Listen to your body

I started running 15 years ago because I hated my body. I was overweight and sluggish, and basically had 0 internal confidence, even though I did a great job of exuding major external confidence (which I realize is an important life skill).

I kept up my running for the next 15 years (passively, but consistently) because it became a drug for me. Slowly, running started becoming less about my body, and more about who I was within the body. I wasn’t doing it anymore because I felt “fat”. I was running because I started having that need in me to workout, without which I felt sluggish and incomplete. Being active became a part of my identity that I truly enjoyed.

At the expense of sounding hippie (is that PC?), I’m gonna say this – when I run, I get in touch with my true self. I’m not a long distance runner by any means, at least not anymore. I realize that’s a subjective statement. Sometimes all I do is a mile or two, especially lately. But the amount of clarity those two miles give me is hard to express.

When I injured my neck in 2014, it crushed me when I realized running was causing me pain, and I would have to give it up. At this point, we will not go into the details of the metal spiral that not being able to be active send me into, but to give you an idea of the struggle, and how it affected my work, workouts and all aspects of my life, here are a couple of excerpts from my journal from the time.

23rd Feb, 2016

My day started by catching the 6:38am train to Penn. I was back home at 7pm. I was in pain all day. Right arm feels awkward. I was dejected. Reading unsuccessful stories of ACDF surgery while on the train made me sad.

I'm happy to be alive! And functional!
29th Mar, 2017

My hands, which ones moved without a second thought feels heavy as I type to maintain my erstwhile 89 wpm momentum. My breath catches in my throat as I pretend not to notice. I will my hands to move. Letter after letter I type. Work feels like a chore now, I think as I readjust my body so that

Suffice to say it affected relationships. Yet sometimes I wonder if perhaps my injuries were caused by the stress from said relationships. These are unanswered questions. The body works the way it does. The best you can do is respect it. And listen to it.

During this time, I substituted running with walking, which over the years turned into what some might call “endurance hiking”, but what folks who actually do endurance hiking might call “a walk in the park”. Again. Subjective.

Please do not make the mistake of crediting me and thinking that my hiking was engineered by yours truly in any way in order to fix my injuries. I did not hike thinking that it will help me with my injuries one day.

I hiked because I needed a release; I wanted to feel exhausted at the end of it so that I would have no time to think. Or perhaps I did engineer it after all. I might have engineered it so that there would be no thoughts at the end of a long exhausting hike!

Long story short, over the course of the years, with the help of said endurance hiking, peppered with the constant background chime of well intentioned people saying I should lay in bed and be inactive for the remainder of my life, I slowly strengthened my neck enough to where I got back to running longer than a mile.

I remember doing a 6 mile run in 2019 and feeling surprised that my neck didn’t feel quite as janky as I would have expected it to feel*.

Now that I’ve hyped up running so much, let’s switch gears a bit. Running hasn’t been doing it for me lately. I’ve been feeling a bit like I’m in a rut. Sure, I still enjoy my occasional runs, but somehow I feel like I’m missing something.

One of the changes I made in order to fix this is to incorporate more weights into my workouts, thanks to my awesome coach. Even though I’m not completely new to lifting, whatever I used to do was extremely limited. Strenght training was more of a supplement to my running, vs now I’m kinda actually focused on it.

Right off the bat, the biggest difference I’ve been noticing (don’t laugh) is that when you’re out on a run, you literally have to get back home. This means you either walk home, which would take longer, or you run home, which is quicker. This means it’s harder to quit when you’re out on a run! The issue with more “home/gym” based workouts is that… you can quit whenever you want! Because… the couch is right there… It’s a mental shift I’m still getting used to.

Another big difference is that running keeps getting better the longer you go. The first half mile is blah, but it only gets better from there! Whereas with strength training, I’m finding that I’m more enthused during the earlier parts of my workout where I feel rawwwrrrr, but as I keep doing additional sets, my enthusiasm wanes.

So right now I’m working on making the last few sets as enjoyable as the final mile. Got tips?

As for the point of this blog – well I’ve been feeling a bit stressed lately. I didn’t realize I was stressed, but my neck has been bothering me. Sure, it could be the herniated discs. But I know my body enough to know that I must be stressed. And I started thinking about what truly helps me relieve stress. And I realize I haven’t been running as much. Maybe I should listen to my body.

*My neck is still janky most of the time and it’s a constant battle between me and my neck, and I have my off days, especially on days where im subconsciously stressed, like today, but I make sure I always win in the end.