SEVERAL YEARS AGO, REASONS FOR BEING GRATEFUL FOR RUNNING were listed in a pre-Thanksgiving blog post. Back then, I could have not have imagined being thankful for NOT running. Now my daily routine includes an early morning walk rather than a run.
The type of walk varies each day. It can be High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a ‘stroller’ workout, weighted vest session, long easy walk, or a speed or hill session. Most days a short strength session is tacked on, either bodyweight or with dumbbell weights, alternately concentrating upper or lower body muscle groups and core. Once or twice a week, in the late fall and winter, an evening gym session ends the day, an aerobic or HIIT workout on a piece of equipment (bike, elliptical, rower), or a swim. In the summer, a fat-tire bike ride is considered.
Yes, I miss running. Very much. It would be wonderful to still ‘just run’ daily. Wonderful if it had remained my only form of exercise, other than a couple of strength sessions each week, until enlightenment caused me to seriously and voluntarily take up other aerobic activities.
But my change was nudged by the possibility of future infirmity if alterations weren’t made. Nudged after learning that mild knee osteoarthritis (OA) was behind calf pain that subsided after rest and rehabilitation, but that reappeared with progressively intense training.
Last December, after a multi-week period of rest and rehab, taking care not to stress that right knee, reality hit; I was tired of enduring cycles of minor running-related injury and recovery such as plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, and bursitis. I wanted to enter the ‘golden years of grandparenthood as a top-functioning, wonder of nature. Without being sidelined by my sport or in need of joint replacement.
Runners can continue to enjoy their favorite sport activity into old age without problems. Age group race results tell the story of those who line up for events in their 80’s, and sometimes 90’s. It was worrisome and saddening to think this was not my destiny.
I decided to change my exercise routine while healthy. There were several reasons. To delay progression of arthritis, while it was mild, yes. But also, because the scientific literature was revealing the benefits of other athletic activities that did not involve continuous, linear, forward movement as occurs in running Continuous running, it seems, does not help strengthen bone or muscle. However, HIIT activities contribute to metabolic health. Strength training builds muscle mass and aids with decreasing fat mass. Multi-component body movements can improve balance and bone strength.
Significantly, running was not helping me to join in family and friends’ activities. Training required big blocks of time that involved post-run stretches, clean up, and even rest; I was fatigued. Mostly it had to be performed in the early morning, if it was to be accomplished per the plan. There wasn’t enough time in my day to add these other beneficial types of athletic activity. MORE exercise wasn't a consideration, and not training wasn't either.
It was difficult to change my 40-plus years exercise habit of ‘just running’ to mixing-up different walk-training workouts with other sport activities including gym sessions. However, since doing so I have found unexpected reasons to be thankful for NOT running:
1. Stretching, mobility, and foam rolling work is easier with less stiffness.
2. Workouts with weights are more purposeful and rewarding.
3. Using gym equipment for aerobics has become fun.
4. My core strength has improved
5. I feel full-body tired after tough strength workouts but not all-out fatigued.
6. Swimming HIIT laps has arm-sculpting advantages.
7. My posture has improved.
8. Regular social ‘walk and talk’ sessions with family and friends are possible.
9. My hair doesn’t get so messed up when I exercise outdoors in poor weather conditions.
10. It’s easier to dress to be comfortable in harsh weather, for an outdoor session.
There are 10 reasons because 11 seemed odd, but there’s more to my gratitude than just this simple list.
This could be #11: I now notice people who walk regularly for exercise. At the gym, on the small indoor 13 laps/mile track and on the treadmill. On the street in my neighborhood. In competitions. I notice and admire walkers persevering in all kinds of environmental conditions, enjoying the ability to move purposefully and with vigor, just as runners do.
Although I still very much miss running, I’m thankful and happy to be moving in all new ways still in the community of athletes.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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