Should not have worn the heels today . . .
I’m pretty ticked off at running right now. Or maybe I’m ticked off at my body and its mercurial reactions to running. Either way, I’m ticked. I’ve been running–regularly, if not fast–for 17 years. I’ve run 5Ks, 10Ks, a half marathon and two marathons. When I run a lot, I have to deal with chronic piriformis pain on my right side. This is, as you can see, a PAIN but I have stretches and chiropractic and massage and I get over it. I’ve started lifting weights (both free weights in the gym and kettle bell workouts at home), in order to build muscle balance and strength to support my running. With encouragement from those people I talk fitness with, I decided to spend a bit of time this fall training for a half marathon and aiming for a bit more speed than I usually extract from myself.
It probably isn’t unique to me–this fear of going out too fast and having it hurt. It’s irrational, since I can always slow down if I’m super uncomfortable and if the worst thing that happens to me in this life is that a run makes me puke, I’ll add it to the list of first-world problems circulating out there. But I don’t generally push too hard. Until lately. I’ve been slowly dropping my average per mile pace over the summer and felt pretty confident going into speed work in my half marathon training plan. Week one: track. Result: pretty damn good. Week two: tempo run, 2 x 10 min with warm up and cool down. Result: fast felt good. End of week two: 5K race or its approximate. Result: things went to complete crap.
Toward the end of the 5K race-pace portion of my run, and thus well after both a warm-up and 2.5 miles of (for me) wicked fast running, I felt a twinge in my left calf. I didn’t noticeably twist or land funny or jerk something; it just felt cramped. Almost like a Charley Horse in my calf. I stopped to massage it and felt it seize up my entire lower left leg. Worried that I might have to crawl or hobble the mile and a half home, I sat down on the trail and flexed my foot, rubbed my calf and did all sorts of things to see if I could work out the cramp. Then, limping and sore, I scooted home.
That was Sunday. Today is Thursday and my left calf and shin and foot are all still swollen. The shin is sensitive to the touch. I’ve been to the chiropractor and the massage therapist and am wondering if I shouldn’t see a doctor for a referral to a physio or someone else who can tell me how to fix this. Ice, elevation (when I can, in the evenings) Advil orally and topically. Sensible shoes. And yet I’m not sure it’s going away and so I am angry at the running.
And even if I wake up tomorrow and the swelling is gone and my calf and shin and foot feel fine and frisky, I think I’m going to stay upset at the running for a while. I have never hit the road, track, or treadmill with the urge to pound it into submission. I don’t compete with other runners around me; I don’t use running as either body punishment or ego boost. I have embraced my inner penguin and just wanted to be fit. And running has made me fit, of that there is no doubt. But I’m kind of tired of having to manage the pain that goes with running.
Whether it is weight lifting–often enough per week to make a difference–or stretching and yoga–or regular body care at the chiropractor or massage therapist–the things I do to help me run healthy take easily as much time and energy out of my life as the running itself does. I don’t adhere to the Olympic athlete’s schedule of run–>ice bath–>massage–>nap, although I often wonder if those are the conditions under which my body would “take” to running. And since running is not my job, nor does it provide entertainment for anyone, I wonder (especially today as I ponder whether it’s cool to hang out barefoot in my office with my feet up on a chair) if my time investment in running is paying me back in any real way.
I want exercise to make me feel good. Moderate running–both in terms of miles and of speed–seems to do that. But that moderate exercise might not be enough to keep me from gaining all that weight that seems lurking around the other side of the 40th birthday mountain. Speeding it up and piling it on–however gradually–seems to have backfired. Where do I go from here? Redouble my commitment to running: physio, gait analysis, training plans on spreadsheets, counting reps? I like the sound of commitment, but am wary of the toll this might take on my body in the longer run–am I fighting a losing battle with my physiognomy?
So I ask myself: when have I felt my best? No pain, no aches, healthy and happy? When I was doing yoga, with a teacher, twice a week, and running a bit. Why do I fight this? Well, maybe because certain well-meaning people have told me it won’t make me strong enough to run. And because I worry that it isn’t aerobic enough to keep me trim. But I’m thinking about returning to it in a more significant way. Taking a class, taking guidance, getting motivated. Being gentle with myself.