PUMPING IRONY: A Breakthrough

You know, just when you think you’re backsliding on your workout routine, sometimes a breakthrough just comes out of nowhere. That’s how things went for me this week. I’m going to say that it’s just a way that the universe is telling to me to hang in there.

Day 26, Monday, 10/3

Where did that momentum go? I slept fitfully and awoke this morning with a stiff left knee and a sore back and a serious disinclination toward exercise. Climbed on my bike and felt better a mile later at the office. My fitness guru, SW, stopped by my office and inquired about my jogging, suggesting that I embrace chi running, a form of jogging that’s easy on the knees and pushes the heart rate in a good way. I’ve done a little research on this approach, but can’t say I’ve actually tried it. And, the way I’m feeling today, I can’t imagine exploring anything new. I need a good night’s sleep. We’ll see if I’m more adventurous tomorrow.

Day 27, Tuesday, 10/4
Dr. Mehmet Oz told my colleague LB in an interview a few years ago that he rises each morning and does ten sun salutations and then 20 pushups —10 with one leg raised and 10 with the other leg raised. Dr. Oz may be one healthy dude, but I trumped him this morning by doing his one-legged pushups, adding another 10 with both feet on the ground and then cranking out 10 minutes of girevoy. This time, I kept track of my lifts and recorded 78 clean and jerks with each arm in each five-minute span. Gotta say, Dr. Oz: You can keep your sun salutations. Give me my girevoy and get outta my way.

Day 28, Wednesday, 10/5
Everybody needs a recovery day, so I’m going to call this mine. Yoga tomorrow!

Day 29, Thursday, 10/6
For the second consecutive week, work obligations kept me from my yoga class. I did manage to make it to my bi-weekly acupuncture appointment, where Dr. Needle noticed that my heart pulse was a little stressed. “No kidding,” I replied. An hour later, all was well.

Day 30, Friday, 10/7
I think one can make a good argument that a round of golf does constitute exercise — even if you’re moving from tee to tee in a golf cart. There is still a fair amount of walking, not to mention much bending and torso twisting. I played 18 holes this afternoon with my older brothers and JE, a family friend. They’re all retired, which means they get a lot more time on the links than I do, but I think I held my own.

Day 31, Saturday, 10/8
It’s funny how one’s day takes shape, exercise-wise. There I was innocently sitting zazen and letting all the random thoughts and plans drift in one side of my consciousness and out the other when it became clear to me that I was going to pull on my sneakers and do a little jogging. My back had stiffened up after yesterday’s golf outing, so I did only a mild kettlebell routine (no squats) and several minutes of stretching before I put on my running shoes and headed out the door. Last time I did this, I was careful to pace myself and I started out toward the river in the same manner as before — small steps, calves tightening slightly as I headed down the hill. I crossed the parkway and headed north on the jogging path for about a block, waiting for the endorphins to kick in and drown out the boredom. At about 44th Street, I noticed a woman loping up a path that led to a clearing overlooking the river, and I veered off in that direction, thinking maybe there would be some pleasant distraction. As I reached the clearing, I noticed a sign designating the Winchell Trail, and it suddenly seemed completely logical to head into the woods.

I’ve read about trail running and, in fact, had half-heartedly invited my son (Mr. Parkour) to try it earlier this summer. This despite some trepidation over the condition of my tweaky left knee. I’d seen videos of real athletes skipping over tree roots and rocks and sprinting up picturesque hills, and fantasized that perhaps this sort of challenge would cure me of my running blues. But here I was now, carefully navigating a couple flights of steps down into the forest and moving gingerly along the trail. And, much to my surprise, I found myself opening up my stride and actually running. Yes, my lungs were burning, but my legs were holding up quite nicely as I zigged and zagged through the trees. I sprinted up a small incline and looked to my left to get my bearings and found I’d traveled all the way to 42nd Street. I paused for a moment to catch my breath and headed back along the trail, passing a couple of hikers who (it might have just been my imagination) seemed to be impressed by my exertion. I powered back up the hill to 44th Street and headed south toward the sign marking the entrance to the lock and dam. I can do this, I told myself and, indeed, I made it all the way without any cardiac-oriented event.

It all brought back memories of junior high cross country, where a guy like me would just run as fast as he could for as far as he could — no race strategy, just chase whoever was in front of me. The overworked lungs and rubbery legs felt surprisingly familiar as I walked across the parkway boulevard toward home. But it felt good. So good, in fact, that when I hit the hill leading back to 46th Street, I broke into a sprint like the good old days: a hop and a skip and then a surprisingly pleasant dash up the incline.

You may recall that it was less than a year ago that I despaired about ever being able to run again after my battles with knee trouble last summer. So, I’m going to chalk up today’s workout as one big breakthrough — at least until I try to drag myself out of bed tomorrow.

Day 32, Sunday, 10/9
I felt surprisingly OK this morning. My back is still a little sore, but my legs feel great. Still, I decided to leave the kettlebell on the floor and take it easy. I did get out in the garden this afternoon and worked up quite a sweat with some landscaping work, but I don’t think I really pushed myself too much. I’m still basking in the glow of yesterday’s trail run and looking forward to reprising that in the week to come.

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