September Sweat Sessions: Why Sweat?

Discipline-is-theThe Goal

If you’ve been following along with my September Sweat Sessions we are finishing off the LAST, the FINAL– Week 5– of our challenge TODAY!!! Throw your hands up! I set a personal fitness goal to workout 5 times every weekday and up my activity on the weekends. I also committed myself to cleaner eating through September.

By cleaner eating I simply wanted to curtail my sweet intake and break my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup milkshake habit! I wanted to re-commit to making meals at home and selecting healthier options at the grocery store– i.e. up the vegetable intake at my house!

Basically I wanted a re-set after a summer of un-careful eating and lax working out.

Thus far I have been able to achieve my goals with few exceptions. I can admit that due to travel or scheduling I’ve missed a few days at the gym. I chose to double up my workouts on other days to make up for any workouts I missed. I only had to do doubles twice.

While my track record was by no means perfect, I still feel more motivated to go to the gym or dust my bike off and hit the road on a daily basis. I still feel more conscious of keeping my body moving, active, and fit.

I consumed a few of those delicious Peanut Butter Cup milkshakes. But I certainly didn’t even indulge once a week! More like 3 this month, which I’m chalking up as a win.

And…Today I actually went for a run. It was amazing.

The Mind

The reason I even mention the run is that running used to be my daily jam. I was an every. single. day. runner for many years. And if you know me personally you know that my current calling in exercise is as a cyclist. I ride upwards of three times a week.  But my heart will always be the heart of a runner. I love to run.

In fact, I had the most wonderful conversation with a runner friend as we watched our kids play soccer last Tuesday. She said to me, “I don’t just run to be in shape. I run because it brings me balance. I run because it helps me to control my anxiety and depression. I run because I think it makes me a better person. And I want all of my kids to run for all of those reasons.”

I could not agree with her more. To me, running is the most straightforward and basic way to get a great workout. I should know. I ran in High School, all the way through college, and after a lapse due to major injury, all the way until my youngest was around 18 months old.

Like I mentioned earlier, my personal fitness journey began in High School. At the prompting of a friend, I singed up to run on the Cross Country team my freshman year. I had no background in running, so to speak. I hadn’t run in my childhood, though we’d hiked a good deal as kids. But I immediately found that I really enjoyed the challenge of the run.

I was lucky enough to run for a really great coach. A man who emphasized personal fitness in his own life, and who brought a lot of knowledge, skill, and quiet encouragement to coaching. He had fantastic workouts– fartlicks, hurdle intervals, hills sprints, even tire pulls, and seemingly knew every trail in the Great Basin. He also required us to run on our own through the summer months to prep for the fall Cross Country season.

I was never a GREAT runner. I’ve always been a reticent competitor, though I ran decent time in every High School race. Beyond the competition, I was already beginning to enjoy running for the endorphin release, the chance it gave me to workout daily, and even for the social aspect. Plus, now I understand that running in High School gave me a great foundation for further personal athletic endeavors.

As minimalistic as running is from the equipment standpoint– a good pair of shoes, a pair of running shorts, a bra, and a tank top and you’re out the door– running may appear deceptively simple. Instead, running (and all other sports and fitness challenges, I’d argue) requires you to pull, push, and stretch your MIND. It is a head game, a head trip, a battle of brain against pain, quitting, shortness of breath, injury, malaise, and general laziness.

To stick with running, you have to stick with yourself. You have to be present, you have to learn to push yourself. For me, running translated into every other part of my life. Initially I ran because it made me feel good. I ran because it cleared my head. I ran because it was a great way to set your mind to a task and achieve it despite sometime discomfort. I ran because I got hooked!

And THEN, I ran because I realized that running was making me stronger, not just physically, but mentally, too. (Cycling carries this same cleanse, I’ll touch on that later.)

The Body

I continued to run in college. I’d often run alone, or sometimes with a friend. But I ran simply for myself. I didn’t race or really even enter fun runs. I ran because it got me outside to see the sun, the sky, enjoy the air, listen to the birds, feel the breeze, see the views, and smell the seasons. Sometimes I was fast. Sometimes I was slow.

I’ll never forget running with a friend when I slipped on a curb and face planted into a rather full drainage canal in town. I was soaked head to toe like I’d taken a bath. Embarrassed and laughing, I jumped up and kept running.

Then in an instant one fall evening, everything changed. I went climbing with a good friend just outside of town. In a pair of brand new rent-to-own 5-10 climbing shoes.

I fell. I fell straight down off of the rock face I was climbing. I didn’t have one finger on and then slip. Everything gave all at once and 10 feet later I met the boulders below.

I hit the boulders right leg first. The force of the fall threw me backwards on to my back like I was on a pogo stick and really picked a bad angle. But it turned out, the pogo stick was my leg, and the damage was severe. Landing on  my back, looking up at both of my legs, I could see my right foot hanging limp and askew. My foot was intact, but no more ankle existed.

The fracture was compound, and I’m lucky I’m alive as my arteries were actually pinched between my collapsed leg bones, stemming the blood and probably saving my life that night.

Fast forward past an incredible save by my climbing partner, fantastic first response team, fire fighters, emergency medical team, and incredible orthopedic surgeon– Randy Delcore. I now have a gorgeously reconstructed ankle. Complete with screws attached to my tibia to hold on a piece of bone that completely fractured from my ankle, and a plate with 7 screws used to reassemble the shattered lower potion of my fibula.

My BODY was broken.

The Soul

I won’t mince words. I crushed a piece of my SOUL the night I shattered my ankle. There was no way I could know the ramifications of my injury then, but I am experiencing the affects now and definitely will for the rest of my life. It continues to be a firsthand lesson in the limits of mortality.

That said, my injury did not sideline me from the ranks of runners for all-time. I went on to return to running two years after I broke my ankle. I could not have been more excited. I could not have been more happy, or felt more gratitude to return to the road and the trail. My desire to run after my injury hand’t decreased, only increased. I set myself to some new challenges. I ran many 1/2 marathons and one full marathon in Moab, Utah.

I felt like I was given the WORLD to be able to run again– a new lease, a new life. I figured I’d take that lease and use it for all it was worth, and I did. I became a daily runner. After my marathon I didn’t enter more races, but I took the time every day to lace up my shoes, and later in life, strap my kiddo in his stroller, and eventually two kiddos in a double stroller, and head out for a run.

After another great eight or nine years running things began to gradually grind down. Literally. I began to experience more and more pain when I ran. The pain wasn’t necessarily part of RUNNING, but after long runs I’d return home to a leg that ached. My limp became more pronounced. My ankle swelled frequently, and I began to realize that I’d been experiencing after-pain for a long, long time. Now the pain was getting stronger.

I saw an ankle specialist at the Rosenberg Cooley Metcalf clinic in Park City, UT– Timothy Beals. He ordered new X-rays of my ankle, and we looked at them together that day. The joint was severely arthritic, he pointed out. The cartilage between the bottom of my ankle and top of my foot was practically nonexistent. I was running bone on bone.

The wonderful thing about Dr. Beals was that he understood. He understood why I ran, and my need to run. He understood how I could run through the pain day after day. I had really come to the clinic with one question. Should I continue to run, or should I give up running for good?

Already guessing at his answer, I explained that my husband was a cyclist and that I occasionally, amateurishly cycled on the side. Dr. Beals said, flat-out, that I had worn the tread off of my tire. My ankle was no good for running anymore.

“If I were you,” he said, “I’d go buy a bicycle.”

That’s exactly what we did. I drove home from that appointment that afternoon and met my husband at Slim and Knobby’s Bike Shop. We bought a Specialized Allez. Four almost five years later, I haven’t looked back.

The Why

One of the last things you find out about running– beyond the high, beyond the full-body workout, beyond the social aspect– is that you somehow become part of the Earth. Or at least, I did. I felt as though running connected me to the world around me in ways I have yet to replace.

I was MORE a part of the neighborhoods I lived in because I RAN. I knew the dogs, the kids, the dump trucks, the side streets. Now I am starting to sound like a creeper. But I could feel and was more closely in touch with the pulse of the places I lived. I knew the local birds, and insects. I knew the rhythm of the day to day, every run connected me more deeply to my community. That is something I NEVER expected to come from running.

I felt like running made me a better citizen. That is WHY I ran.

Cycling hosts a wonderful community of people too. Gradually I am integrating myself into that world. But it hasn’t come as easily. Partially because I am still extending my comfortability within the sport– meaning that I still get butterflies in the pit of my stomach almost every time I hit the road, because cars are close and sometimes inconsiderate, because I’m not yet prepared to sink into the drops and take the descent at 50 mph. But I am coming along just fine.

So why did I run? WHY do I bike? I do it because it is so damn good for me, and it always will be. Put yourself to the challenge.

You make up the rules, stick to your game, and you will see the results. Thank you to those of you who participated in the September Sweat Sessions. I hope you continue in your resolve to hit the road, hit the trail, hit the gym. The workouts I posted will never go out of STYLE! You can look them up again and again and again in the search bar.

Have a kick butt Friday!!!

XX, Megan


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