The past few nights I’ve been sleeping in compression socks (will someone let me know if this is bad for me?), which can only mean that I’ve been hitting the pavement again. Way back in April, I signed up for my first half-marathon, the Philadelphia race that will take place in November. This, I calculated, left enough time for two leisurely 12-week training cycles, with a week off in between. I was dedicated to my training plan, and even felt myself lifting out of a depressed period as a result.
Then I hit a few road bumps. I had a heatstroke, and a few weeks after recovering from that, I strained my right piriformis (or as Dani says, “It’s your butt.”), I think from over-training and not cross-training. My momentum died; I was so far off my original training plan that it seemed pointless and probably physically unwise to try to catch up. I also fell into the trap of believing that because I felt better psychologically, I didn’t need to run anymore, thereby ignoring the reality that I was feeling better because I had been running.
But of course, the way to train for a half-marathon is not to stop running, and the way to feel happier is not to stop doing the things that make you happy. Over the summer I read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (this book is best suited for people who love Murakami, followed by people who love writing, followed by people who love running; I read a few negative Amazon reviews that went something like, “I’ve never read Murakami and I don’t run and I didn’t like this book,” which seems like a more telling review of the reviewer than the book). It’s full of kind of cheesy but totally resonant thoughts, such as:
“To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed — and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.”*
Clearly, I fell out of rhythm, both physically and mentally. I’ve always been the sort of person who works most efficiently when I have a lot to do, and for a while there I wasn’t running, blogging, or writing fiction. I also became more depressed and spent a lot of time in a delusional cocoon wondering what had happened to my improving mental state. Go figure. Murakami wasn’t kidding about the level of effort it takes to start spinning the flywheel again.
I started training in earnest again over the weekend. It’s going better than I thought it would; my base fitness hasn’t suffered too badly and the gorgeous fall weather** in New York makes for much faster times than the heat of the summer. I’m also doing yoga along with the running this time to help with core strength and to keep my hip flexors nice and loose. I’ve been writing more over the past month or so as well; it’s like revving up one part of my life jump starts the others.
Do these cycles happen to you? Does working out help the rest of your life come together? And do you mind if I end with another cheesy Murakami quote?
Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as well.
*I read this on my Kindle so I can’t provide page numbers. I can help you find any of the quoted passages if you’re looking for them though.
**Experienced runners: At what temperatures do you start running in long sleeves?