It has been about eight weeks since I began running after an equally long period of rest and rehabilitation for my sacral stress fracture. I am going very slow and keeping my mileage low (three or four miles four times a week). It is hard to be so far behind where I think my fitness should be, based on past experience, but I try to set aside time on each run for gratitude that my body is growing strong again. Those two months without running in the middle of the winter were incredibly hard for me. I rely on running for a daily boost of happiness, especially in the middle of the cold darkness of winter. Writing here was an enormous help, though. This blog gave me the space to work through many of the challenges I faced as I learned how to rest. I still am figuring out how to maintain balance with running. Now that the initial thrill of returning to my sport is over (in those first few days even five minutes of running was exhilarating), I feel the pull to run longer, run harder. I have started going through the notebook I kept during my injury to remind myself why balance is important. I do not want to reinjure myself and I also want running to become just one of many activities I do to maintain happiness. Yoga, hiking, biking -all practices which brought me joy when running was impossible. I do not want these newfound passions to be subsumed by running. Day by day right now.
I have signed up to run an Earth Day 10K this Sunday at the Morton Arboretum. This will be the longest I have gone since returning to running. I am excited to take part in the race experience, although I have to constantly remind myself it will be more like a long run with lots of other people than a typical-for-me race. I want to enjoy the process of sharing a run with strangers and am going to do my best not to become caught up in my competitive drive.
And now, for the weekly reading.
Banana bread muffin tops: These are the most delicious snacks. I haven’t made them in a while, but I think I will make time to bake a batch for a post-race treat on Sunday. My one warning: sometimes the dough doesn’t make it from the bowl to the baking tray; my pesky mouth has a habit of getting in the way. Super tasty. Super easy. Highly recommend.
How runners get high: Part of the allure of running is the high that comes after a few miles on the roads or trails. The high can make long runs feel like nothing, and can create a powerful feeling of flow between mind and body. This high, I suspect, is part of the reason I have found running so difficult to moderate: I like the feeling of total bliss that comes after a long run or a hard workout. A study published last fall in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that this high might not come from endorphins, as commonly believed, by from endocannabinoids (related to the substance released by marijuana). Endocannabinoids are smaller than endorphins, and more easily attach to brain receptors. After a run, mice with blocked endorphin receptors were relaxed, while those with blocked endocannabinoid receptors remained in an anxious state. It makes me wonder if other forms of exercise have a similar effect on the brain, or if the high is isolated in running.
The anatomy of a heroin relapse: Speaking of highs. This is a beautifully written essay by Tony O’Neill about the unintended consequences of trauma and addiction. Ten years into sobriety, the author and his daughter were hit by a car as they crossed the street. The horror of almost losing his young daughter was an unprecedented emotional stress and, without thinking, he slipped back into old patterns. O’Neill spares the reader the graphic details of his relapse but does delve into the psychological pain he felt and why this led him back to heroin. Content aside, it is a powerful piece of writing. Worth reading for anyone interested in addiction or personal essays.
Moby on veganism: On a brighter note, here is an excellent interview in Food & Wine with Moby. The musician has been vegan since 1987, long before the word was popular. He talks about the evolution of vegan food and animal activism over the past three decades, and expresses his belief that predominant veganism is the inevitable movement of dietary patterns worldwide. I especially enjoy his description of the mental shift that took place for him after becoming vegetarian three years before cutting out all animal products: he likens it to a chiropractic adjustment for his mind. His whole worldview shifted and expanded in ways he could not have previously imagined. I felt a similar shift when I became vegan just over two years ago. Becoming more conscious about my food made me more compassionate toward all creatures. I am more forgiving, more open in my line of thought. I spend more time considering the connection between myself and the natural world, and this makes me more mindful about the consumer choices I make and also about how I treat people. We are all here to live; it is not my job to posit one life (human or non) over any other.
Hospitals face ad blitz over Chick-fil-A: Last year, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine launched a campaign to remove unhealthy food from hospital cafeterias. Hospitals are supposed to be places of health and wellness, and it is absurd that the food served does not always support this mission. Not only does including fast food as an option send a confusing message to patients and their families who may be at the hospital for diseases related to obesity, heart disease, diabetes (all of which are exacerbated by fast food) but creates an unhealthy food environment for doctors and nurses who (due to overbooked work schedules that do not leave much time for meal prep) may not have any other easy food options themselves. I hope the PCRM continues their efforts to spread good nutrition to hospitals around the country.
That’s it for this week. Have a happy Earth Day! And a wonderful weekend.