The Physical AND the Mental

>> Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time flies, doesn't it? We're in week FOUR already since my knee started hurting last month. Two weeks of basically no running. 50 to 0, if you will. Oh. My. Goodness. Am I freaking out yet? Way past it, ladies and gents. Like I wrote earlier this week, I'm (more than) a little unstable without my normal stress release.

Oh, how I took that me-time for granted.

As much as I'm staying fit with my aqua jogging routine and other cross-training activities (which I'll write about in just a moment), none of these things give me the mental health benefits I get with running. My friend Dani and I chatted about it last night. We concluded that running, at least for us, allows time for honesty and deep contemplation. A sorting out of feelings. Free therapy, if you will. Though I never remember the helpful parts -- that's OK. I get a nice rush of endorphins and an intense feeling of inner satisfaction.

Of true bliss.

Now, I've been hopping on the elliptical, which feels like running with heavy weights locked onto my legs. 20 minutes is all I can manage at one time before going completely mad. The exercise bike is also a close frenemy. Oh, how I hate staring at those red-lit numbers. Covering the console with a towel can't keep me from obsessively tracking the minutes and they tick by -- one by one by one . . . by one. My inner voice continually begging: "Are we done yet? Are we done yet? Seriously? Not yet?!" (And, again, we're talking 20 minutes. Not exactly torture!) The aqua jogging has been OK, but since I do so many intervals, I'm a slave to my watch.

I found myself utterly perplexed walking out of the gym the other day. Why, oh, WHY do I hate cross-training so much? The answer came to me rather quickly in the moment, but has taken weeks for me to sort out, it seems.

It's because running is a sport. A lifestyle. It's an activity in which I monitor my progress in distances run, times achieved, and inner strength gained. I don't think about "having to keep up cardiovascular endurance" or "not losing muscle mass" or "not gaining weight from so-bored-all-I-do-is-eat eating" as motivators to keep going. I wrote it before and I'll write it again: Running is a passion. It's part of me. These cross-training exercises are shallow. Empty, even. They're performed each day only because I have to do them.

And don't get me wrong. Cross-training is great. I'm fortunate to be moving. But, I enjoy it as PART of my workout routine. Not as the sole proprietor.

It's this simple: Being a gym rat. Working out only for the sake of working out is not fun. It's just work! So, my message today goes out to all of you who are not currently involved in an exercise program that fulfills or excites you. If you're bored. Or detest it. Or constantly feel like skipping out on gym sessions. Or runs. Or bike rides. Whatever the poison is that has you reeling in pain instead of reveling in the moments when your body truly living.

You need to move your body for more than burning calories.
You need to sweat for more than dropping pounds.
You need to push it 10 minutes longer because it feels good.
Or feels difficult in a way that takes you to a place of nirvana.
You need to CRAVE that physical activity.
It needs to become a part of you.
Or you'll never, ever get why you should do it.

So much of the benefit is mental. Once you find something that allows you to escape into your happy place, you're set. And if you haven't found what does the trick, you need to keep searching. You will find it eventually. I mean, all these gals did!

If you're injured like me, hang in there. I would tell you it gets better, but I haven't arrived there yet. In the meantime, I'll keep slugging along . . . healing . . . doing what I know is best for myself. (And, hey, there is some good news, better feelings in my knee -- knock on wood!).

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