2012-03-13

The Strange Medicine That Is Running


Despite the rain clouds out there, Spring has apparently sprung in Ottawa. We set our clocks forward over the weekend, and the temperature is going to remain in the low-10s (mid-50s, Fahrenheit) for the remainder of the week. 

This bodes well for my favorite recreational passtime, which you all know to be running.

By necessity, and always despite my best intentions, I have to work out predominantly indoors during the long Ottawa winters. I did manage to get in quite a few runs this winter, as it was a relatively mild one, but for the most part my training consisted of exercise machines and plyometrics. I fared well, despite the indoor limitations, though, and have maintained a pretty good level of fitness. According to my electronic scale, I've put on about three pounds of muscle since December, while shaving off a pound or two of body fat. I have stuck to keeping myself lean, rather than doing another big bulk-up like I did in 2010. For me, the extra muscle weight is an impedance with respect to the things I like to do: hike, jump around, walk a lot, and most of all run.

Now that winter is finally wrapping up and the weather is getting warm, I have been reacquainting my body with running on something other than a treadmill. As we all know, it is easier to run when you have a mechanical advantage such as a treadmill than it is to strike out on your own two feet without the aid of a moving sidewalk. So my calves are a bit sore, my back muscles tightened up (but were thankfully relaxed - marriage is a wonderful thing), and interestingly, my abdominal muscles have been sore, too.

Despite the initial pain, within a few days of running outdoors consistently, I have felt my body return to a state I can only describe as normal. I feel like myself again.

Ultimately, I have no good explanation for the wonders that running seems to work on my body. It causes my blood sugar to plummet (in a good way), it strengthens my leg muscles such that they are suddenly capable of many more things, even things that have nothing to do with running, it normalizes my metabolism, and somehow gives me more energy despite the major increase in energy expended. It also seems to improve my immune system, reduce my overall stress level, calm my mind, improve my alertness, and increase my creative ability (for songs, stories, and such).

All I can really say about running is that it is a strange and wonderful medicine for my body. I won't venture to guess what impact running has on others' bodies, but I can only conjecture that if it has such a profound affect on both my body and my mind, surely this is also true of many other people than myself.

As a long-term goal, I have committed to one day moving to a place in the world where I can run outside all year long, and not have to compromise myself with indoor training or risky cold-weather running. For me, running is "it," running is the thing that brings it all together. Without it, I am less myself.

Please feel free to share your feelings about this wonderful sport in the comments section.

A Brief Look Ahead
Going forward, I'm going to do a slightly better job of tracking my running for the benefit of my readers. Using the excellent website MapMyRun.com, I'll be showcasing some of my usual runs and inviting local readers to feel free to join up with me for a run some time. Details on this feature to follow.