Saucony marathon runner and founder of Fuel your Future, Tina Muir shares her experience with running obsession and over-training throughout her college career. Tina tells us the honest truths about her training mentality, one that a large pool of runners can relate to. Many of us are very aware that running can be addictive in a positive way, but when it takes control of your life and your mind you can risk injury and your health. Finding a balance is key to long term gains and mental wellbeing.
I have known Tina since we both attended running camp together during our teenage years. We both headed out to the states on our own unique USA adventure, attending college from our freshman year and then sticking around for a while, now calling the states ‘home’. Tina is one of my ElliptiGO teammates and friends in the sport who I really admire.
Tina moved her running career onto the roads several years ago and has already accomplished so much. Tina’s running knowledge is immense, her work ethic and positive attitude contribute greatly to her success on and off the track.
I remember when I was in PE class during school. One day our teacher educated us about how some athletes from England went to America for university, fully paid for. As a runner moving up the ranks, it peaked my interest.
However, my teacher went on to tell us how bad it was for these athletes. How the coaches would push these talented teenagers too far. How they would continue to keep pushing them until their bodies broke, to the point of no return. Once they were injured beyond repair, they would be sent back to England; brokenhearted, and unable to participate in their sport ever again.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite THAT extreme, but he made it pretty damn clear that it was a bad idea.
I pushed the idea out of my head, and started looking at universities in England.
But then some scholarship options started coming through my letterbox, offering a fully paid for university experience, and the seed in my mind started to grow; surely it couldn’t be THAT bad.
A lot happened in between that moment and the moment I stepped off the plane in Chicago that first day I arrived in the US for my college experience, but lets just say it was not exactly smooth.
Yet, I knew in my heart, it was the right thing to do, and I was prepared for the consequences if it did not work out. I have always believed everything happens for a reason, and if it did not work out, then I would be emotionally fragile for a while, but I would come out stronger, and more determined than I was before it happened (much like an injury hurts you physically!).
Thankfully, I was at a university that did care, and after a year of getting my feet back under me I was started to flourish. The partying lifestyle had taken most of my fitness and body away from me in my last few years of school, and by the end of that first year, I was hungry, and eager to see what I could do.
After that year, pretty quickly I got my first taste of success. After a coaching change in the summer, we had a fresh set of eyes, someone very excited to take the team to new heights. As a sophomore, I saw myelf as mature, and committed to this life as a runner.
I finished 12th at my first national championship. Yes, I was a division II runner, but it made it a little less overwhelming (and the pressure was significantly less than a division I), and it gave me that “blood in the water” feeling that I wanted MORE.
I threw myself into my training, unfortunately reaching that stage most runners get to at some point in their running life; where you become obsessed.
My life revolved around running. Every thought I had revolved around running. Anyone who was not interested in helping me along the way, well….they could just move out of my way, as I was going to get there, no matter what.
I ran faster on my easy days, surely if I ran faster on those days, it would show I was that much faster in races? If I ran faster on those easy days, surely I would get even fitter, and run even faster when it mattered?
Unfortunately, the lesson all runners have to learn, is that it does not work that way, the faster you run on your easy days, the more you are putting yourself at risk of injury as your body does not have that time to recover.
That combined with my obsession of running, threw my life out of balance, and I think you know what happened next…..I got injured.
For a while, I threw myself into cross training. I was going to be the best damn cross training runner out there, and when I came back, I would be in prime shape, but I still did not have that balance.
I got injured again, and again.
Sprinkled with little successes along the way, shaping me into the person I am today, but whatever way you look at it, my life was a disaster, and I was not happy. My day was determined by my training, my happiness was determined by my training, and that is not the way to be.
Before I knew it, I realized that I was heading towards the situation my teacher had warned us about, but they had not done it to me. I HAD! I had run myself into the ground, and I had sucked all the fun out of running, so much so, that I wondered if I even wanted to come back the next year.
Eventually I reached a breaking point and began to look for other things I enjoyed. I regained that balance, and I started to improve, much happier this time.
The rest of my college career, I was able to mostly keep that mentality, and I slowed down my easy runs significantly, to the point where I was the one asking the rest of the team to slow down, even though I was way ahead of them on race day.
College is a learning experience, but those were the two biggest lessons I learned, and without them, I would never have made it to be a successful professional runner.
My favorite slogan is Be Brave. Be Strong. Be You. And I hope you will join me in believing in who YOU are, other than being a runner! That is just what you do, not who you are!