Saturday, 21 April 2012

Shut Up and Run

Harsh words, but true.  Ok I came upon a blog by this title ( --she’s very sarcastic and inappropriate and she says whatever pops into her mind; she’s hysterical ), and even though she is not paleo (gasp!), she has a real point with that title.  We spend much too much time thinking about doing, planning on doing, wishing we could do, and not nearly enough time just getting out there and doing it. 

When I’m stressed, I like to run.  I really missed running when I started this paleo thing, you know, chronic cardio and all, but the more I read, the more I see other people are still running.  The more time I spend on this paleo path, the more I realize that this paleo thing is different for everyone and my paleo has room for some running.  The heck with what the pros say.  I think it’s prevailed partly because even the sainted Mark Sisson shows pictures of himself running-nay-jogging on the beach, and because it just really feels like we should be doing it.  Don’t you remember being a kid and just wanting to go?  Haven’t you ever watched National Geographic and seen those African tribes that send runners who have to run all day, to pass messages from tribe to tribe or whatever reason, but they RUN ALL DAY LONG?  And don’t you think –jeez—I should be able to do that if the apocalypse comes?!  This is an important skill!

I do.  Maybe it’s just me.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, flirts with running at some point in their life.  It’s so cheap, it’s simple, its a natural movement that we can all master.  We don’t need a coach.  I’d say all we need is good running shoes, but lately with the whole barefoot running movement and Vibrams and all, maybe even shoes are over-rated.

For me, running long, slow and far is hard.  Particularly right now it is because I stopped running back in the fall-ok, late summer and did a few half-assed trail runs leading into the fall that hardly count for anything...  Its’ true when you see paleo advocates saying “I don’t run anymore, but I still can, when I want to”.  You can still run.  It’s a lot harder now, it’s terribly uncomfortable, but your body will take it.

When I run I push myself hard because I know I CAN, and the running is as uncomfortable as all hell.  But when I’m out there, I’m so focused on just running that I can’t focus on my other issues.  The little voices that taunt me all day long “money’s tight, son’s heading off to University, husband lost his job, business is slow at work, they’re letting people go, I feel underappreciated at work, when do I get my next raise-its overdue, I’m tired of being so-and-so’s whipping boy at work”—you know those voices; they have to shut up when I’m running.  I’m not listening when I’m running.

My body likes to play a little game when I run.  It tries to convince me to stop running.  After the warm-up, when I’m still running slow, the burning in my calves begins.  From heel all the way to knee, the fire radiates upwards and demands that I stop.  But I ignore it.  Then the shins start burning.  Because apparently I wasn’t listening to my calves.  With every heel strike there’s a shot of fire.  But I ignore that, too.  Then my lungs start to burn.  My chest, my throat, my heart is racing, and I have to tell myself over and over to keep my head up high because I want to bow my head and just plod on but I know I need to keep my head up to keep the air passage wide open.  And keeping your head up keeps the snot from dripping down my face and keeps me from running into parked cars.  I ignore all the little cues my body is giving me.  I’m not in agony.  It’s not true pain.  It is more like extreme discomfort.  My body just wants me to stop because life is easier when I just walk.  The body prefers to be comfortable.  So I ignore the roaming burning sensations, the creak in my hips that comes and goes, the cramp in my stomach that begins to form, because if I ignore it for a kilometer or more, it all just kind-of fades into the background.  Oh, running doesn’t just turn easy after a couple of kilometers, no, but at some point the burning fades away and all you have left is actual muscle fatigue and the fight with your lungs.  And the voices in my head turn from money woes and stresses to “shut-up body, I just started and I’m NOT stopping here, holy crap this is hard, now I’ve gone really far from home, too far to walk back—I’ll be out here for hours if I walk, just keep running, holy crap this is hard, damn-it body, you can do this so shut up and just keep going, shut up and keep going, holy crap I have a long way to go, hey, I’m past the halfway mark, that wasn’t so terrible – I didn’t die yet- at least it can’t get worse/more uncomfortable than it is now, hey I’m almost home so just keep going.” 

For me, running is meditative.  One voice drowns out the other.  For the duration of the run, I’m 100% living in the present moment.  I’m burning off steam.  I’m 100% focused.

Once home, I’m exhausted.  I’m so spent that my limbs are shaky for hours afterwards.  But at that point, I’m too tired to think about stressful things.  I’m too tired to be up all night worrying about money and teenagers and my job.  The only struggle left that day is the struggle to not fall asleep on the couch before bedtime.  The only voice in my head is saying “who the f___ cares?  Go to bed.  Now!”  So I do.

Funny thing about hard exercise—it causes your body to release feel-good endorphins.  The next day you’re pretty proud of yourself.   Maybe you can’t run like that every time you feel a slight bit of stress coming on, but sometimes you can.  Sometimes, blowing off a little steam is a good thing.

Now, a note on running here—I run only 5-6 km at a time.  I’m not talking marathon running.  That’s just crazy-talk.  And running every single day is definitely hard on your body so don’t do that.  I never run two days in a row.  Always take a day of recovery.  Sometimes, run sprints instead.  Flat-out zombies-are-chasing-me sprints.  At any time, if it hurts, and the hurt does not go away within a day or two, you may be injuring yourself so stop it.  Figure out what it is and how to avoid that.  Whenever you can, run on soft surfaces like trails.  Much better on the hips and knees.  And at the end of a run, eat something.  I usually eat a half banana.  If I run after dinner, I should have some protein with that banana but often I don’t because I’m lazy that way, and the next day I tend to be overtly hungry but I deal with it.  I don’t believe that 2-3 runs a week, for less than an hour each time, counts as chronic cardio.  I think marathons do, I think training daily does, but I’m not going there.  I’m just blowing off some steam.

Because sometimes life is stressful and this is how I cope with it.  I can’t avoid stress.  It happens.  So I’ll be running for the next while.  What’s the worst that can happen?  I’ll get overtly  fit?  I may lose some weight?  There are worse things.....  At least there’ll be a little less stress in my household.

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