Sunday, June 22, 2014

Struggling for Balance

                I have decided to back out of the US Mountain Running Team Qualifiers this year. It was a tough decision to accept but one that must be done. For those that don’t know, I’m chasing my dreams and one of those is making the US Mountain Running Team and representing my country. The first half of this year has been challenging both mentally and physically for me. Balancing training, injuries, school, work, and family issues, I’ve been left stressed and exhausted, feeling as if I’m hanging on a weak branch above turbid waters. Despite all the setbacks, I’ve still managed to get some mediocre training in and keep my win streak alive. Since Hell’s Hills, I have only run two miles. Instead, I have been spending a lot of time pool running, swimming, and biking; accumulating around six hours of cardiovascular exercise and two to three hours of core, strength, and balancing workouts each week to maintain fitness. I’ve also noticed a change in my mental attitude towards running. I firmly believe that if something is worth doing it is worth doing correctly and giving it everything you have. However, you must find a healthy balance so that you can enjoy life, and this is where I tend to struggle. I love running, training, racing fast and hard, but more often than not I allow it to consume every aspect of my life. This leads to me missing out on many things and strains my relationships with others. Around this time last year I embarked on a journey, to see how far and fast my legs could take me. While, I have many goals associated with this journey, I must learn that these goals are not the important part but that the journey itself is what will truly be remembered and failing to do so by focusing solely on race times and finishes will ultimately leave me hollow and regretful.

                So, why have I been taking time off? For the past two years, I have been plagued with shin pain only on my right leg. For the longest time I suspected the causes to be poor form and biomechanics, over-training, lack of rest, and poor shoe choices. However, I have recently become more aware of what I do outside of running and training. I have noticed poor posture, too much sitting, and leg pain while driving. On my daily commute to Baton Rouge, I finally realized how much strain driving was putting on my right shin. For the past few months it has especially hurt when driving, so I decided to do a little research. Turns out I’m not the only person with this problem as driving for prolonged periods of time (my commute is approximately two hours daily, minimum of five times a week) can cause enough pressure to separate your shin muscles from the bone thus causing shin splints. Now, I’m not saying this is the total cause but I believe that in combination with excessive training my leg has just never been able to recover. If it were my shoes or excessive mileage I should experience pain in both legs but in the past two years regardless of weekly mileage or shoe type, I have never experienced any pain in my left shin. Another reason is that in the past three weeks of no running, I should expect to see improvement in the injured area, but unfortunately my shin hasn’t improved; fortunately, the tender spots on my tibia bone have disappeared completely. The reason I decided to forgo USMRT this year was primarily because I felt this injury was preventing me from running the weekly mileage I felt necessary to compete at a top level. Each month, I have had to spend three weeks running low mileage with pool workouts in place of tough interval sessions in order to get one decent week of training in.

                So where is my running future heading now? As mentioned earlier, my views towards training are beginning to change. I have realized over these few weeks that there is more to life than being able to run really fast or far but instead focusing on overall athleticism. I’d like to be able to swim, climb, bike, paddle, and run as long as I would like any given day. Ultimately, my journey is about adventure, but why limit my adventures to just running when I can experience so much more that life and nature has to offer. Realizing this, I now understand that I’m not just in love with running but with movement and this can be expressed just as beautifully by more than just running. I got hooked on running because it is the simplest and most liberating of all forms of movement requiring little to no gear. I will still keep running as the primary focus but will also train for overall athleticism so that when any chance arises to go on an adventure I will be able to thoroughly enjoy it by moving to the best of my abilities and perhaps pushing my limits. While, I still have some fast running time goals I would like to achieve, I’m currently feeling the urge to start running more ultra-distances. I will never give up running because I love it and it makes me a better person. I must focus on finding a healthy balance though so I can enjoy more of what life has to offer. In the end, just enjoy your ability to be able to move, many don't have or lost that ability, so cherish it!

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