Aside from the frequent, compulsive urges to take Seabiscuit out for a good long head-clearing ride... Oh, say 50 miles of rollers to really get the blood flowing... the biggest angst for me is not being able to do the longer speed runs. I really had come to love those, which is pretty surprising. There is something awesome about feeling a little waxed during one of the rest periods then dialing it back up even faster on the next interval. It's like a drug. It's totally exhilarating.
The experience has led me to a surprising conclusion. Running slow is harder than running fast. The slow runs are when I hurt the most, when my body complains and my brains listens attentively. The two play upon each other, whipping up the depth of each others misery, like two recently dumped girlfriends hating men over a couple pints of rocky road. Long slow runs are the bane of my existence. Fast runs of any length are the solution. The same distance at 1-2 min per mile faster involves half the suffering. It takes the experience out of the realm of "chore" and places it firmly into the realm of "fun".
Now aside from the adrenaline factor, which is a major component here, there is (at least for me) another consideration. I run differently when I run fast. When I pick up the pace, I change my body shape. I focus on along my spine and just below my shoulder blades and put a mental anchor there. I then feel my spine all the way up through the back of my head and lengthen that area until I feel a gentle stretch. Then I open my collar bone and gently pull in my chin. That's it. I don't go harder. I don't go faster. I do this. It aligns my body, takes all of the lateral sway out of my gait, engages the right muscle groups and takes pressure off my airways. This accounts for the difference between an 11 minute mile and a 7:30. To go faster than that, I have to think about picking up my cadence as well, but really that is not surprising.
The flip side to this is also very significant. When I don't do this I hurt. I hurt a lot. My knees, hips, Achilles, feet... they hurt. Every waddling step is a little bit of misery. Cue the pity party. But I think there is a component here that is the key to unlocking my run and evading the steady rain of injuries that I have had. I have started trying to do these things when I walk, stand, sit, drive a car, braid a horse, etc. I have become increasingly aware of this body shape in all aspects of my life. It is shockingly difficult to maintain. No sooner than I check in with my posture and correct it, gravity has already started to pull it down again. I feel like a scoop of ice cream in the Texas sun, melting all over it's cone. You keep pushing it back up and it keeps sliding off. (In fact, I have corrected my posture a half dozen times since I started writing this paragraph.)
I have allowed my muscles to mold themselves into a near-fetal position over the course of a few decades and now, proper alignment is elusive, difficult, and a little uncomfortable. Tight muscles on the front of my body object. Weak muscles on the back of my body concur with the angry tight ones up front. This whole posture thing is hogwash in their eyes. So what's a duck to do?
Well, for starters... Yoga and Pilates might be good choices. Or at least a balance ball and some bands. If I am going to lose some fitness letting my broken bits get less broken, this might be a good opportunity to devote some time to building a foundation for some postural/strength/flexibility work. It is a great time to add it to the program. When I was kicking along full steam, it was very difficult to add anything and the couple of attempts I did make were largely unsuccessful. I was always too close to the edge of overload trying to balance my job and my training. Now I am sidelined and soon it will be the off season. It is the perfect time to work this into the program.
Now for the hard part.. doing something new. Yeah, it's that whole comfort zone thing. I am so good at things that are extroverted, intense, masculine, Yang-style activities. I am not so good at softer, internal, feminine, Yin-style activities. Some people perceive these to be easier. They are not. They are simply more subtle in their difficulty. I am not so great with subtle. Unfortunately for my sense of safety, that is exactly what this situation calls for. The problem with traditional strength training (my comfort zone) is that I already have too much muscle and I pack it on like a man. It has been ruled out as a good idea for my program. I am out of balance and balance is the only thing that will fix it.
|maybe a little scary!|
That means... putting on something that does not reek of old sweat and walking into a room full of tranquil (scary) females. Seriously, nothing terrifies me more. I don't know if it's because I am such a tomboy that I am more comfortable in the company of men or if the ladies in places like that really do have fangs and poison glands. When I walk into a weight room, or show up on a group ride full of men, it's like a challenge. I have been a woman carving out a space in a man's world for so long, that feeling of being an underdog is familiar, friendly. It elicits a predictable response. ON THE OTHER HAND, when I walk into a pilates class, I feel like a duck hanging with the song birds: course, loud, overbearing, awkward, and completely out of place.
Perhaps, a yoga video is the answer.