Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ganko or When Our Power Words Turn Against Us

Ganko is a work that my wife and I playfully throw around with one another almost daily.  Ganko means stubbornness or obstinacy in Japanese, and we mainly use it as a pejorative when one of us is digging their heels in on something silly or refusing to recognize what is obvious to the rest of the world.  However, when the word "Ganko" is applied to the portion of my life that surrounds my running and fitness goals, its negative connotations fall away and it becomes something of a personal power word.   Ganko becomes a representation of my willingness to continue to push myself through adversity, stay the course when results don't come quickly, or challenge myself with goals that seem obviously beyond my reach.  Now, I like this application of the word.  When I am pushing through a workout with a group guys 10 to 15 years my junior, and I refuse to quit, despite an overwhelming urge to vomit, I am proud to be 'Ganko'.  Being Ganko becomes my peacock feathers of lion's mane! And let's me strut about just a bit. 

Sadly, despite my adoption of the word 'Ganko' as a personal power word for my fitness goals, its original meaning is not entirely negated.  In fact, as I found out recently, the negatives can remain true to the point of unnecessary personal risk.  Long time readers of my blog may remember that I got very sick last summer with a respiratory flu that really threw me for a loop and cost me about two months of training, and since that time, I have been on a steroid inhaler.  I had hoped that this would be something to gradually stop using and return to breathing normally.  I usually take it at night, and have no breathing issues for the following day.  However, I don't like of being dependent on a steroid, nor do I like adding asthma or possibly COPD to my list of health concerns.  So, every time that get towards the end of an inhaler, I attempt to ween myself off of the medication in hopes of resuming life without breathing issues.  Usually, after a day or two of constricted breathing, I have seen the light and gotten a refill for my inhaler.  Well, recently my "ganko-ness" kicked into high gear and despite spending two days with chest constriction and making a doctor's appointment, I refused to admit that I have some form of asthma or breathing issue, and went to the Y an to a "football conditioning" class: lots of sprints, agility drills, and stairs.  I began to feel really bad about halfway through the class.  My chest was constricted and I was fighting some kind of side/back stitch.  Breathing became more and more difficult to the point where by the end of class, I felt lightheaded and dizzy.  I ended up going straight home and taking a rescue inhaler that I haven't needed in months.  It took me nearly an hour to feel close to normal.  By the end, my wife was worried, and I felt foolish that I had been Ganko in the worst kind of way.

Both professional and recreational athletes often have difficulty knowing when to push through an ache, pain, or illness. However, I think even though they are often blinded by their drive to achieve or any number of other factors, I doubt that they feel the deep feeling of self loathing that someone new to the world of fitness feels when they face injuries and illness.  I could be wrong, but I know many people, who once they have found the motivation get off the couch and change their life, mistake the need rest and injury or the signs of illness for a personal failing or weakness.  It's often been said there's no zealot like a convert and in the world of Fitness, running, and athletics, it seems particularly true.  However, in this case the zealot's wrath is most often applied to themselves rather than those around them.  In my own case, I am still learning to toe the fine line between the multiple interpretations of my personal power word.  Because, I am and hope to remain 'Ganko'.  I just need to make sure that I breath deep and fall on the positive side of the word. 


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