Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Live All the Way

A sure indicator that I train too much is when I start having dreams about training and what I need to do when my alarm goes off at 6 am. Early yesterday morning, I could hear the rain pounding on the air conditioner in my window… subconsciously. It infiltrated my dreams, which I somewhat remembered upon waking – an occurrence that is very rare for me. All I remember is that in my dreams it was raining, and I was getting ready for my usual Monday morning run around the loop in Central Park. But since it was raining, I was trying to decide if I should run, bike in the house on my trainer or go to the pool. There were other things going on in the dream, which I do not remember, but I made my decision by the intensity of the rhythm of the rain on the air conditioner. If it was sporadic and faint, then it was probably still decent enough to run in. If it was fast and consistent, then maybe it was better to go to the pool. In deciding to go to the pool, however, I had to go over in my mind how I was going to alter my training this week to compensate for the change. When I woke up to the sound of rain, I decided that it was easier for me to just run outside, but it was almost as if the decision was already made because I had made it in my sleep. Weird.

The irony behind my decision to run yesterday morning in the rain is that anytime the weather is unfavorable, I have a debate in my head between whether to go right then and just deal with it or wait until later in hopes that the weather will improve. Notice that not going at all isn’t even one of the options. I generally opt for the “right then” choice because I figure that by waiting I am risking that the weather will get worse. The times that I have waited until later the weather has gotten worse. But ironically, when I choose to go with “right then” the weather usually improves just about the time I finish running. The end result is that it doesn’t really matter when I choose to go because the weather is going to be bad either way, so it is better for me to just do it in the morning and get it over with. Yesterday morning was no exception. I started running and it was steadily raining. It rained the entire time I was running, and I was soaked to the bone, but just as I was about 2 blocks from home, the rain ceased. Just my luck.

Some people say I run/train too much. I say that it is all relative. Compared to a professional athlete, I am doing the bare minimum, but compared to a couch potato, I am “hard core.” Well, I don’t think I train too much these days. Sure, I get up without fail six days a week and hit the pavement running, go to the pool or ride my bike, but at least I am not at the point where I am doing it twice a day… at least not right now. And really for my own sanity and for the benefit of anyone who comes in contact with me throughout the day, it is just better that I do it. Why? Because I am downright cranky when I don’t… worse than when I don’t get enough sleep or when I am hungry. Put all three together, and you will most likely see a side of me you didn’t even know could exist. It isn’t pretty.

But what is the point of it all, you ask. Most people would say a decent trip to the gym would suffice, so why run 10 miles in the rain or ride 60 miles on my bike? My answer to that is three fold – habit, addiction to endorphins and a need to see how far I can push my body. I started running when I was nine almost 20 years ago. I have been running consistently since I was a freshman in high school almost 14 years ago. That means three to four times a week, every week. If I averaged 25 miles a week for the past 14 years, I will have run 18,200 miles. That’s a lot of miles. A lot of people run for exercise, which is great, and that is definitely one of the reasons I run, but it isn’t the only reason. It’s the time of day when I am completely alone with my thoughts and with my world. It’s usually early morning, so it’s quiet and peaceful. I often see the sun rise and am the first to run through the night’s snowfall. There are other people running at the same time, but I am lost in my own world, alone. It’s the most refreshing and invigorating hour of my day despite the fatigue it may cause later and despite how difficult it is to get up sometimes. I miss it when I don’t get up and will usually curse myself for the rest of the day. I have become so accustomed to doing it, to waking up to that endorphin injection, that I can’t live without it. Running is part of my identity… part of my soul.

I’m not sure exactly how or why I feel this need to push myself beyond normal parameters. Perhaps the over-achiever chip has always been in my brain, so I was just programmed to be that way. When it comes to endurance sports, it’s a matter of proving to myself that I am capable of doing something most people would consider humanly impossible if not insane. I would probably need to go to therapy to discover the real underlying motives for this innate need to challenge myself, but as far as I can tell it’s probably just a control issue. There is an inexplicable sense of euphoria associated with persevering through miles, pain and then eventual triumph. The lingering euphoria has a way of erasing the memory of pain and instills a desire to obtain a more constant sense of that natural high. So it is a pursuit and a journey that really has no end because the sense of satisfaction becomes greater and often more difficult to achieve with each glowing triumph.

So when people say I train to much, I say that it’s all relative and I am really just feeding my soul. If I starved my soul I would just be a shell of a person (and I would be very cranky), which is no way to embrace life. I’m alive. That’s a miracle and a gift, so being just a shell isn’t an option. The only option is to live all the way, every day.


TheWooll said...

So, if people say I lift too much, I should just say I'm feeding my soul. Good answer. Baby, never stop running, keep it moving, push it along.

Stephen said...

thewooll? what kind of name is that, anyway?

running is bad.

Machu Picchu said...

does this go for sleeping too much too? Seems to feed my soul.

TheWooll said...

Stephen, french right? Don't worry, TheWooll loves you, it must be hard being a foreigner, so far from home. Mais, ne me d├ętestes pas parce que je suis beau.

nikki said...

I suppose you could say that anything feeds your soul and really you are the only one who can determine that, but I think there is a point that it goes beyond being healthy. I admit that there are times when I think I train too much.

JD: there is a point of lifting too much even if it does feed your soul. Usually that comes when your veins start popping out of your neck, you start grunting a lot and your body looks inflated. Contrary to popular belief, most women do not find this attractive.

Machu: Same for sleeping. Sleeping all day is a waste of a lifetime.

Stephen: Running is not bad. You are just jealous because you know I can run circles around you and never get caught. Don't be a hater.

petey said...

i can speak for stephen cause we share blood.
a) he isn't french, but rather danish and
2) we don't hate others for being beautiful

but understand the sentiments you stated... and would offer that same advice to all others who aren't so beau.

Stephen said...

petey: do you think we could be considered life partners?