Well, sure doesn’t seem much like summer vacation. Maybe that’s because I’m not teaching these days, with the end of Spring Semester at Kent State last Friday. Maybe it’s because the temp dipped toward the low 30s here in NE Ohio last night. Or maybe it’s because I’ve managed to injure myself to the point where I’m going to have to stop running for awhile.
Here’s the short story. I’ve progressed from having an inflamed nerve in my foot (the result of increasing mileage prior to the Pittsburgh half marathon) to experiencing serious pain in my hip related to an ilotibial band problem (the result of trying to compensate for the inflamed nerve). Yikes.
So I’m going to have to stop, rest, ice, stretch — all the things you know you should do but don’t want to. And I’ve been fortunate, really. In nearly 30 years of 1,000-mile-a-year running I’ve never really been injured. Yeah, the common aches and pains that led one writer (sorry, can’t remember where I read this — but to avoid a Maureen Dowd shitstorm — I didn’t write it or think it originally) to call runners the healthiest group of sick people you’ll ever meet.
It’s also a wake-up call. The clock doesn’t stop for anybody — and 30 years of serious pavement pounding may be pushing my luck some. So I’m going to take the advice that fills the running journals and magazines — cross-train throughout the year, not just when you are injured. In other words, alternate running with biking, swimming and so one — and when possible take advantage of the elliptical machines that reduce the stress on the legs and joints.
Ah, the joy of getting older. But the goal is to keep at it — keep moving — as long as you can and for as far as you can go. I really am in this for the long run. So I was interested in an article in the June issue of Running Times, “Why Runners (Even Ultra-Loyal, Obsessed, Addicted Ones) Need Cross-training.” (Note: June issue not online as yet.)
“Cross-training is also of benefit for masters runners, and the higher up the age ladder you go, the more important it becomes. That’s because age diminishes the shock-absorbing characteristics of your muscles, says South African excercise physiologist Timothe Noakes. Age also slows muscular recovery after hard training, requiring even the most competitive runners to add extra recovery days to their schedules.”
“But a lot of runners resist it. In one of the more personal sections of his classic, Lore of Running, Noakes talks of coming to grips with the need to temper his running with cross-training as his body aged — his one battle with what he calls the ‘committed runners’ prejudice against any activity other than running.”
OK. OK. I’ll give it a try — and cross-training really is good advice for everyone. And this morning I went to the health club (when did we stop calling it a gym?) and spent 30 boring exhilarating minutes on the elliptical.
Not bad, actually. And who knows. Maybe, unlike Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be able to move around today without an ice pack strapped to my hip.