Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pain and Fear

What's trickiest about running is the mind. Thoughts can take us far or they can put us in a dungeon under lock and key. Mine is a heartless warden.

Last Saturday I went to the Armory. I planned on doing a a cardio session on the elliptical. Since I'd been having problems with my knee/hip/ankle, I thought the low impact elliptical would be kind to me. The work-out: progressively increase speed at one minute intervals for four minutes, then drop the pace for one, repeat five times for a twenty-five minute session.

What I love about this method is that at the top of the interval you can work your ass off knowing you're only holding that pace for one minute. When you release and slow the pace, your body cries out, begging you to go faster, but you tell it no, not now. Slow, then fast, then slow. So good. When you're done, you're drenched and tired. It's a very efficient way to develop stamina.

After three weeks of not exercising (I'm not counting the broomball games or the bike rides to the co-op) it felt good to be moving. The elliptical and I, we were going places - if only on loops on the screen. When my time was up I had to talk myself out of staying for an additional interval or two.

When the work-out summary popped up on the screen, it showed my average pace as 8:24. My last recorded pace was 13:27. Maybe I've been imagining I'm slow! Maybe I need to start running faster. I was having all kinds of lightning fast races in my head. Medals! Trophies! Then the morning after came.

I got out of bed at 5:30am on Sunday, ready to hit the Gridiron Race in Central Park and run on the lane for the Saints (Go Saints!), only to realize I couldn't walk. My calves were solid knots of twisted metal and refused to take a step forward, much less take me to a NYRR's race.

Pain plays tricks on the mind. Am I sore, or am I injured?

I'm injured. This feels like an injury. I must have pulled my calves. This will take six weeks to heal. I need to be careful not to re-injure it when I when I get back. Otherwise I'll get a tear. I'm probably going to hurt them again. I'm never going to be able to run - I'll never exercise again. I won't be able to do anything fun. I'm going to turn into a cranky old hag that nobody wants to spend any time with. I'm going to die without having had sex again!

Please don't ask me to give you any more details about how my mind gets there, but given any remotely scary or unfortunate idea, you can count on my mind jumping to that conclusion.

Maybe I should try stretching and being good to my calves before I panic about the future.


  1. Ah, flashbacks...

    Last winter I felt like I got shot in my right calf while playing broomball (which in Prospect may still be within the realm of possibility), and I hobbled around on one leg until we cleared the ball out of our defensive zone. Missed three weeks with what was diagnosed as a bad strain. I still get knots there on occasion, but it taught me a valuable lesson about stretching.

    It may be entirely a placebo effect, but my physical therapist suggested wearing a neoprene sleeve on my calf, and since I started wearing it I haven't had any problems.

  2. I've seen runners wearing those sleeves! I thought it was just for warmth.

    Glad to hear you aren't having problems with your calf anymore, Don.