Saturday, September 5, 2009

Trail running

Suffice it to say that we had a lot of visitors, and I became obsessed with school. Oh yes, and my computer crashed. Moving on...

Jim and I recently decided to start trail running. I'd been inspired by a poster advertising a women's trail running group, which I of course saw about 2 months after the group started running together. Given that I'm nowhere near my normal fitness level, and that we've moved to a place where altitude is indeed a factor in oxygen-suckage while working out, I wasn't willing to drop in on this group and ask them to wait for my slow ass.

I wanted to bolster my cardio fitness in a way only running (and rowing) can, and the 'trail' part? Ah yes. Someone's fasciitis-prone feet appreciate not running on pavement. Besides, it's prettier.

We took ourselves down to Shevlin Park and (accidentally) ran such a long portion of the loop trail that it necessitated our walking part of the way back. What's this? Walking in a post about trail running, in Bend?!

Here's the thing. My fitness Weltanschauung has shifted greatly in the months since we've moved here. I was so aware of this the other morning, my feet and breathing on cruise control, listening to birdies and the creek below, and wait, what's that! A little bit of endorphin? Yum! We weren't out to beat anyone, achieve a particular heart rate, or push through the wall, man! We carried water, and when we got tired, we walked. I wasn't in desperate need of a nap the moment we finished. That little endorphin rush fueled the rest of my day, and I was perfectly pleased with myself.

Somewhere along the line it's occured to me that working out is about building up, not breaking down. (I'll leave the speculation about how I could have ever come to the opposite conclusion to another post.) During that run, I enjoyed the act of running. I felt strong. I can't wait to do it again.

Perhaps the magic is in this - we were mindful about our run. We didn't run too fast or too long, we chatted throughout, we adjusted our pace as necessary, we took care of our bodies in the aftermath with a good stretch and breakfast. We were fully within our bodies as we ran, and afterward.

Recently our local tai chi instructor provided some background on one of the many purposes of tai chi. Apparently the ancients considered that each of us has a given amount of chi, and that most anything we do reduces our chi. The focused, graceful movements of body and energy while practicing are intended to rebuild chi.

I don't know how those fellows would feel about running as a means of rebuilding chi, but I hope that they'd agree that any activity undertaken with a modicum of mindfulness can be nourishing, even if it requires an expenditure of sweat.

Perhaps many of our problems, personally and otherwise, arise from a failure to approach our lives mindfully. We run too fast, carry inadequate water, flail headlong into the bitterbrush...

I'm going to keep trail running as long as the weather holds out, increasing time and pace as it feels right. And perhaps, from this new vantage point, I'll again let the lessons of my workouts inform my life.

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