Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Huffing and Puffing: Episode 7: Failing Forward

As published at News957.com:

"Is it the shoes?" asked Spike Lee in a 1991 TV advertising campaign for Nike Air Jordan shoes. "It's gotta be the shoes!"

In my case, I've learned, it's not the shoes. I mean, the shoes are nice, but they are clearly not the solution to my problems.

A friendly and startlingly laid-back man from Aerobics First outfitted me with a new pair of Brooks Dyad shoes at the deep-discount clearance sale at the Halifax Forum's multipurpose centre. The price was right - $150 sticker, $60 marked down. They fit. They look sharp. They're very comfortable. But there's more to running the right way than choosing the right shoes.

I had high hopes for the shoes after weeks of shin and knee pain. Running in the new shoes did not fix anything, as far as I can tell. My shin muscles still hurt, and now my shin bones are sore right in the middle, like I'd done a three-quarter speed roundhouse kick to a telephone pole.




Once again, that pain got in the way of my weekly exercise homework. I wanted to push myself hard, but my tibialis anterior muscle felt like an over-inflated balloon strapped to my leg. Program leader Jayne Norrie got in touch by e-mail during the week and suggested I tone down the exercise a bit so I can finish strong.

At this point, I just want to finish.

I'm really starting to think that I'm not built for running. I imagine runners as tall, sleek, thin, stick-like. They check their watch and launch off into a machine-like pace. Their feet don't go SMACK SMACK SMACK when they run. When they're done, they go "whew" and smile and say "good job." They don't bend over at the waist, dripping with flop sweat, huffing and puffing and groaning.

Am I being a bit too hard on myself? Or, as I imagine, am I being too hard on my body? I'm still between 235 and 240 pounds, on a 5'7" frame, and what I can remember from high school physics suggests that I'm exerting intense forces on my lower body every time I take a step. I feel like I'm abusing parts of my body while I'm making other parts healthier.

But what I came to realize this week is that quitting smoking would probably be the single biggest thing I could do to make things better. Exercising more during the week didn't do it. New shoes didn't do it. Eating before going out didn't.

My goals this week were two-fold: first, skip my usual two cigarettes before the Saturday exercise meeting, and second, go an entire weekday without smoking.

The first goal was half-way completed. I skipped the get-out-of-bed smoke, but had one when I got to the meeting at Saint Mary's University. As I inhaled, I felt what energy I had that morning drain from my body. I was expecting it to be a pick-up, but instead it was a huge bring-down. So, that lesson was learned: even a stimulant can suck the energy out of you.

On the second goal, the less said the better. Fail fail fail. Fail. FAIL. I put it off and put it off, eventually picking Friday as the go-day. I skipped my morning cigarette, but gave up while I was waiting for an appraisal on what was supposed to be a minor car repair. ($1300 to fix a scratch? Are you serious?)

Add it all up, and I'm feeling like a failure this week.

Now, I've failed at plenty of things in life. In doing so, I've learned that failure is only absolute if you give up trying. I haven't given up trying. I haven't really made a concerted effort to quit smoking. I blew my first two goals the first time, but as long as I learn from these failures, I can continue moving forward.

Failing forward. I am flawed but self-correcting.

The 5km Lung Run with the rest of the Bad Ashes team is now just weeks away. Over the next week, I'll continue with the exercise and maybe even try cutting down on the smoking. Next week's episode will feature some tobacco cessation talk from the Learn To Run group's leader.

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2 comments:

  1. my dear friend, I am proud of you for continuing to work towards your goals...have I told you lately that you're an inspiration to me? :) It is disappointing to not reach a goal, but at least the second/third/nth time around you'll have a little more experience to nudge you closer and closer to your goal.

    I think I'm not built for running either, my feet do the slap slap slap thing. (my belly dance teacher once likened me to a stampeding elephant. I inferred that she meant I'm not very light on my feet) but I try to run on the treadmill anyway. My lungs are holding me back from greater progress...I sincerely believe that incorporating weight training has really helped build up the stabilizing muscles in my legs. For all of the foot problems I've had, I'm surprised and delighted that my legs and feet feel so good when I run.

    Keep at it, buggy, good luck Saturday!

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  2. Thanks, buggy. I agree, weight training can help with those supporting muscles. I actually read a report two weeks ago that said strengthening hip muscles can improve knee pain in runners, so it's not even always the obvious stuff. And thank you for the sponsorship! I'll keep you up to date!

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