A training update

Last night, I was incredibly worried my exercise habit was going to crash and burn and that I was going to stop running forever. I had not run since Saturday, when I stopped myself after about five miles because I did not like running on the side of the road in rural Bedford County. I was out with my brother-in-law Scott, and he was showing me the ropes, telling me what he's learned in his years as a runner. I'm not used to talking while running, and I think that interfered with my breathing quite a bit. It was not a good run, and was also blazing hot despite being just after 8:00 AM.

My knees are beginning to bother me a little, too. While mountain biking the day before, I took a small tumble while exploring an old logging road in Smith Mountain Lake State Park on a cheap bike my father bought from Wal-Mart years ago. I don't think anyone has ever taken it out on a trail. I hadn't planned too, either. I had to get out of the house. Everyone else was sitting around waiting for something to happen, but for me, it was a precious day off.

I don't relax much. Or rather, that would have been a true statement about six months ago. These days, I relax during exercise at least five times a week. Sometimes more, if I'm lucky.

When I commit myself to exercise, all my stress and worry disappears. My body does what a body is supposed to do - move.

The longer I postpone bouts of exercise, the grumpier and more pessimistic I feel. And the longer I feel like that, the less likely I am to exercise. My mind is sometimes not to be trusted.

These days, it's easier and more fulfilling to run than to go to the gym. So, last
night, when I was finally finished with work, I changed into my running clothes, put my new shoes on. Stretched and procrastinated for as long as I could. And then, off I went.

Within a few minutes, I felt great. Because I had stretched before running, the pains in my knees disappeared as I was running down Market Street towards the river. I knew I needed to go slow, because this was not my day to run fast. After my first group long run, my friend Harry Landers told me that I really needed to watch my pace during times that were not specifically meant to be hard work-outs. If I'm going to run a marathon, I'm going to need to learn to pace myself and resist the temptation to run out as fast as I can.

Oh, I need to learn that skill in so many different ways. At the moment, the demands of my body will hopefully teach my mind a lesson.

But yet, my mind resists even thinking about that idea, which spills over to my body. Tonight, I found it hard to not push myself as hard as I could, in small ways. I generally tried to slow myself down and run as slow as I could. But, I also let myself start doing quick pick-ups where I upped the pace significantly for 20 seconds here and there. These felt awesome.

When I got to the corner of Alderman and McCormick (via Market to Carlton, Carlton to the Hinton Avenue area, Hinton to Avon, Belmont Bridge to the Mall, the Mall to West Main/University Avenue, via Alderman) I picked up my pace a little more, mostly because I kept having to pass the incoming First Years at their orientation. I was deep in thought, relaxingly thinking about all of my troubles, all of my worries.

And that's where I am. I finished my very productive day with a run. I had a great morning with my kids, wrote an important story for Charlottesville Tomorrow, prepared another story for tomorrow, and then ran as best as I could, surpassing expectations. Tomorrow I'll try to squeeze in a routine at the gym, and then will look forward to running Wednesday morning. Thursday I'll try to hit the gym somehow, and then Friday I will make myself rest as best I can despite doing a fill-in shift at Court Square Tavern. Saturday will be a long run in the morning, and then more time with the kids for Saturday and Sunday.

Life is going to be okay, in part because I'm taking the best anti-depressant possible. I'm taking myself for runs! But, it's more than that. I mentioned the bike wreck. I didn't mention that I was laughing my head off afterwards because I just wasn't clearly looking where I was going. I had taken what appeared to be an abandoned road, and, that's exactly what it was. overgrown towards the end. As I was slowly navigating around one unruly section, and I suddenly stopped. I was somehow in slow motion here, as I appeared to be stuck in time. At first I thought the chain got caught on something, but as I began to fall to the ground, I noticed my shoelace was tangled in an old barbed wire. Down I went!

But I detached, picked myself up, and kept pushing on, looking for a cool place to ride. I eventually sped down this gorgeous old logging road, totally covered by the tree canopy. Down I went, knowing full well that what goes down must come back up.

And back up I did have to go! There was a good mile-long incline and I had to climb, climb, and climb some more. Six months ago, I couldn't have imagined being able to power up the hill. I would have stopped and walked. But, on that beautiful Friday, I was able to do it without breaking much of a sweat. A doe crossed my path at one point. I saw a hidden pond. I felt fantastic.

And after my less-than-successful run with Scott, I went for a long trek in the kayak. I don't know how far I went. Maybe six miles or so. I was out for about an hour and a half. Again, I could not have done that six months ago.

Some days I get completely and utterly locked with worry. My mind freezes when it comprehends how hard things can be at times. I have not entirely learned the lesson that exercise can almost always break that log-jam for me, if only for an hour here or an hour there.

And now, I'm in training. I ran 27 miles last week. I'll shoot for about 25 this week to give my body a little bit of a break, and because I want to be careful on these knees. I don't want to over do it, but i don't want to under do it, either. I'm listening to my body, trying to overcome the problems of my mind. This could be a lifelong struggle, but I'm prepared to take it one step at a time.

1 comment:

Jen on the Edge said...

It sounds like exercise is your "me time." That's certainly how I regard it for myself. 45-60 minutes that's all mine. No one needs me and I have no responsibilities other than to get out of my walk or bike ride whatever it is that I want to get out of it.

When I don't exercise, I don't feel good either physically or mentally. I don't feel like I'm in control of myself.