Week 1: Zen and Shin Stress

In the first week of this year, I strove to be more quiet, simple and meditative. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I’m happy with some changes I’ve started. I reduced time spent outside and on Facebook and the Web. I read more fiction, less news and gossip. I devoted more time to my breathing meditation, the Pentagram, Vipassana walking, and other spiritual exercises. I talked less to people outside my immediate family. I talked less at home too. I threw away a lot of clutter. I rearranged some furniture. I changed all the curtains. I cleaned.  I cut my short hair even shorter.

And I didn’t run in the first seven (!!!) days of the year. Considering how running-crazy I was in the previous month, this was a major thing.

runkeeper dec-jan

As a result, my January mileage is pitifully small compared to my December total. (But this month has just started, so I can definitely add more kms in the next weeks.)

I did go out to run on January 5, but it turned out quite differently from what I had planned. At around 5 am, I went outside with my running shoes on and my new water bottle. I walked from our house, then jogged a bit, as was my habit. But before I could even complete 1 km, my shins started to feel like heavy irons. They made even slow running very difficult. There too was a slight pain on the top part of my feet. I had to stop running and walk for a few minutes. I tried stretching a bit, and loosened my shoelaces. Then I started jogging again, but with the same result. After about 20 minutes of this, I decided to give it a rest.

If this happened last month, I would have panicked. I would have worried that this might be an injury that would spell disaster for my February full marathon.

But I didn’t become upset. Instead, I thought I’d listen to my heavy shins, “honor” them, and let them be. Then I focused on my breathing, and gave thanks that I could breathe. I also attuned to my walking stride, and gave thanks that I could walk. I walked on, and the sun came out. People started to fill the streets. I watched and listened. The increasing activity was almost palpable, like the city was literally waking up and getting on its feet. The sun on my skin also felt warmer, and I headed home happy.

I ran again yesterday, this time with more success. I went to UP after seeing the girls off to school. (It was their first day back, and so there was some drama and anxiety before they unwillingly left home.)

At the UP Oval, I first did a 10-minute warmup jog, then proceeded to do 4:1 run-walk intervals. Alas, the same heavy-legs syndrome reappeared! I found it quite hard to run, even when going slow. Some walking also felt difficult. Both my legs felt really heavy and tired, and after dragging them around for about 30 minutes, I thought that was enough. I wasn’t exactly happy, but I was thankful that at least I completed a half-hour workout. That’s good enough to get started, I thought. I could come back again, no worries.

As I was doing my warm-down walk, I felt the urge to run again, just to see if my legs could manage it. Surprisingly, the heaviness was gone this time. And so I continued running around the Oval, until I finished another half-hour of straight running. My legs felt fine, apart from the normal fatigue from the run. Now, I was really happy.

When I got home, I read up on this running problem, and found out it is quite common. It’s been called “heavy-legs syndrome” and is attributed to these possible causes:

  • over-training
  • insufficient rest
  • poor nutrition
  • improper shoes
  • menstrual-period-related (for women)

The problem doesn’t seem to be as serious as shin splints or ITBS, thank goodness. Usually, resting and going more slowly will take care of it.

So, it’s been an interesting start to the new year. I wonder how my future runs will be. I wonder what my TBR Dream Marathon will turn out to be like. There’s a lot in store in the coming weeks, but right now, I’m happy where I am. Right here, right now. I am present in the Present, and I am savoring the moments.