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October 22, 2013

Through the Fire

Through the FireSky Fire

“What is to give light must endure burning.”
~ Viktor Frankl

 

There is an old saying in the world of fitness:

No pain, no gain.

There is an old joke in medicine that goes like this:

Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” said the patient.
Well, then don’t do that,” said the doctor.

Like an angel and a devil sitting on each shoulder, I often hear both voices at the same time. Yesterday I was at CrossFit™ and our workout had one exercise that just hurt. The weight was too high, the movement too awkward, the feeling was wrong even when I slowed it down. The one voice in my head says It’s just 4 rounds – do it…and then the other voice says that’s 80 reps you crazy woman you will not be able to walk tomorrow.

In the end, the desire to do the workout despite the pain won. It took me longer than almost everyone else, it hurt, and I finished it. But I know the risks. I have had enough injury to know that pushing too hard can do real damage. I have also done enough exercise to know that often, my greatest gains come from finding that edgy space right between pushing hard and pushing too hard and working right there.

Pain, in theory, has a protective element to it. The doctor joke is only half a joke…pain is partly a signal to stop doing the thing that hurts. That said, we can condition ourselves to override some of that. We can raise our pain threshold so that it takes more and more stimulus to get to that place of “stop.” We can convince ourselves that pain is good.

And sometimes it that is fine. Continue reading…

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July 22, 2013

Group Therapy

Group Therapy

IMG_4428“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

~ Ryunosuke Satoro

For the past couple of years as a runner, I have run alone almost exclusively. It’s not that I don’t occasionally go out with a friend, but mostly, I don’t. My running time is my time to not talk to others, to not answer, to not share. It’s mine. It’s personal.

In years past, however, my preference was always for groups. I did serious martial arts for a long time and part of what I loved was the dynamic of my school. We trained together. We trained a lot, and over time we became like a family. One big sweaty family united by upper cuts and side kicks and wrist locks. In years since I have had similar kinds of experiences in yoga studios, though less so because there is more transience in yoga.

For me personally, a funny thing happened over the years – the harder and more demanding my family and career became, the more I craved activities that took me away from people not towards them. Running lets me be an exercise hermit, and I am grateful for that. It also lets me be at my own pace and push only as much as I want to on any given day. One of my readers here once commented about physical “diminishing returns” in running…and I wonder if this is partly why.

So I started to think recently, that maybe part of the magic of a group has to do with accountability.

When someone else is there to push you, maybe you can expand your limits more than you can on your own?

Continue reading…

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July 21, 2013

New Days, New Goals, New Challenges

New Days New Goals New Challenges

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
~ Goethe

IMG_3892

 

I sort of stopped paying attention to this blog some time ago. Life gets busy and writing seems more like a thing that get in the way than…well, than much of anything.

Plus sometimes I think to myself, this thing has served its purpose. I ran for a year, I wrote for a year.

End. Of. Story.

But perhaps not. I think that part of what happened here – and those who followed along bore witness to this, is that I started to really enjoy running – it became part of my life. I still like it now and I still run and it’s now just kind of part of who I am. In the eyes of some, that might be a successful experiment. It has been for me. The minimal learning here was that at least in my life – busy, chaotic, full, but with a priority to stay healthy and fit – the age-old advice that you should chose an activity you like for your regular exercise because you will be more likely to do it – proved to be untrue. What I found – and this might help others too – was that what I really needed was an activity that I could actually accomplish regularly despite my life. Running fit. So I ran with committed effort. I ran and it changed me. At least it made me a runner.

I think it also made me a better person.

I will never be a great runner. I’m not going to be fast, I’m not going for super distance. As a 5 foot tall woman with asthma, I really wasn’t build for this sport. But it gives me results, it gives me a stronger, healthier body – and frankly, it gives me a healthier mind. And once I learned all that, it could have been the end of the story. And perhaps for running it is.

Then there was CrossFit.

I am probably about to make a terrible mistake in writing what comes next. Continue reading…

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July 4, 2012

On Change and Challenge

On Change and Challenge

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.  ~ Victor Frankl

I guess that one could say that change is the most predictable thing in life that you can’t prepare for. So why then, are we still surprised when it happens? We call it “unwelcome change” or say “the change was unanticipated” – but isn’t that almost always the case? Change is change. Who am I to judge if it’s good or bad or just different.

For just over a month pain has been hampering my ability to run. Frankly, it has hampered my ability to walk on someday (stairs are the worst), or sit comfortably. So yesterday I took the next step in treatment.

Lumbar epidural steroid injection is a long name for a procedure that involves placing a long needle into the spine and delivering a drug (in this case a ling acting steroid) to the precise spot that seems to be causing the trouble (in this case between my 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae. The hope is that over the next 3-10 days I get a whole lot of pain and symptom relief and then I can really get back to recovering and doing the things I miss including running.

Of course this also leaves open other possibilities. I might only get a little better. I might get no relief at all. I also have to assume that after this much time even if I had the most perfect outcome I’m still not going to get up in 10 days and start running where I left off. I have had a lot of moments lately of feeling pretty bad about the whole thing – sometimes that’s worse than the physical pain. Funny how the mind works like that.

To get out of that, one thing I do is ask myself: If not this, then what?

Nothing really beats running for fitting into my life. It’s portable, it’s adaptable, it’s efficient. I have come to rely on it in a way because I really can take running with me as easily as my laptop. But I certainly can’t do it right now and I don’t know when I’ll get the thumbs up to run again.

So today I bought a bicycle. Continue reading…

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