A hard habit to break, and an even harder habit to start

A couple of weeks ago I joined a running club through my local Running Room store. I had been thinking about it for a while as I still have not got back into the habit of running. I was unsure what to expect, but I was more than prepared to show up to a group of hard-core runners who would very quickly put me to shame, and thus make me retreat from running even more than I already have. What I discovered was the quite the opposite.

I showed up at 8:30 am at the store (oh, that’s another thing. I always though that morning runs were out of the question) and was soon joined by a diverse group of individuals who were from all walks of life and experience. Some were there to walk, some were there for their own weekly commitment, others were training for a specific race; but all were there to participate in fellowship and fun. The other thing I wasn’t sure about going into this club was running with other people. For the most part, I’ve been a solitary runner. I always thought that I was unable to run effectively with others; that I would either be slowing them down, or that I would have to sacrifice my own pace to stay with them. Also, I’m not very good with small talk, which would ultimately develop along the way. Again, what I discovered was quite the opposite. Within each distance group, there were subgroups that naturally developed as we set out. Some ran quicker than others, but as a whole we were working on the same route, toward the same goal. I soon found that by running with others, I found motivation to maintain my pace, but more than that, I also found motivation to enjoy myself as I found myself within a community that were out here early on a Sunday morning, not for self punishment or self degradation, which I will admit was the motivation of some of my running in the past, but to share the experience of running and to help each other along. Another important aspect to running with in this club is that they are well versed in pacing and interval training. Whenever I went for a run, I was aiming at doing a straight forward run; no stopping, no walking, no resting. I had worked it in my mind that if I wasn’t continuously running, really running, then it didn’t count and I was cheating myself. What I’ve come to discover is that not every run has to be a race, which was how I was treating it. I don’t always have to be working at capacity every single time. By pulling back a bit, I can allow myself to actually enjoy the run, which hasn’t happened in a long time. I even chatted with my fellow runners, if you can believe that! The main point is making the effort to get out on the road. I don’t have to exhaust myself every time to gain benefit. Train smarter, not harder; I was never good at that, but hopefully with the support of others, I can get better.

I’ve attended a couple of run clubs so far, and I intend to keep going. I hope to regain my endurance and stamina, but more than this; by running with a group, I hope to rediscover the desire to once again make running a part of my life and to look at my solo runs in a new light. When I had been running regularly, I found that it was a hard habit to break, but in the time since I stopped, I’ve found it to be an even harder habit to start. Hopefully, with the help of a few enablers in the form of a run club, I can once again get into the habit, and maybe this time it will be a habit built on health, and not just exercise.

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Running to resolve unresolved resolutions

Happy New Year!

The future is here and with it comes a gathering of uncommon people united in their common goal  to communally span a distance of five kilometres at a pace of their choosing. That’s right, this morning I participated in the Resolution Run; a five kilometre fun run held on January 1st. The thing I realised this morning during the run is how much I enjoy 5k runs. Not so much the distance, which is admittedly a nice run, but more the participants. There’s always a nice mix of people, each with their own level, each with their own reasons for showing up. It’s low stress, lots of smiling faces, and lots of people coming out for their first time.

The Gathering
The Gathering

I have no idea what expectations the other participants had for themselves this morning’s run, but mine were quite low; finish the run, without stopping, and cheer on others at the finish line, especially those who may be running their first 5k. That’s about it.

Let's gather on the floor for pancakes!
Let’s gather on the floor for pancakes!

I suppose I could use this an opportunity to reclaim my running ways, but I’m not going to be too hasty. The longer I’ve spent without a regular running routine, the harder I’ve been finding it to motivate myself. It doesn’t help that I was never a big fan of running, it was always a means to an end; a means that by chance and personality would have it became a sort of compulsion. Those days seem to have left, but who knows what the year holds. Maybe I will find that compulsion again. Is that my resolution? Doesn’t seem like a very sunny resolution, to become once again compelled. Is that not what my resolution was last January? Have I not been in the exact spot before? Maybe I’ll try something else.

Gah! I never was good at resolutions.

Confessions of a recovering runner: Suck it!

I just came back from a run at lunch and I fell like shite. Yes, yes. I feel pretty good about getting out, making the effort, calling upon my willpower, et cetera, et cetera; but that’s where it ends.

I had done next to no running in the past couple of months, and hardly any running the months prior to that. As a result my feet were sore, my calves were tight, my quads were jelly, and my breathing was strained. Oh, sure, I started out alright, but it wasn’t long until I started shuffling my feet and sucking wind. It’s not just the physical discomfort, but also the mental discomfort of knowing that I had let myself deteriorate to a point where something which I had been doing on a regular basis now makes me feel like I’m starting all over. I can only imagine what I’ll feel like when I start up with Muay Thai after being away for, what’s it been, two years? More? Oh, joy.

I am out of shape. I can feel it. I can see it. I am going to change it; but it’s going to take some time.

Confessions of a recovering runner, Part 4. Lunch Special: Sweat

I haven’t written about running since last October!

I realise that this has probably caused many of you to question:

“Why does he not write of running any more?”

“Has he forsaken running for the lure of cross-stitch?”

“To whom will I turn for my dose of run related pissing and moaning”

“Wait a second? You run?”

Well, I’m back to running at lunch. That whole plan to run in the evenings didn’t work out.

You mean your brilliant idea of going for a run after you’ve come home from work, had supper, gone through the bedtime routine with the kids and wait til they’re asleep so you can get off the couch and go for a run didn’t work? Really?

I know. I’m surprised too!

That being said, there are those who may ask why I choose to run at lunch. I could reiterate the issues I have getting my ass of the couch at night or bring up the whole it-breaks-up-the-day thing, but when it comes down to it, it’s really a simple condition:

*IF A THEN NOT B OR C

Where A = Running, B = Eating, and C = Spending Money.

There. Simple.

Oh, alright. It also helps to break up the day.

*Note: I am not a programmer, mathematician, logician, philosopher, or someone who has any knowledge on how to properly construct logic statements. I am quite prepared to accept that this is a nonsensical statement. If you happen to know the proper form of this statement, please feel free to correct me.

Confessions of a recovering runner. Part 3, The shoe’s on the other foot, or, Second verse, same as first?

16 months. That’s how long it took before I was pain-free in my right foot. 16 months. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve been able to walk around without limping. 16 months. That’s how long it has been since I was able to lace up and run with confidence again. One run. That’s how short of a time it took for the pain to return; only this time, it’s my left foot. Bugger.

About two weeks ago I was feeling good and was heading out on an evening run. During that day, I started to notice a little bit of pain in my left heel; an all too familiar pain that comes from plantar fasciitis. For those of you familiar with my struggles this past year, you are no doubt sick and tired of hearing that term. I can only sympathise by telling you that I am sick and tired of having to mention it. Whether it was a state of denial or simple stubbornness (these, of course, need not be mutually exclusive) I went out for my run that evening. Sure enough, by the time I got back my heel was being assaulted by a sharp pain, and when I got up the next morning, I was back in full gimp mode.

The first thought I had been a mixture of disbelief and mild to mildly severe rage. How is it that I just finished healing and have moved almost directly into another injury? I was pissed! There was a time when I was doing several activities at once. I was running, climbing, and doing muay thai. I used to revel in the perpetual soreness that I felt every day. It was a pain that told me that my body was being challenged. It was a pain that I interpreted as my muscles recovering from their exertion and repairing themselves. It was a pain that made me feel stronger. This pain is different. This is a pain that limits my ability to challenge myself. This is a pain that makes me feel as though my body is failing. This is a pain that makes me feel weak.

As I spent that following day silently cursing my feet, I also became determined not to spend the next 16 months hobbling off my other foot. This time I would address this problem from the start, and do what I could to limit the duration of this injury. I just got back into running, damn it! I will not be sidelined again! As it happened, I came down with a cold the following week which, fortuitously, kept me from running and probably aggravating the injury. Now I’m day-to-day. Some days I hardly notice it at all, other days I stumble out of bed from the pain. Regardless, I am determined to continue running, yet at the same time I am paying close attention to the pain and being diligent in treating it.

I’ve got plans this month of reclaiming my health. For too long I have been slipping back into habits and attitudes that are taking me back to where I was before I started to take my health seriously. I desperately hope that running will once again be a part of my plan. Of course I know that my path to health cannot rely solely on running. The best way to approach one’s health is through diversity and rational planning. It’s just that I enjoy running, and finding a path to health that you enjoy is much of the battle having been won already.

Confessions of a recovering runner. Part 2, A different time, a different place

I’m starting to get used to my new routine; and when I say, routine, I’m using the term loosely.

I used to be a lunch-hour runner; almost exclusively, except for when I was training for a race. I used to have two or three different routes that I would choose from, with varying distances, depending on how much energy I felt I had. I would grab my kit, rush to the washroom, change, put my street clothes away, go out and determine which route I was going to do, run, come back in, grab my street clothes, run up to the showers on the fourth floor, shower, change, and then rush to eat my lunch. I usually made it a point to pack a minimal lunch on my run days just so I would have enough time to eat something. My runs would average 35 minutes, almost every time, except for my blah days, then I would pick the 25 minute route.

Anyway, it was a routine, and pretty solid one at that, with me running at least twice a week, sometimes three times if I had my act together that particular week. Here’s the thing, though; it was getting tiresome always having to rush in and out of my run. Even though it was a great break in my work day, it also meant that I had one more thing to rush to do. Even though I loved running through the River Valley, it also meant that I couldn’t take my time, or even extend my run if I wanted to. Even though I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself within the time constraints, it also meant that I had no time to wind down afterwards.

Now that I’m back running, I’ve decided to change things up. I’m now running at night, usually around nine or ten o’clock, and instead of the River Valley, I’m running around a nearby lake; well, not so much a lake, even though it’s called a lake, but more a man-made water feature; still it’s a good 3km around. In any case, I’m finding it much easier to focus on the run itself. With this change, I am able to extend my run if I so desire; I am able to still enjoy the scenery, including many migratory birds who use the lake as a way station of sorts; I am able to push myself, yet have the opportunity to recover in the comfort of my home when I’m done. In addition, this new routine gives me the chance to ice my feet afterwards, which I have found crucial to recovering and being able to step out of bed the next day.

As I was saying at the start, I’m getting used to this new routine; sort of. The truth is I haven’t quite got a routine figured out, but I am on my way to developing a regular run; I just find it a little more difficult than before. See, when I ran at lunch I had to make a conscious effort to pack my kit in the morning, and then when I was at work I found myself to be of the mind that, I went through the bother to bring this stuff with me, I had better do something with it! It’s different at home, of course. When you’re sitting at home in the evening, after work, after supper, after the kids have been put to bed, after you’ve already been sitting on the couch with your feet up, it’s kind of tricky to then rouse yourself and head out the door. If I can work on the self-motivation part, I think I will enjoy my new routine. Not that I don’t enjoy it once I’m out the door, but rather those times when I certainly could have gone for a run, but then didn’t, and then end up facing the guilt of not going; that aspect is going to need a bit more work.

Hopefully, I will achieve what I had before, which was the ability to head out for a run regardless of the weather or my temperament. With some work, I will get there yet. With the continued support of my wife, as I abandon her on my nighttime excursions, I will have the chance to succeed.

Confessions of a recovering runner. Part 1, In which a zombie recalls the past

This weekend is the annual Canadian Derby Marathon in Edmonton. I, incidentally, will not be participating. Last year I had left it to the last moment to sign up, finally giving in to a nagging guilt that kept reminding me how I hadn’t missed this event since I first signed up 5 years earlier. Even though I was injured I ignored all good sense and figured that I could somehow run through the pain. It’s one of my little quirks that once I am able to accomplish something for the first time, I expect that I should always be able to do it; and so sign up I did. Clearly my pride had done me in; and again the following February when I signed up for the Hypothermic Half Marathon, again because I had done it before, ergo, I should be able to do it again. In short, I was a moron.

This time it’s different. This time I am swallowing my pride and admitting to myself that this year I am unable to do it. Instead I am on the road to recovery, as I slowly get back into form. Just this past week I was on an evening run when a particular song shuffled through on my playlist. It was “Zombie” by the Cranberries. It so happens that this was the very song that was playing on my playlist as I dragged myself across the finish line at last summer’s marathon (see Confessions of a reluctant runner. Part 8). A very fitting selection, as it turned out. Not so much in terms of the Irish Problem, which is the song’s original theme and which my running a marathon had absolutely nothing to do with, but rather the title itself. As I came through the last kilometre of the run I must have resembled a zombie; a hobbling, shuffling, smelly, moaning, possibly drooling shell of a human. It was the lowest I have ever been in my time as a runner as I dealt with feelings of shame, disappointment, guilt, anger; a deadly cocktail to be sure. Yet, there was something else inside that carried me through that last kilometre, in fact it had been carrying me for at least 15 km before that, if not more. Indeed there was a horrific sight lurching its way toward the finish line, but I, this particular horror, had taken on not just the physical characteristics, but the single-mindedness of the ghoul. The finish line was my goal and there was nothing that was going to stop me from achieving it. I was transfixed, and my gaze would not be diverted.

As I think about this year’s marathon, I am of course disappointed. It hurts a bit not to be able to run this year, despite all the effort and pain that I willingly endure each time. Yet as I was listening to “Zombie” this past week on my run, and as these memories of last year were playing through my head, I became filled with determination; a determination to rise from the grave of self-pity; a determination to once again set my sight toward the goal; a determination to once again become that zombie who just wouldn’t die and kept advancing…

… only, maybe not so much drooling this time.