Tag Archives: inactivity

What’s Wrong With Me?

THE BEST I CAN SAY about the past few days is that my body has been efficient. If I had to get hurt and sick, at least they happened together. Dual-purpose recovery!

And yet there is something very odd going on during this recovery.

Last Thursday after working out my right knee was a bit tender, so I put off my scheduled five-mile run for a day. On Friday while warming up for the run, I found that a deep knee bend caused a sharp pain in that knee. It didn’t hurt otherwise so I (carefully) completed the run, but my knee did not loosen up.

I Iz No Run - Bing ImagesI emailed my coach and told her I was cancelling my Saturday long run. She agreed; it was time to start tapering anyway. No sense in risking an injury this close to my upcoming races. Just as well, since over the weekend, I came down with my first full-blown cold in years. So Monday’s strength workout and Tuesday’s run were out, too.

The good news is that I’m on the mend; the knee pain is gone, and I’m getting over the cold. So I’ll be back on the road soon, and should be good to go for the April races.

These things happen, and we exercise freaks get through them as best we can. Fellow blogger Sam writes here about a week with no exercise, and blogger eloisedu talks here about a nagging hip injury that is sidelining her for four weeks. They express their frustration but know they will be back. I was going to post on their blogs that I “felt their pain” so to speak, but then came to a stunning realization:

I haven’t missed training at all. In fact – umm – I’ve been enjoying the break.

NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

What’s wrong with me? I should be bouncing off the walls right now, frothing at the mouth, gazing longingly out my front window at the nice weather and the healthy, unhurt runners gliding by. Nope. I’m just resting and going through the other things I have to do each day.

Fortunately, I believe I know what’s going on. My training is not what you would call “elite level” but for the past few months it’s been at the highest intensity and volume in my life. It’s been tough, and despite signs that my body was finally adapting and getting stronger, I’ve had to put up with continual low-level soreness throughout my body and fatigue from all the activity.

So don’t get me wrong – being sick has really sucked, and comes with its own issues –  poor sleep, stuffy head, and achy feeling. But my muscles are feeling better than they have in quite a while, and my energy level is rising, too.

But what about my upcoming races? Is all this (relative) inactivity going to sabotage my goals of qualifying for Boston or finishing my upcoming ultras? I doubt it. I’ve trained year-round for a long time, and with the increased effort over this winter, I’ve got the base I need. I’m not going to forget how to run by easing off for a week or two.

This is the classic dilemma runners face when they taper. We’re so used to our training routine that when we cut it down before a race, we feel like we’re slacking off and hurting our chances. But to be in peak form on race day, letting the body heal and rebuild beforehand is the best thing we can do. Running, or any athletic endeavor for that matter, requires mental discipline as much as the physical!

And when April gets here, with three races in four weeks, I get the feeling I’ll be grateful for this enforced rest here in March. And yes, I am still looking forward to the races – very much so. That’s the best sign of all.

Won't be down for long - the trails beckon!

Won’t be down for long – the trails beckon!

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From Couch Potato to Hustler

POP QUIZ: What’s the hardest thing for a runner to do?

(Hint: It isn’t running fast, or running long.)

sledge-dog-300x250

ANSWER: Nothing.

That is, the hardest thing an active guy like me can do is be inactive. And just how hard it is manifested itself today.

Now, the term “active” can mean more than lacing up and going out for a run or bike ride. For me, the term includes useful work at the office, doing needed upkeep on the house, financial and life planning, and creative writing. “Inactive” to me is sitting or lying around watching TV, reading, or taking a nap.

You have no idea how hard this is.

You have no idea how hard this is.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling listless and a bit rundown. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with being up until 2:00 a.m. playing Dungeons & Dragons.) Even so, I slept in until 9:00, on a day when I usually get up at 7:00 to go running. But this day was my final race of the year – the Holiday Hustle in Dexter – and it didn’t start until 4:30, so I had the entire day to rest up before hitting the bricks for a hard and fast 5K.

As the day wore on, I was not feeling better. So I lay down to take a nap and read. And all the time I was doing that, my mind was nagging me: Hey there, slug – why don’t you haul your lazy butt out of bed and do something useful. You’ve got several hours before the race and stuff you could be doing. Like reassembling the treadmill, for instance.

It didn’t help that this was the book I was reading;

Living With a SEAL book

So I’m lying there like the proverbial rug, reading about how this guy is running six miles followed by 200 pushups at any hour of day or night, basically whenever the SEAL tells him it’s time to train. And he’s doing it, much to his surprise. (Hint: If you don’t want to feel guilty about sitting around doing nothing, read a different book.)

Bonus: Learn more here about Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur and ultrarunner who decided his life was “drifting on autopilot” and wanted to shake things up a bit. Good Lord.

Finally, about two hours before race start, I got up, changed into running gear, and had a bite to eat. With the temperature around 60 degrees (in December!) I would wear short sleeves and shorts. Usually at this race, there’s ice on the roads and it’s a battle to keep warm until the race starts.

Santa's alternative mode of transportation.

No snow? No problem. Santa has alternative modes of transportation.

In a form of penance for all that idle time, I rode my bike the four miles from my house to the race, with the added benefit of not having to park a half mile away. By the time I arrived, I was warmed up and my energy was back.

As for the race, it was typical of my Holiday Hustle experience. In the first half mile, I convince myself I don’t have it today and will probably keel over. At one mile I’m feeling a little better, which allows me to slog out the second mile. I get a second wind for mile 3, which is mainly downhill, and go hard to the finish.

This year wasn’t a PR, but I was again able to sneak under 20:00, and just a couple of seconds behind last year’s result. Not bad for wondering earlier if I shouldn’t just jog it.

Remember when you didn't need any motivation to run?

Remember when you didn’t need any motivation to run?

After some recovery and the awards ceremony (3rd in my age group), I biked back home, feeling surprisingly good. Legs weren’t even sore or stiff. Maybe this occasional inactivity thing has its advantages. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if a bit more training intensity would also benefit me.

“I hope you’re not planning to have a SEAL live with you for a month,” my wife said.

I assured her I wasn’t. I figure I need at least three months.