Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Walk, don't run

Now in my eighth week off of running, I admit that I'm sort of coming around on this whole walking thing. Don't get me wrong: I am terribly eager to begin running again, and it's probably the fact that this brief interlude is nearing its end that I'm beginning to feel some tenderness toward my captor. But I love bipedalism in all of its variations, and over the last two months, have realized that there are some distinct advantages to walking, and not running.

1. The stink factor. I've always enjoyed "running" my errands when I can: running to and from the market if I just need a small item or two, running to the library to pick up and drop off my books, or even running to and from a concert at a nearby club. I almost always run to my polling place on election day, although this favorite tradition has probably alienated me from most of my neighbors. I'm not one of those people who delicately glistens when I run: I sweat. It takes a lot longer to get everywhere by walking instead of running, but I'm not a gross mess once I arrive, and it's been sort of nice not having to apologize when I get into elevators.

Two feet. Four eyes.
2. I can see where I'm going. I'm near-sighted and have worn glasses my entire adult life. Every year I tell myself I'm going to get a pair of prescription running sunglasses made so that I can see while I'm running, but I still have never done it. Because glasses will not stay on my face while I run (see "sweaty mess," above), I've just learned to run while unable to see clearly. I can see well enough to ensure my basic safety, but am always missing quite a lot of what's going on around me. But as a walker, my glasses can stay on my face, and in spending some long hours over the past two months in places where I'm usually running, I've realized just how much I usually don't see. I can get a better look at the flora, the architecture, and the public art as I pass by, and I can read the signs! And because I'm going slower, I seem to just be paying more attention. Last weekend I passed by the runway of the airport, which I do regularly (I live 2.5 miles from it), and saw lots of activity going on as I went by that I've just never noticed while running.

I seriously love my glittery tights.
3. The clothes are much cuter. Because I don't get so hot when I walk, I get to bundle up when I head out for these long walks in ways that I just can't when I run, even in winter. Despite being a lifelong runner, I've just never had those lean, muscular runner legs, and look and feel far better in a pair of tights than I do in a pair of running shorts. I (and surely everyone I encounter during my morning workouts) have been deeply grateful for the chance to don my knit caps and gloves, puffer vests, and my favorite sparkly long tights. I usually wear pretty ratty running clothes, but am starting to see the wisdom in investing in some warm-weather running items that make me feel cute.

4. I can touch my toes. It's amazing how much more flexible I've become in just seven short weeks. Decades of running (and not paying enough attention to flexibility as I've grown older) have left me with hamstrings like tree trunks, literally unable to touch my own toes when standing with straightened legs. Since stretching my calf muscles and ankles has been an important component of the rehabilitation from this injury, I've been more regular in getting to a weekly yoga class, and doing stretching exercises on my own. The other day I found myself grasping onto the balls of my feet while seated with legs straight, and wanted to jump for joy. But jumping is still strictly off-limits. <sigh>

5. I've even lost a few pounds. Over the past couple of years, some extra pounds have slowly crept their way on. I'm far from overweight, but for a small-framed marathon runner, an extra 5 or 10 pounds has consequences. As a person who's always had good exercise habits and a naturally healthy diet, I've never really concerned myself with the volume of what I eat or drink. This has mostly worked okay for me until recently, but apparently even marathon runners are not immune to shifting mid-life metabolisms. So when I began this rehabilitation process, I made a conscious decision to adjust my attitudes toward indulgence when it comes to food. Being unable to use my usual excuses for that extra slice of pie or another beer ("I'm in training," or "I ran six miles this morning," or "I'm running twenty miles tomorrow"), I'm instead paying more attention to how hungry I actually feel, and a few pounds have easily come off, even though I'm burning far fewer calories through exercise than is typical for me.

I'm hopeful that, once I'm back in the warm embrace of running, I won't forget the lessons I've learned over these last couple of months. Maybe I'll buy myself a new running top or two, and finally spring for those prescription sunglasses. Hopefully I'll maintain my improved eating habits, and keep showing up at yoga class. But, sorry neighbors: I'm still going to stink in the elevator.


Rehab update: Seven weeks of rehabilitation are in the bank, and I'm feeling healed and so completely ready to get back at it. Last week I walked 11 miles, did some strength and stretching sessions, yoga, and was back on a stationary bike for the first time since the muscle tear. All has felt great, and even when I'm walking fast up hills, everything seems back to normal. Last weekend, I felt 100% ready to start running again, so in light of my clearly limited insight and poor judgment, I decided I should wait one more week. :) Anxiously awaiting that slow, easy one mile run next Sunday morning. Valentine's Day.

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