Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On the road again--running as a way of life (part 3)

Before my dear wife and I moved to South Dakota, I had taken up a regular regimen of pick up basketball 2-3 times per week. That was my favorite method of exercise--I always prided myself on being a gritty player. I took special pride in sprinting back on defense to take away what someone thought would be an easy lay up or running a 3 on 2 break and getting to the corner for a short jumper or layup--or even leading it after I anticipated a pass and made a steal. It was the sprint that produced an immediate gratification, and (bonus!) my conditioning skyrocketed.

I ran a little bit less in those basketball days--if I was playing with a good group of guys, I got in plenty of wind sprints. I used running more for getting away than conditioning; Lake Country Wisconsin provided great scenery for running getaways.

Upon moving to South Dakota I continued the same running pattern. Basketball 3 days per week and running 2 or more days per week. I played hoops while taking classes at South Dakota State (and lost about 5 pounds in sweat in that painfully hot gym), and then picked up playing at the Sioux Valley/Sanford/Mob Wellness Center. I can't say I was in the best shape of my life (I should have been), the big shift was the birth of our first child, and I could no longer work out when I pleased. I had never been a rigorously scheduled person, I ran whenever the Spirit moved me. When #1 was born into our 2 pastor household, we were pulled in all kinds of directions with a child making her own demands. I had a hard time adjusting to compromises to my running time.

Then about 6:10 am in January, 2004, while playing pick up basketball, executing one of my favorite plays, hustling back on defense to break up an easy bucket, someone with as much or more aggressiveness than me, collided with me mid-air at high speed on the way to the hoop. My lower left leg twisted in a way I didn't know it could. I have no recollection how I landed. I think the injury happened mid-air, which the doctor said was unlikely, but possible. I blew out my ACL, MCL and significantly damaged the meniscus. It was a long, slow and painful recovery.

I had to retire from basketball and learn the dynamic of personal limitation and compromise, from familial to physical. I still haven't learned all of these lessons. Though not an elite athlete, I performed at a good level for several years in almost any way I wanted. My own maturity level held me back, but I also had many joys through physical performance. Family really isn't a limitation--but dynamics of relationships accentuate the choices I make every day. What is important to me? How will I invest my time, my body, my resources?

Running became the obvious choice as a great investment in me, my family, my body and resources. Running fits my economy--I can work my heart, pray, think, plan, experience joy, work my muscles, achieve and keep my body working well. Running is also a habit practice--I've been doing it more or less twice per week for 25 years, with the only large gap being recovering from knee reconstruction (about 2 years). I may try other things like bicycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, hiking, or some other sport that doesn't put my ACL at an incredibly high risk. I always have an entry point with running.

I hit a low point in fitness last fall. It was an especially hot summer in South Dakota; the thought and experience of going outside to run made me physically ill. I had also made too many excuses about the schedules of my family as taking me away from any consistent physical activity. Carrying around the weight I was didn't help matters. Without too much thought, but with consideration of my knees, I dedicated myself to short, but consistent runs early each morning. It was the only way I could do it and not worry about anything in the lives of the 3 females in the house. It was my time. I rose between 4:45 and 5:15 am 5-7 days per week and went to the track. The track reduced the pounding effects of pavement running. I continued almost regardless of the conditions--I think I missed one day because of a lightning storm. I ran in several inches of snow this last winter. I ran in -20 degrees, which was a lot more comfortable for me than running in the heat. I was well equipped (I now own ice/snow running attachments for my shoes--I'm also amazed by the cold weather running gear), and I wasn't going to miss the prayer, thought and planning time. I was further motivated by a race for which I registered around St. Patrick's Day.

The move to Washington has created a new list of excuses for a reduced running pattern, but I've also bought in to Jeff Galloway's program of running less often and focusing more on the weekly long run as a means to prevent injury and actually boost achievement. I want to get out there every day, and I haven't figured out a cross-training regimen that works for me. I've also added shoe orthotics for injury prevention and to deal with an old injury. Like the rest of life, dealing with adversity and making adjustments is more of what life is about than looking to dwell in good times, all the time and not seeing the gift of each day. I'm working toward a half-marathon on Labor Day and hopefully a marathon around my 40th birthday. I'm looking to make another adjustment for cross-training tomorrow--something I have basically ignored.

I will make that adjustment in running--it's a way of life.

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