Thursday, April 03, 2014

Absolute Beginner 

“My left leg became paralyzed by the sensation of nerve endings coruscating from my hip to my toes”
Tonight for the first time since January 18, I recorded a run. Before that, my previous run was on October 6, 2013. Following this pattern my next run will be sometime in June. Why the lapse of laps? Well, a few days after that run in October my back went into painful, movement stopping spasms. The kind of spasms you see people being shocked by a Taser having. This back pain was followed by a new weird thing whereby my left leg became paralyzed by the sensation of nerve endings coruscating from my hip to my toes. That’s right. Somewhere, the muscle inflammation in my back had compressed a rather useful nerve. Several massage sessions, countless muscle relaxants and heat & ice compressions later, my leg was useful again. About six weeks had passed. In that time the atrophy of the thigh of my left leg seemed only anecdotal. Following climbing up a set of stairs I’d think, “That’s odd, one leg feels fine while the other feels as though I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro.” Eventually that leg strengthened. Then again, strengthened for stuff like walking a few hundred metres or for sitting at a desk. Occasional attempts at exercise seemed frivolous at best. As an estimation of exactly what I was dealing with, I could measure the diameter of one thigh as about 3 inches smaller than the other. Still, time heals all wounds, I thought – except for the big open puss-filled ones that kill you from infection. Time doesn’t help those at all. As I’ve discovered and really should’ve known, given my history, time does not strengthen atrophied muscles. All time does is atrophy them some more. Time is a bit of a bugger if you ask me. The only way to un-atrophy an atrophied muscle is to exercise it.

Which brings me to tonight. Tonight I donned my running gear and noticed in the dusty mirror (note to self: dust mirror), that I was fat. Not, you know, circus-fat nor even evening-news-program-story-about-obesity fat, but for me, fat. I won’t bore you with the numbers but I haven’t tipped the scales at this number since sometime in 2006 after months of recuperation and feeling sorry for myself when I broke my collar bone and had radial nerve damage in my forearm (which I presume is the only place you could have “radial nerve damage”). Not only am I fat, but I am in the worst physical condition in memory. With the daunting task of not only raising money for the Ride to Conquer Cancer on the horizon, but also having to ride in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I figured it was about time I tried to conquer my waistline.
“Captain, my Captain and all that crap.”
I started a couple of nights ago. The first 20 minutes of the rest of my life. I got on the trainer (also dusty; I really should dust more often), and did an interval set of 2-2-1. I fully intended to ride again yesterday, but I fell back into my habit of knocking out a nap and waking so late as to make the whole idea ridiculous. Tonight, my feared rival, Couchie, beckoned again. I sat but did not succumb. Up I rose, up towards the challenge. Captain, my Captain and all that crap. Getting dressed was really depressing. I looked like I was wearing a down vest under my t-shirt. I decided to wear a jacket which helped a little (more likely, it offered little help). During some pre-run stretches I felt my back complain but I ignored it. I set out into the cold evening air and took the first tentative steps towards a full trot. So far so good. Except, you know, for my knees and feet (high arch pain which I’ve had for ages). Soon I was treading along, not easily mind you, but at least I was moving. My pace was slow by my standards but I was determined not to push myself so hard I wouldn’t survive the first short jaunt.
“I remembered what is so great about running: stopping.”
When it was done, my legs felt better and even though my breathing was laboured, I remembered what is so great about running and my favourite part: stopping. I’m only partly joking, because it’s when you stop that you get that feeling of all the bad stuff leaving your system, all the toxins course out of your skin, the lactic buildup floods out of your legs, the crud in your nose is loosened and ejected (by force if necessary) and all that stress in your shoulders and neck just evaporates up the chimney of your head. It felt good to shake off the cobwebs of a long unforgiving winter. The only thing that really bothers me is when you let yourself fall out of all of your good habits and exercise, the setback is immense. I’m not five weeks out of shape or three months behind in my exercise. It’s as if I had never been in good health to begin with. I’m back where I started years ago. Back at the very beginning. An absolute beginner.

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