Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Relearning Old Lessons

Sometimes at night when I'm having problems falling asleep, I close my eyes and imagine myself running.

It's usually down a single-track trail, deep in a shady forest with ferns filling the narrow gap between trail and trees. It's the kind of trail that pulls you along, fills you with the desire to keep going and rewards you with beauty and calm.

My stride is long, graceful, easy, and I can run all day.

There was a time when I ran like that in places like that.

My present reality, though is not quite that... idyllic.

My training is on neighborhood streets - hard, nondescript, way too familiar.

My runs are short and slow.

My stride is awkward, graceless.

I can change my location, but that won't make my runs any more productive... not until I fix my stride and get stronger.

Thing is, I've had to reboot my running form to break the chronic injury cycle. That means I am using muscles that have been left unused for a decade. And they are not happy about their reenlistment. They fatigue quickly, and are revengefully sore after.

As a result, I have been running embarrassingly slow, trying to nurse those muscles through a run. Worse, to run that slow, my form was further hosed, as my stride length shortened dramatically, so I wasn't really training those muscles at all.

After one of these frustrating runs, as I lay on the floor sweating and stretching, bitching and moaning, I had a moment of clarity.

Despite my many years of running, the thousands of miles and dozens of races, today I am essentially a new runner.

As I relearn how to run, I'm facing all of the challenges of someone who is just starting for the first time. So, I decided to take some of my own advice, the advice I give to new runners.

Rather than shuffling along to complete a run that isn't actually accomplishing what it was intended to, I'm going back to basics: Run until those weakling muscles fade, walk until they recover, rinse, repeat.

I can't tell you how much more enjoyable my runs have been since I took this new/old approach. Giving myself permission to walk when my body really needs to has allowed me to run with a normal stride and to actually work those muscles into shape.

I have no doubt that soon those walking breaks will disappear completely.

Until then, I'll try to be patient, and dream of my return to those trail runs that I never want to end.

Good running,