Sunday, March 18, 2012
Running lessons: Sometimes you just have to keep moving
It was an "interesting" long run this weekend. To begin with, I was late leaving home. The combination of a busy work week, too little sleep several nights in a row, and a damp dreary morning meant I just couldn't get myself going. I only managed to get my butt out the door at all by promising myself I would cut the run short if I felt too awful. Of course, once I'd started, there was no way I was going to do that - I'm too darned stubborn - but somehow the ploy worked.
Even after I started my run, I couldn't seem to get into a groove. My body felt achy and stiff, the skies were grey and I found myself slogging through three or four inches of wet slush on the trails along the river. To make matters worse, I got lost taking a "short cut" through an unfamiliar park and ended up hiking through the snow-covered field pictured above to make my way back to familiar ground. I was cold, wet and embarrassed by the time I slipped through the gate beside the farmhouse.
The worst thing was the pain in my neck and shoulders. After a particularly demanding week at work, my shoulders felt as if they were fastened to my ears with bungee cords. No matter how often I relaxed them, the muscles in my neck, shoulders and upper back got taut again almost immediately - wasting energy and causing me some pretty serious discomfort.
Fortunately, by the 20k mark, the muscles got so tired they simply let go and my shoulders fell back into a more natural position so that I could run far more comfortably.
Hmmm. Guess there might be another useful metaphor for life in there somewhere.
Like maybe when things are painful or hard, you just have to keep moving and trust that the part of you that's hanging on to the pain or anger, despair or loneliness, insecurity or desire to control - the part of you that's hanging on to whatever's making you so uncomfortable - will eventually get tired enough that it just gives up and lets go.
It's a comforting notion. That we don't always have to work at letting go of things that are bothering us. That in time the letting go will happen simply because we're too damned tired to hang on anymore. And that, when it does, we'll feel what I felt yesterday - relief, gratitude, and renewed confidence and energy.
Which doesn't mean we shouldn't do what we can to help the process along.
When I first started running, I couldn't have recognized what was happening yesterday because I wasn't tuned in to my body. Ten years and many hundred of kilometres later, I have much more body awareness and am often able to pinpoint the source of difficulties with my running. Of course, good body awareness didn't help me solve the immediate problem yesterday, but it did enable me to notice what was going on and to feel relieved and grateful when the problem solved itself. And it will motivate me to do what I can to reduce the tension in my neck and shoulders before I go running next time.
The same is true in life. When we pay attention to what we're feeling and why, we're more apt to notice and appreciate it when things start to shift and opportunities for positive change open up. And when we notice negative patterns in our reactions to life's challenges, we can develop tools (like meditation, yoga, exercise, and dietary changes) that help us change them.
With race day less than two months away, my plans for the coming week include eating right, getting plenty of sleep and stretching more than usual so that, hopefully, the 36km run on my schedule for next weekend feels easier than yesterday's 32km. There are only a few more really long runs left before I start to taper so I want to make the most of them.
Speaking of which, below is a picture of the training plan I developed for my first "ultra". Impressive, eh? I did say I was taking a "less is more" approach to training this time around. :-)