The ‘Why I Run Wednesday’ posts are a weekly feature exploring a past, present, or future reason why I run.
It is Christmas Eve, a Thursday, so this post is a day late and surrendipitediously fitting for this week’s reason that I run. That reason being, to learn how to listen to my body. The topic is not one that is new to me, but I had not thought too much about it until I was on my way home from work on Tuesday and decided it was going to be another rest day. This cold I caught made a little dash to the bus an exhausting effort. Having to catch my breath after five minutes seemed like a sufficient reason to call off a prolonged effort. The body aches made for a solid case too.
The past couple years have taught me–forced me–to pay more attention to the aches and ailments that seem to creep out of no where, but in fact have been forming over weeks, months, or even years of running.
My best ever year of running was 2013, when I re-entered the world of marathon training and completed my second and third 26.2 mile race. I trained HARD. Even tried a new-to-me approach via the Hanson’s Marathon Method where the longest run is 16 miles, but it is a grueling training run at only slightly slower than goal marathon pace. The Method also required weekly intense efforts made up of 400-1600 meters of fast-paced repeats and tempo runs of up to 12 miles. I loved it. I felt FAST. The issue was that I only ran and didn’t protect the rest of my body from the intense training. That protection, or prevention, should have included at least regular sessions of body weight exercises to strengthen all the muscle imbalances that were becoming more apparent as the year went on. I finished my second Twin Cities Marathon nearly one hour faster than the first one a few years back and a nagging pain in my left glute and hip.
The following year was spent complaining about the nagging overuse injury, weekly visits to the chiropractor, very expensive Active Release Technique (ART) treatments, my first trip to a general doctor in the Cities so I could get a referral to a physical therapist, months of working with said PT, and simply not running too much. I was listening to my body, but to be honest, I wasn’t happy with what I was hearing.
Fast forward to this year, and in the midst of ultra marathon training, I suppose you could say I listened well enough. In paying attention to the lingering overuse issues, I realized running long and slow do not aggravate my leg nearly as much as running shorter distances at a faster pace. So, long run runs it is. And somewhat shorter runs at an easy to moderate pace. The foam roller sees regular use too. To cover a couple more bases, I, at bare minimum, warm up with dynamic stretches before every run and throw in some squats to start the day. One other recent addition to the healing process while I pack on the miles is a supplement called NatureFlex that actually seems to be helping in reducing discomfort. It’s a mix of collagen, enzymes and minerals all aimed at supporting bone and join health. Research says those nutrients work, so for now, it’s part of my training protocol.
I am still listening and learning to what works. Running is such a simple sport, but add your body into the mix and it is incredibly complex. Rewarding and daunting, satisfying and frustrating. The advanced lesson of the past couple years? Listening is step one, acting accordingly is step two. Hopefully step three is healing and the final step is getting to run faster again… those last two steps are yet to be determined.
So why do I run? Because it is an opportunity to learn how to listen, carefully.