Sunday, September 21, 2008

Running Update

My running is still going well. I've now kept to my schedule for four weeks, and I'm up to being able to run for 10 minutes in my first stretch of running. Then I walk a bit and run about three more times in shorter spells. The total time of this run-walk is about 20 minutes, framed by 5-10 minutes of walking to warm up and again to cool down.

I'm pleased. I did not expect to be able to do this well this soon. And I do not feel like I'm pushing myself too hard. I'll continue not to push myself too hard -- I'm kind of happy with 10 minutes and will let myself stay at this stage for a while if I need to, extending it only very gradually. Instead of pushing to extend longest run, I'm gradually extending the duration of the run-walk part.

I think there must be something to theories of "body memory." Because there were significant times in my past during which I did run regularly, my body in some sense remembers this and is able to adapt more quickly to my running again than if I were only just now in life starting for the first time. I'm still a long way from the level of fitness I once had, but, like I said, I'm surprised that I'm progressing faster than I expected.

I'm also really happy about how well the running has improved my overall energy and my spirits.

Another good sign is that I find myself at times throughout the day thinking, "I'd rather be running," and looking forward to the next time I go. My times of running are transcendent moments. I connect with nature and with a wider perspective in which my own problems become recontextualized as small, local, and manageable, losing the inflated cosmic proportions they can sometimes assume during my moments of despair. Despair itself becomes reconceptualized as merely human.

As I run, I feel like a very small dot, moving slowly in a huge landscape. I feel both tired and powerful as I propel myself across the face of the earth. Illusions fall away in such a pure physical encounter with exactly what I can and cannot do. There it is. I see what I can do, but I also experience exactly how difficult it is. It is difficult and easy, both. At every moment, I can choose how hard to push. I watch too how I make these decisions. I try simply to notice rather than judge. In this, I learn about who I am in new ways.

For example, I used to have a habit of pushing myself very hard. But after my encounter with burnout, something in me has changed. I see it reflected in my running. Keeping the running going is too important to me now to risk injury. I am not as inclined to push as hard as I used to do, and I see in this the growth of a very real self-compassion.

I saw an article in our local paper not long ago about an 82 year old woman who has been running for 30 years. There was a photo of her, and she looked great: not only fit, but happy. I thought: "I want to be like her when I'm her age!"

Keeping with it is much more important than how quickly I progress.

I will have to keep telling myself this, because it will get harder as the daylight hours get shorter and the weather gets colder. And so I remind myself too that this is an opportunity to notice the changing seasons more vividly. That is part of the journey too.

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