Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Caught in the Rip Tide of Fitness and Running

Growing up in WV, the ocean seemed like it was an entire world away and was mostly unimaginable.  I know a very little about the ocean, most of my knowledge has come from books or TV.  I can tell you that if it weren't for the old TV show Simon & Simon that I wouldn't have heard of Rip Tides or Ebb Tides until well into my adult life.  So, I am no expert about the sea in the slightest.  However, I recently moved into a new office where nature and weather are a large focus and on one of my filing cabinets was a sticker warning of the dangers of Rip Currents (apparently the term "Rip Tide" is a misnomer, but I think it sound better, so I am sticking with it).  Well, I've stopped to take a look at this things on many occasion, not really for any reason other than the fact that it was there.  But, yesterday, as I was changing for my lunch time run, I began to think about the idea of Rip Currents and fitness.  My buddy, Hank at The Business of Losing Weight, put up a post about his recent struggles with the scales that really got my noodle working about the concept of escaping from a Rip Current might apply to the struggles of fitness and running. 

My love for running grew over time from my efforts to lose weight.  I began to workout at first to lose weight and this blog originally was a place for me to document my workouts in detail (Sorry, ZZZZZzzzzzzz).  When I began working out, everything went swimmingly.  Life was a real . . . Beach!  Honestly, I got quick results and weighing in was a rewarding experience.  But after a while, things began to change, I worked out but the weight wasn't changing.  I changed things up and began lifting weights more . . . no change.  I stopped lifting and started running, but still . . . nothing.  I got sick of the scales and avoided them.  I was caught in a Fitness Rip Current that was pulling me out to sea.  Swimming against the current wasn't working, and I was going crazy and getting frustrated, then I entered my first 5k just on a lark, and was quickly hooked on running.  I still focused on my weight, but running offered me other goals to focus on.  And for a time I just focused on running and went with it.  Distance and PR became my knew measuring stick of my fitness progress.  I calmed down, began to look at my training differently, and made changes not to try to keep the scale moving but to improve my running.  And, low and behold I was free from the Rip Tide and swimming in open water.  The scales weren't moving, but I was free.  Then rather unexpectedly, the scales began to move.

I felt great for a time, but then injuries and lack of progress in my running nearly sucked me into another Rip Tide.  But, this time instead of panicking and swim into the current, I just went with it.  Instead of focusing on running, worrying about PR and investing tons of time in speed work, new shoes, and a running videos, I looked for holes in my training program that weren't connected to running.  I focused on making healthy choices that would improve my lifestyle and I ate better, workout more on my own, rather than with the group classes that had been attending, in order to focus on my personal weak areas.  And, once again, slowly I swam free from the Rip Tide.  Now, I am not claiming that running is the answer for anyone who finds themselves struck in their training, running was only part of the answer for me. More importantly, I learned that this process is more about reshaping the mind than it is about reshaping the body.  Turning the corner occurs when we realize that the external changes don't matter as much as the internal and find joy in our new active lives.  This doesn't mean giving up on our goal, on the contrary, it is like going into a with more than one goal in mind.  I know that it is really hard not to focus so much on the scale, but the day to day fluctuations are often arbitrary and not connected to the Cheetos someone may have broken-down and eaten. Honestly, the scale is a really poor indicator of effort but so easy to latch on to a confirmation of progress. Yes, we want to see the number on the scale get smaller, but I am much more interested in being healthy and active regardless of the scale (or even my 5k PR), and it is that realization that will set a person free from the Rip Tide and have them swimming with the happy-happy little rainbow dolphins in the deep blue sea.