I have a love/hate relationship with running. And there is a constant debate in my family about whether I should be doing it.
Basically everyone (other than me) thinks I should quit.
I love the way I feel after running. It is truly like no other form of exercise for me. It produces in me a feeling of accomplishment and an endorphin high.
There is nothing that makes me feel as in-touch with and aware of my body. It is as if, when running, I can scan my body and determine what is working and what isn’t working; whether I have lost or gained weight; I can find new muscle tone or notice deterioration.
My brain works more clearly while running. When I was in law school and was studying and got stuck on an issue, I would go for a run. Much more often than not, I could work out the problem in my mind while running. The same holds true of problems that I encounter now.
And yet, running hurts more and more as I get older. I think some people are born to run. I am not. It makes me stiff; my hips hurt; sometimes my knees hurt.
My chiropractor told me to stop running. The orthopedic surgeon told me to stop running.
It really has to make you think when someone who would financially benefit from your pain and injuries tells you to stop doing something because it is causing pain and injuries.
Over the past year and a half my hip pain, while running and then after the run, has increased dramatically. I had an MRI and the orthopedic surgeon could not find any bone or joint damage. He told me that my options were to get a full scan (for which I would have to go under anesthesia) or get a steroid shot in my hip every six months. Neither of those options appealed to me, so I stopped running.
During my sabbatical from running, I decided to educate myself on running issues and how to potentially address them.
A big movement right now in the running world is barefoot running or running with five-fingered shoes. The bible for this philosophy is Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which I read. It was a very interesting read, and suggests that the body is most capable of running barefoot. The corollary is that many of our running injuries are due to these high-priced running shoes that we all buy (or at least that I have bought).
This idea resonated with me as it seemed that my hip pain started when I changed my running shoe (my local running store told me that my foot had gotten stronger and that I needed a different type of support). When my hip pain subsided, I decided to try running with the five-fingered shoes, which are one step above running barefoot.
(Attractive, eh? I had to promise my family that I would never wear them in public.)
I started running again, wearing these shoes, and on the treadmill. I greatly decreased my speed; different muscles are brought into play with the minimalist running shoe, and one needs to build those muscles slowly to avoid other injuries. I also limited my distances and the number of days that I ran.
Another popular practice of runners right now is to use the Galloway method of alternating running and walking. Last weekend while at a girls getaway on Sea Island, I ran with a friend using the Galloway method. We ran for two minutes and then walked for one; her watch dutifully kept track and beeped when we were to change. Before I knew it, we had covered six miles at just over a nine-minute mile pace.
I am thrilled to have running in my life again with less pain, but I am also much more conscious of its impact.
Is running hard on your body? Absolutely, without question. However, I have found with compromise (something I might not have done when I was younger), one can reduce the potentially jarring effects on the body. This may not be necessary for all. At my age, it became necessary if I wanted to continue to run.