A few weeks ago, I had mused about writing my own book about running while writing what I thought of the book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. I certainly have enough stories for one, and hope to still have enough for one going forward as I begin a new phase of my distance running with a new style of running. However, I’m not sure where it’d all fit into my writing and/or life plans, this running book I’m thinking about. To test those waters then, and/or perhaps just to make notes in case I write one, I will be dropping the occasional running vignette for my writings on this blog. Here’s the first one.
If you run regularly, with dedicated efforts on different workout types rather than just running for general health, enjoyment, or even just putting in the mileage, you’ll find that your body rarely feels ideal. That is, there’s not a lot of times during the year when something in your body isn’t sore, achy, or hopefully, hurting from pain, from your last few workouts. This is true of any form of exercise people take on at a level or more above “weekend warrior”, not just running, of course. If you consistently train most of the year, it’s probably not atypical that every now and then, if not more often, you forget what your body is supposed to feel like completely “pain” free, even if “pain” is just a little stiffness and nothing severe. Even then, it’d probably feel strange to be pain free because that is not your norm. And perhaps even stranger, when you get out to exercise again, you don’t feel like yourself because you have rarely tapered much to be in such fine shape, or you’ve rested too much and you’ll feel sluggish and/or uncoordinated, depending on the sport, back out at it again. Finally, if you’ve been at the sport long enough, you may have chronic injuries where you may never know what “normal” feels like again, where you are “pain” free.
It’s all a little strange, and daunting. Strange on the practical side of everyday applications, and daunting on the long-term, life impact, side of things. The latter isn’t hard to imagine, but the former may be for those who don’t train this hard.
If you don’t fully know how you’re supposed to be feeling in terms of “fine”, then how do you figure that out for your exercise plan for the day, or session if you were only going to deal with it at the time of the workout? How do you know what you can expect if you didn’t know what sort of ceiling, or maximum effort, you can expect of your tired legs from the long run yesterday or two days ago? How do you know what ceiling can be fair to expect from fatigue from the previous workout? For that, you have to rely on memory, of similar feelings in the past, and what you got out of it, but even that can be spotty. As such, often, all you can do is test yourself to see where you can get to that day, and decide when you hit some sort of first barrier, whether that is the ultimate barrier, or one you can get over. The key thing is that you don’t predetermine things for yourself, even if you should acknowledge to yourself your situation. You don’t get better by pushing harder and past certain barriers, at times, but you also get injured doing the same thing, so it’s a fine balance that may be best navigated with experience.
Still, I find it a strange feeling that rarely, throughout the year, when I’m relaxed lying down, at peace resting, that I am “pain” free and can recognize for myself that, ah, so this is how I should normally feel. It’s not always as good a feeling as that of soreness, aches, and possibly even pain, masked by endorphins like after a race or even a good workout effort, but the pain free “normal” is nice in its own way. But then I tell myself that if I didn’t work as hard at my exercising, that my “normal” probably wouldn’t feel as good, simply because I’d be in less fit shape and/or worse health… though I have doubts if I would need to train as hard as I do. And I’d be just as lost as ever at trying to determine how I should be feeling again.