Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reluctant Spud Runs...Reluctantly: A few things I have learned about running

Ok, for those of you who were hoping that I would really be able to write a blog post twice a week, all I can say too. happens and things that I would like to do sometimes don't happen.  Luckily, my new years resolution was just to write more, and wasn't too specific and as with all goals, things have to be adjusted at times.  Which brings me to the title and subject of this post, kind of.

People who know me from my childhood, know me as a swimmer.  I started swimming lessons very young and was swimming on a team from the time I was 6 years old until I was in high school.  I was a great swimmer.  I actually still hold records at a couple of pools in Salt Lake.  I was one of the top backstrokers in the state of Utah at age 10 and continued to do well for several years.  As I grew so did my body (strangely enough), and the space between the ball and the blade of my shoulder became too narrow.  As a Freshman in high school, I developed chronic inflammation in my shoulder and it caused a lot of pain.  To make a long story short, I eventually had to decide how much my swimming career meant to me.  Was it going to by my life-long passion?  Was it going to continue to be as large a feature in my life?  I spent a lot of time thinking about this and also praying to know if I ought to pursue the course that might make continuing to swim a possibility (surgery, with a not-so-great chance of success) or if I was going to let it become something I loved but didn't do every day.  Following inspiration from the Lord, advise from people who loved me and not being sure a surgical option would really correct my problem, I decided to "retire" from competitive swimming when I was a Sophomore in high school.  My retirement coincided with a transfer to a different high school so from that point on, friends and people I spent a lot of time with had no idea what swimming had been in my life.  

It has now been a few years (ahem) and I live in a small town.  I don't have great access to a swimming pool and I still have that faulty shoulder.  Several years ago I decided I just had to find a way to be physically active.  I had some problems with my health that limited my ability and I hated the idea of going to a gym.  Partly because I didn't want to spend the money on a gym membership and partly because I didn't want to be seen by others in stretchy pants.  We lucked out and got a great deal on a treadmill and I liked it because I could run at night after I got my kids to bed.  As my health issues progressed, I had a harder and harder time keeping consistent with my running.  Following a series of surgeries, I was totally discouraged in terms of getting physically active.  But one talent I do have is that I have a hard time giving up.  There is just something in me that doesn't want to be beaten, especially by myself!  

A few months after my final surgery, I decided that I needed to find a way to do something.  I started walking at the track at the BYU-Idaho center in the morning after my kids went to school.  It felt good to be out of the house and making an effort.  In those early days, while I was still recovering from that last surgery (it was a doozy!), it took about all the energy I had for the day.  After several months, I started trying to see if I could slowly jog half of a lap.  It worked and so over time I would add another half a lap and then after a few more months I found that I could jog an entire lap without stopping...following a slow course I was eventually able to jog 3 miles on the track.  It has been about 3 years since that time and I have been slowly making progress along the way.  I am actually planning to run a 10k this summer and for the first time in my life I ran 4.5 miles without stopping last week.  I must say it feels great to be in a place where I can do something that seemed pretty impossible 3 years ago.

The truth is:  I don't love running.  I loved swimming and felt (and still feel) totally natural in the pool and in the water.  Running is not natural nor easy for me, but it does work and even though I honestly feel like I would rather not...I keep running, even if I may be doing so a bit reluctantly.

Let me share a few things I have learned along the way:

#1 - I am not a sprinter.  This was true when I was a swimmer too.  I could sprint pretty well when I was a little girl, but as I grew in swimming, I found my best events were the distance events.  I learned how to negative split (go faster every 100 yards) and usually by the end of the race, I was about 2 lengths ahead of everyone else.  I do the same thing in running.  I have no idea why, but starting out is hard.  My first mile is always awful, then it gets better.  I'm not saying I run any mile very fast, but each mile I run, usually gets better than the one before and by the end of whatever distance I am running, I am running as hard and fast as I can.  I hope that I can be this way with life, just keep getting better and stronger as it goes along.

#2 - In order for me to improve, I have to do one run a week that challenges me.  I might add distance, or altitude or just speed, but I have to add something that gets me out of my comfort zone.  If I just keep doing the same thing, it's ok, but if I want to improve I really have to push a bit.  I guess that is also true in life.  I might just like to stay at home and watch TV or read, or whatever, but I don't really progress if I don't push myself a little bit.

#3 - After one of my "challenge" runs, I have to take a rest.  I can't run the next day, I just have to recover.  Another truth in life.  When I have faced something big, I have to take some time to recharge.  If I just keep going, I don't really do well, I may even fall back.  So...I have to rest and recharge after the big stuff.

#4 - Running uphill is hard and so is running downhill.  Uphill is hard...that makes sense, right?  It is more exerting.  I generally run more slowly and I can tell you it works my heart harder - I wear a Fitbit Charge HR to monitor my heart rate and it is definitely working harder when I am climbing.  But going downhill is harder on my knees and I have to be really aware of my form and be careful not to run too fast.  I have to pay attention to where and how my foot falls and not lean back too far but stay centered and focused.  So...this also relates to life.  When life feels like an uphill battle, it is taxing!  Progress is slow and it sometimes hurts.  But when life seems easy or like I'm coasting, I have to get focused and centered or I might run too fast or do something stupid that I might regret later.  

#5 - Equipment and form matter.  When I was in college and doing some running to stay in shape, I didn't have to give my form nor my shoes a thought, I could just handle whatever.  But now that I am in my forties (YIKES!), I have learned that wearing running shoes that have the right amount of drop, are lightweight, and have enough support are pretty critical for my joints.  Likewise, I have to think about how I am running.  When I am lagging and getting slower, I have to consciously think of lifting my knees up and pushing through my stride, which ironically makes it easier to run.  Again, these lessons have also bled into understanding my life, especially spiritually.  I've got to keep my form in mind and pick up my spiritual knees and push through when I am feeling sluggish.  My equipment is my spiritual preparation.  I have to say my prayers and read my scriptures and study the gospel and take time to meditate -to allow silence and clarity to help me understand concepts and principles that are challenging and difficult.  It's this equipment and form that can pick me up and carry me through.  

I still miss swimming.  I miss racing and winning and I miss being really good at something.  I'm not a great runner, my progress and pace are both slow, but I am so grateful for a body that now allows me to do it. I am grateful for the sense of accomplishment that comes from making progress in something that is hard for me to do.  So even if I still think (every day), that I really don't want to run, this Reluctant Spud will keep running...reluctantly and hopefully I'll be ready for my 10k and whatever else life throws at me.




Teresa said...

You are such an inspiration to me and many others. How fun to learn more about you and those great thoughts. You just make me smile😊

Traci said...

I love your attitude. I keep wishing I loved running. Maybe I just need to do it!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for sharing. I had no idea you've been working at this so long and faithfully! I'm proud to know you. You are awesome!

Leslie said...

And and you make me smile!! What a blessing you are to everyone who is lucky enough to know you!!!

Leslie said...

Thanks Traci & Cheryl, you are two amazing women who inspire me daily!!