Freedom Run

Most of you know that I am an avid runner. Well, maybe not so much since my hip replacement a little over a year ago. Since my 1 year checkup showed that my implant has been incorporated into my skeleton I have given myself a license to return to my addiction.  Kind of.

I went for a 4 miler yesterday and did something I haven’t done in at least 5 years. I didn’t use a running app on my iPhone to track my mileage and time. Sure, I took my phone because having that lifeline is good, just in case. And pictures. I like to take pictures.

What has changed?

A few things. While recovering, maybe regenerating is a better word, from the surgery I started to read about the human body. I bounced around among tomes on evolution and fitness. As I read more, I started to focus in on a couple of areas – biomechanics and anatomy . NOTE: The links I just provided are a sampling of what is written and represent my gateway reading. There are many other books and articles. I encourage you to read all you can.

As my recovery continued I found myself looking for a job. That process, which is worth its own post or two, took several months and occupied a lot of my time. There was a guilt paradox going on. I had the “free” time to do more cycling and running but felt guilty if I wasn’t pursuing a job with that time. When I did find a job (a great one that has been very much what I hoped for) I committed to a long commute that kind of puts a twist on my typical morning workouts. I’m still adjusting to the timing.

All I’m saying is that my ramp up to distance has been slower than it would have been a year ago. And that has turned out to be a good thing. Since I couldn’t run, I read about it, and I found alternate forms of exercise. All of that informed my running going forward.

As a writer, I decided to start a book about what I’ve learned and to distill that learning into something readable and prescriptive. In taking my own medicine, I’ve re-thought how I run. Not my form, but my pace and mindset.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

I used to run to a clock and work on specific workouts. Statistics embraced me at the end of each run and were automatically uploaded to social media. I loved it because I got in contact with other runners, many of whom have become friends beyond the running. All of it reinforced my process. Was I addicted to running or to the tracking of my running.

Admittedly, I am not fast. I’m average or a little better, but I will never win a distance race. Period. Why was I working on speeding up my running? Did I really enjoy that?

On a run one weekend I was thinking about running. It was only 3 miles, but for my point in recovery, that was my goal. I looked around and started to play a little as I ran. On a wintery, Sunday morning in the New England town in which I live, the roads are quiet and the woods are stark and graphic. Sections of snow and ice make force you to pay attention, and I ran out into the road to avoid some of the obstacles. Then I started to run out and around in the road just for fun, like a kid pretending to be an airplane or stepping around some obstacle course. I smiled without thinking about it.

The run became fun. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this was a different kind of enjoyment. I still had my iPhone app running, but I was having too much of a good time going down some side roads I hadn’t traversed and stopping once in a while to hear a woodpecker hammering on an oak tree. That sounds carries on a cold, brisk morning.

Yesterday, taking advantage of a warm spell, I went out and followed my instincts. Although I didn’t run on a trail, I am able to use the margins of our country roads to good IMG_5122effect. My neighbors don’t seem to mind me running on the edges of their lawns. As you can see, that area is usually offered up to the gods of snow plowing anyway, so I’m not doing much damage.

I continue to use a natural style of running, meaning it stems from a barefoot mode of movement that prevents overstriding and encourages a forefoot to midfoot landing. What I have found is that it isn’t about how your foot lands, it is about not overstriding. In other words, your foot should not extend out beyond your knee when you step forward. The only way to do that is to keep a bend in your knee, which eliminates heavy heel striking. You can still heel strike, but without an overstride, you significantly reduce the impact.

That said, I do wear shoes. What I wear are have a low lift – only 4mm – and a nice wide toebox. IMG_5128

These are Saucony’s and besides the low cushion, low lift they have a cool color. Why shoes? Well, the side of the road is not a prestine trail. There are many interesting deposits which are the outcome of human activity.

 

The shards of glass are pretty common. The computer remnant was a bit unique, but there is always something. True, you hardcore barefooters will rightfully say that over time my skin will thicken and these things won’t matter. I started down that path and found that shoes don’t hurt in pursuit of good form. Sorry. Plus, I can take a running break at Starbucks and not have worry about putting on those gauze booty things.

More important, I gave myself permission to not worry about time or distance. Just run and enjoy the motion. Those times when I felt the pace going up, I slowed myself down to where I was breathing normal and not huffing too much.

What’s it matter?

Slower, means better form. Better form means less injury. I’ll post more about that sometime, but not right now.

This is about enjoyment of an activity I have done the majority of my life. I’m in it for the long run, so to speak. I already admitted that I’m not fast and my 3hour, 37minute and change Hartford Marathon is going to be my best. I managed a sub 47 minute 10k, too. That was my best at that distance. I’m okay with those times. Clearly, I’m not setting any records and improvement means taking a “work” perspective to running. That’s not my mode anymore. I’m running untethered.

What I’ve learned is running is about finding your pace and enjoying motion.

RUN FREE, RUN EASY

 

 

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Fit to Recover

I have been a personal advocate of staying fit for a long time. At least the last 40 years. This past week that advocacy paid off. A large reason for my speedy recovery from the hip replacement surgery has been my fitness. A 40 plus year pursuit of fitness has given me two benefits in making the recovery happen.

Let me be clear. I consider myself to be pretty much an average guy. I am not fast, big, or strong like professional athletes. I place pretty well for my age group in races that I have done and I’ve always been able to improve my performance or not have it deteriorate over time. I am proof that you don’t have to be a world class athlete to stay fit and have fun doing it. One indicator is that my weight really hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years. I still wear the same jeans I had from the mid-90s.

What I Had to Get Over

It might seem prideful, but I’ve always been very healthy and I attested that more to a consistent workout lifestyle than to any particular eating program. Whether it was running, tennis, racketball, cycling, or lifting, I was active all year round. I was never a musclehead, but weights of some sort have always been part of the routine to compliment the other activities.

Having to go in for hip replacement made me seem like a failure. All that work and effort and my body still failed me. Going into the surgery I did a lot of reading and talking to people who had replacement work done themselves. It was a consistent message that this surgery had a high degree of success and people returned to near normal activity levels. That improved my expectations and attitude, but the sense of failure still lingered.

Head in Hands

In retrospect, there are a number of things I would have done to hold off the onslaught of arthritis. Most of all I would have focused a lot more on my running form, not just running exercises to get faster or build endurance. Unfortunately, there are few materials that really talk about running form from a true biomechanical perspective. I have found one that is proven, but that is for a future post.

My Post Surgery Realization

Now that I am 1 week and 4 days post surgery and my recovery consistently gets called a “model” by the physical therapists and doctors, I realize that my level of fitness had two benefits.

First, it was a lot easier for the orthopedic surgeon to do his job. My legs are fairly lean and the muscles are fit from cycling a lot lately. It made it easier for him to get to the joint and to do the work. I was told a little about how much manipulation you go through when they test the joint. It is not something I want to find on YouTube, although I am sure I could find it.

Screenshot 2014-12-06 16.13.13

His incisions are clean and not showing any indication of infection or leakage and I can tell they are healing well. A fit metabolism comes with the general fitness. It is a body used to recovery from some trauma. I needed some pain meds to get through those first few days, but even that requirement has eased off quite a bit. I’m on to Tylenol a few times a day and one pain killer before bed to make for a better rest.

The second benefit has been in the process of physical therapy. I’ve got a good base to work from, but I am also used to the process of doing sets of exercises and keeping good form while doing repetitive motion. I expect the burn to happen when I push the edge and know how to breath to keep relaxed while putting in the effort. It is just a natural thing for me. The therapy progresses faster if you push it to the limit, but not much further. You can’t overstrain, but you need to work it.

Again, I’m not that unusual. I just have a habit that seems to be paying off.

The Fear Is Gone

I mentioned the fear of surgery in the last blog. It is normal. I really was not looking forward to being cut open. Now that it is all done I am looking forward to continued recovery and rediscovering different activities. Yes, I plan on running again and I will focus on the Pose Method of running. I will also start building the mileage on my bicycle, increase plyometrics and even getting into swimming. All that and just playing around like a kid. We all need to be kids.

All of this has led me to start reading a lot about biomechanics of the human body. It is a fascinating subject and I hope it will inform my active lifestyle in the future.

If this helps any of you to rekindle your desire to get in shape, then I am happy. Take your time. Find your limits. Give your body the recovery it needs, but be consistent and always push a little more.

I would love to hear your thoughts and views.

Thanks for reading.