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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

That’s right, this year I aspire to live up to the shirt I won on Saturday—well, at least the “been there, done that” part. Since I already own a Polar brand watch that doesn’t have GPS, I’ll just have to stick to using my phone app to know where I’ve been.

Of course, I have higher aspirations than running more this year, but what I know is that when I can run more, I am in better mental condition to meet all my other aspirations. Running is circular for me—and not just when I’m running on a track.

What I don’t know is just how to get my body to heal in the ways I wish or how to keep myself committed enough to keep doing the hard work necessary to achieve the type of healing I want—especially in light of last year’s low results.

At the beginning of last month I was excited to get out on the roads, but instead my body got to fight that weird infection I hosted—and then it was fighting back against the treatments! Add in my son’s concussion and its effects along with waning light and all the tasks surrounding getting ready for Christmas and you can pretty much say I fell off the wagon, both in miles run and in maintenance exercises. Did what I could when I could with attending my regularly scheduled classes, but there was more of fudge than fitness about me in December. Usually I revel in the quiet focus exercise gives me during December’s crazy days, but this year my focus felt fractured.

Now it’s already January as well as time to pack away my excuses and direct my healing toward what I can do. Part of me has wondered if something about my prescribed exercises was keeping me achy during sleeping but simply by virtue of not doing those exercises, I can at least state that the exercises, as a whole, seemed to be helpful after all. I am again out sleeping on the couch with the dogs (where I go for a few hours when my hip thinks the bed is too uncomfortable) more nights than previously.

So while those exercises aren’t as obviously productive as I’d hoped they would be, they seem to help me more than not doing them—which means it’s time to jump back on that wagon—or at least back on the foam roller (and yoga mat) for my daily at-home routine.

And if the weather doesn’t cooperate with good running conditions, I’ll just have to pay to run inside. I don’t mind the cold, but what I really don’t need is a slip on ice to compound troubles for my wish-it-weren’t-so-achy hip.

At last Saturday’s run, I tread carefully on any icy or snowy spots and didn’t worry that I was at the back of the pack. Went there, (very slowly) ran that, and lived to win the T-shirt after standing out in the cold during the drawings for swag.

Then I went home (heated car seat cranked), then sat there in my (hot) bathtub. Been there, done that, and gonna’ keep doing it again and again if necessary—along with my exercises, of course—because I’ve got a shirt to live up to—and so many more places to go and things to do in my life.

Yes, I still have miles to go before I sleep—don’t want to miss them just because the road has been more than a little bumpy. Going to go there, do that, and keep dodging the potholes as best I can.

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

What I’d really like is to hear from someone who started out hating using a heart rate monitor watch, stuck with it, and found out that he or she did improve over time by following the program. Everyone I speak with—of a certain age, of course—seems either to disagree with what information the watch gives out or not want to pursue what it suggests. My biggest question is whether or not the data really says what it purports to say. In other words, if I slow down as it tells me to do now, over time will I be able to speed up again?

A fitness instructor yesterday told me she tried hers for a couple months, but didn’t like having to think so much while running. She says she goes running to let her mind be free, not to be told constantly to run at a much slower pace. I hear her on that.

But what if jump-starting my heart rate so quickly really is a sign it’s not ready for the pace I want to run? Might a heart build its endurance quicker by not facing the stress caused by extreme intensity?

I’m new to all this, but can tell that the fitness community is divided by the validity of the whys behind this kind of self-monitoring and whether or not it helps—in the long run and/or the short run.

So often I feel personally affronted that this watch—a watch for goodness’ sake—is telling me how fast I should go. Yesterday I was reading the ending of some running book where the author described a runner he observed and concluded that she was just starting out. That person could have been me right now and I’ve been doing this off and on for over thirty-five years! I still want to put a sign on my back that reads, “I can run faster but the watch won’t let me!”

Then I take a deep breath—which usually reduces my heart rate, right?—and celebrate the small victories. I thought that small computer brain came up with the threshold heart rate between fat-burning and fitness-burning based upon my age, weight, and height only and that it would remain static if those numbers remained constant. Turns out somehow it “knows” how well I’m doing and has decided to move up the threshold by 4 beats. Ha!

And back to the results in yoga that I mentioned in an earlier post. My heart rate is often lower in yoga—while moving—than it is just sitting here thinking and typing. It drops to 57 and 58 several times during class. I realize that to verify that the results show a statistically normal distribution (i.e. the traditional bell curve), one has to get to N=30, but my early results are suggesting to me that my mindfulness and breathing have a lot of power over my heart and however much it ticks.

Which also tells me that if I just stop fighting this thing, then maybe it will do for me exactly what it should—which is improve my endurance safely over time so that I can improve my performance and speed.

Which could bring me full circle back to how I have run when I was in shape for running.

Over time I tend to develop an internal clock based on how I feel. I was that person in track who usually hit the interval targets, not overshooting or undershooting them, even when we did as many as 20 200 meter runs. I’m also the person who once won a contest based upon guessing my finishing time against several women who timed everything they did to the last second—without their watches they were lost, but I just ran as I always did.

By giving into the (artificially-intelligent) wisdom of the watch now, I hope that down the road (with all those miles to go before I sleep) I will have re-developed the accuracy of my inner watch so that it runs in sync with the monitor and vice versa. This seemingly rigid tool I have been fighting really does have the potential to set both my body and mind free—if I just let it do so.

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

When I accidentally left my timing watch in a workout room at the local recreation center, I didn’t expect it to disappear completely. No one ever admitted to finding it so I was just out of luck for keeping track of my slow return to jogging/running.

The funny thing is I couldn’t get any of my other watches to keep time either. I’d been wearing an old windup watch of my mother’s for dressing up, but one day it just stopped working. Then the “cheap” timing watch I bought before vacation seemed to last only for vacation and not much beyond. Excuse me if I didn’t find it so cheap if it was only going to last a couple weeks. Although I could still use it for timing, the watch didn’t keep accurate time, re-setting the time with each minor bump. Finally I had to resort to finding a battery for another one of my mother’s watches.

What was the metaphor going on about time in my life??!! Don’t worry about time? Buy another watch? Out of time? Yikes.

About the same time I got my mother’s battery-operated watch to run, Sherman got me a Polar FT7 watch. But before I could learn how to use it, I got sick. At that point I didn’t really care to think about how much time was slipping away—not as if I could do anything about it anyway.

Now the heart rate monitor and I have a love/hate relationship going. Why does it keep nagging me to slow down? Unless I’m in yoga and then my heart rate slows down so much I wonder if the watch is working. Hmm . . .

I’ve decided it’s a fine line between letting myself relax and going all crazy about the data. A person like me could spend so much time analyzing the data that she never got out of her chair! That sounds like a bad use of time to me.

Sometimes I think a better experiment would be to wear it all day and watch what makes my heart rate go up and what drops it to that really nice, low resting rate in the low to mid-60s that it has. What I’ve seen so far makes me think I have more control over my physiological responses to external stressors than I’ve recognized.

And that is a whole different lesson about how I spend my time. Does that mean an instrument dedicated to Chronos can help me find more time for Kairos? Now that’s a thought way past time to ponder.

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