What is for breakfast? September 4, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I definitely agree with this post. Some days it just feels horrible to run and my feet are just like lead. Those days I usually cut my run a bit shorter, it’s not worth pushing it and being out of action for more days than planned.


Amanda September 4, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Love this!!! I definitely have a tendency to feel guilty about rest days, but ever since I was injured (stress fractured my foot), I go with how I really feel. Yesterday I did NOT want to go to the gym, so I took my dog for a walk with a friend instead. SO much more enjoyable!!


Chloe (Naturally Frugal) September 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I was SO close to messaging you on twitter about this. I was going to write that maybe being tired or unmotivated was your body’s way of telling you to take a break.

Glad you figured it out for yourself! And, by the way, the new macro lens is making your pics look awesome!


maggie September 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Wow this discussion came at a perfect time. I was beating myself up this afternoon for only doing 15 minutes on the tredmil when honestly my body was screaming for me to stop. I had to listen but after I did I felt disappointed..like I was lazy. Now I am glad that I did listen to it…it was 93 outside and my legs really were sore from my workout yesterday..so my body was right all along. Sadly often our minds ignore our bodies pleas.



CaitlinRuns September 4, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I totally hear you about having to pull back. It sucks, but sometimes our bodies need more rest than we think. I ran my first 5mile run with hills a few days ago & I had to pull back on my running for two days following. I was a little frustrated and disappointed, but I needed to tell myself that sometimes we need to run a little less so we can be stronger for those harder, longer runs. Just think, your next long run, might be your best after taking a little break!


Kasi September 4, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Hi Angela. I am also training for my first half. I totally skipped my run today. It’s the first training run I have missed but I felt just like you, that my body was trying to tell me to take a break. I don’t regret it and don’t think it is going to hurt my training. I will be back in the saddle on Sunday for 6 miles!


Christina September 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm

I can remember a few instances in the past where I did end up taking a day off when feeling unmotivated and my body thanked me for it! I agree that our body’s definitely have a way of telling us what they need.


WholeBodyLove September 5, 2009 at 12:32 am

It’s very hard to tell the difference sometimes. I have to be rational and realize when I’m fooling myself. I think we do absolutely need rest days. But, there are times when we are just not motivated and use the rest thing as an excuse.


Susan September 5, 2009 at 6:05 am

I spend SO much time trying to determine the difference between feeling lazy and too tired. I think I’m starting to understand it better though. Often times, when I’m too tired, I get the same lead feeling in my limbs and feel a little dizzy. Even just doing my normal daily activities seem like too much for me. If I have the time, I’ll take a nap, have a snack, then re-evaluate.

When I’m too lazy to workout, I realize it’s just because I don’t feel like doing whatever activity I have planned. So I swap it out with something else. If I planned on going for a bike ride, but am feeling too lazy to go. I’ll go to the gym for some fun elliptical and weight work instead. Sometimes any kind of activity is better than none, other times no activity is the best answer! :P


Michelle September 5, 2009 at 7:26 am

Have you every thought of having an “Eat with me for a week” gig on your blog? Provide a weeks’ menu/shopping list of a typical week of your food ahead of time so we can shop and then we for a week we can all eat the way you do? It might be tricky, but if you make the week’s menu mostly whole foods I’d do it in a heart beat. Just an idea I had as I scrolled through the amazing pictures of your food. I’m still a bit trapped in a “calorie-counting” world, myself, so I’m fascinated by your story and your style of eating eating.


Lizzie September 5, 2009 at 7:45 am

Last Saturday it as raining and I did not feel like going out in the wet and wind for 4 miles – but the other reason was I just felt stiff and crackly. So I let it slide and just did the long run the next day. You
are absolutely right about needing to take a break and listening to your body when it doesn’t really feel up for it.


Angie September 5, 2009 at 8:02 am

Great discussion!

I totally believe in listening to my body…sometimes we are so goal-oriented that we push through when our body is telling us to take a break.

It is definitely harder when you’re training for a race, and you feel the need to get the mileage in…but general – I try to give what my body can do at the time.

Great post!


Robin September 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

I’m still learning to listen to my body but to also push myself beyond the doubt and the laziness but it sounds like you are really in tune.


Caroline September 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I have SUCH a hard time deciding whether I actually need a day off or whether its just laziness. My runs have been very very hard this week because I haven’t been sleeping well and my body has been resisting a cold that’s been floating around my apartment.


shawna September 8, 2009 at 11:03 am

YUM! I just made some healthy Whole Wheat Oaty Waffles this weekend and posted about them. I’m wondering what your recipe is!


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