Crash

Over the last year, I’ve test marketed my book, Fitness Intuition in a self-published edition, and based on the feedback I’ve received from readers, I’ve cut 27 chapters.

The consensus of opinion seemed to be that the first 10 chapters were fine, but the book was too long, given the nature of the contents. Too much about relatively minor issues of the search for the joy through running.

The upside is that, on days when I’m feeling fried and uninspired, I can now dig into the remainder bin and retrieve something that, though not ideal for the book, is pretty appropriate for the blog. To those who’ve read the long version – I apologize. I’ll try not to do this more often than every other week. Here goes …

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Crash

After the first month running with a heart monitor, I was feeling so fit and healthy that I began to increase my mileage.

Inspired by former marathon world record holder Ingrid Kristiansen, who believes that limiting long runs to two hours delivers maximum endurance benefits with minimal risk of overtraining, I began running 2 to 2 1/2 hours four times a week, for a total of 50-55 miles.

This was quite an increase, and as my mileage soared, my knee protested. But I soldiered on, hoping the knee would adjust and heal. But this proved to be wishful thinking.

Halfway through a 2 1/2-hour run, the knee began to hurt bad. I hoped that by running on the soft dirt trail by the railroad tracks, I could nurse the knee home. But an angry railroad guard chased me off the tracks, and I was forced to run the last four miles on pavement. And that’s when it all went downhill. (I could have walked, but that would be have been unmanly.)

Where there had been knee pain, now there was pain in my quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, and Achilles. I was hobbling, my body sending a message: “If you refuse to take care of that knee, I will make you stop!”

From books by Bonnie Prudden, a sports rehab pioneer, I had learned that the body “hardens” around an injury, creating an inflexible area in order to prevent the limb from being damaged further. When I ignored my body’s signals and continued to abuse the knee, the body’s higher wisdom simply shut down the leg from hip to toe.

I had violated the first law of training: “Make haste slowly.” Nature abhors sudden leaps, and in sports training, it abhors them with a vengeance. Healing the knee took six months, during which I could only run “uphill” on the treadmill at the gym.

How can I experience the inner joys of running, unless I’m willing to obey its outward laws? My error lay in following my own “wants” instead of the body’s impersonal wisdom.

During one of the last runs before the leg gave out, I noticed that my thoughts were negative and crabby, a clear sign of overtraining. My body was disintegrating, my fitness had shifted into reverse, and my negative mood reflected the contractive trend.

I can reduce all of my experiences as a runner to a simple formula: There are two kinds of running: expansive and contractive. When I run contractively, I reap confusion, uncertainty, discontent, obstacles, and pain; but when I run expansively, I enjoy health and inner harmony. “Expansion” and “contraction” may seem like philosophical abstractions, but the results of contractive running are only too painfully real.

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