Harvesting Wind

Yesterday I told myself, “I am going to run today.” I didn’t. I was going out to Palm Springs to have a joint birthday weekend with a friend, and thought I would go out for a jog in the morning before the drive. I put it off, with the excuse that I did not have time. I also thought it would be nice to take my run in the desert once I got out there. I postponed the run, because of the excitement of seeing my friends, coupled with some tenacious snacking that got in my way.

This morning I woke up and uttered an expletive to myself. I felt terrible. I had low energy, even for the morning. That’s the thing with running, your body will tell you when you are slacking. Mentally I still didn’t feel like pushing myself out the door. I did another yoga flow and a couple asanas with a friend, which worked like a charm. With blood flowing, I swigged some coffee and set out in my Forester for a dirt road that ran amongst the windmills of Palm Springs.

I can come up with any excuse not to get a workout in, but those are the times that exercise turns out to be the most rewarding.
I can come up with any excuse not to get a workout in, but those are the times that exercise turns out to be the most rewarding.

The first mile sucked. The ground was rocky and I wasn’t wearing trail shoes. The road climbed up in elevation, while large rocks gave way to wet sand. To top it all off I was running against the wind that the turbines were farming. After that first mile I snapped a picture and turned back towards my car. I had proven to myself that I would get out there even in the middle of a procrastination attack. The second mile reminded me of why I do this. I had the opposite experience of that trudging jog out. I ran swiftly down a road that was more like a dried river bank, with the wind at my back. Taylor Swift belted out “Shake it Off” from my smartphone, and I did.

Taking Shape

When I was sixteen my parents gave me a membership to a gym called “Taking Shape” run by an talented trainer named Moses. It was a small gym in an office building, but I found a new world inside. I learned how strong I could be, and also how well I could relate to a different crowd, as I was usually the youngest person working out there. I would go there almost every week night and most Saturdays during the off season to hang out and workout.

Moses was a great man and a world class trainer. Before he opened up Taking Shape, he traveled the world working with elite athletes. He would come up with fun drills based on what events I was running or position I was playing in basketball. Sometimes he would take me on outings to get a running workout in, but since I was a sprinter, he would have me do drills up and down the hallway once the workday was over. The workouts were always varied and challenging, and I was ripped by the time I was seventeen.

All the people at the gym would get together once it closed at night and go to a nearby restaurant to eat. I liked the crowd. The people were in their thirties to forties, so at least twice my age, with experience to pass on, and I learned so much during that time. We had shirts that read “Created by God, Improved by Moses”. I met my running mentor, Steve, at that gym, the man who pushed me to try the 400 meter race after I had spent a season running just the 100 and 200 meters.

Moses got sick when I was going away to college. It was hard news to hear. I had written one of my college entry essays about him as a mentor. Here was a man who ate right, lived right, but still got stricken with disease. He would still show up to the gym, though not as often, and on my breaks from college I would go in for an hour a day to run on the treadmill, while he rested, so I still got to spend time with him.

A few semesters into college, Moses passed away. The gym members went to the service. Pat spoke. It chokes me up to think about it. Pat told me recently that Moses would be proud of me, how active I am and how persistently I pursue my fitness goals. We don’t get to keep everyone for as long as we like, but we get to carry on their legacy the best we can, and hope the message does not get weakened. Go- get fit, be strong, be the best you can be which is always good enough.

Breaks and Breakthroughs

I had two knee surgeries my senior year of high school. Those surgeries were minor in comparison to other types done on that joint, and though I missed the competitive seasons senior year, I was able to pick up running again by graduation, without any memorable deficiencies or hindrances.

This recent ankle injury was more hard hitting. In high school, I was going to school, spending a lot of time with friends, and lived with my family, so being injured didn’t really do much in the way of removing me from life. These days I work for a running retailer. At least half of my socializing revolves around running. My work is physical in nature.  With the DNF, I got a break in another sense- I found out how much I relied on running to keep me involved with my life, and that I had some growing to do, some development of self.

I was sad in the days following my injury, but within two weeks I was suffering from diagnosed depression. The weight of not being able to run, work, and the challenge of not being able to do simple things to take care of myself got to me. I love to read, but it was hard on painkillers. I watched a lot of TV. Couple that with the fact that I was coming off of training for a marathon and used to almost daily rushes of dopamine. Physically and emotionally I became lethargic. My sister came to visit and found me in a sad state. The pain from the swelling was so intense that I would go to bed and wake up crying, I just couldn’t help it. Once she left, I dipped a little lower in my mental and emotional state before realizing I needed help.

I had to go to a really low point before I got help. If you think you are suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself, at least, it worked for me. Friends and professionals helped me to put everything in perspective and do what I could to get back to normal. I turned off the TV. I got off the painkillers and started reading again. I took interest in something new from my couch, America’s Gilded Age, and read two books on it. I read Dune for fun. I read Running Within, a book with spiritual guidance for runners, and started practicing positive affirmations while visualizing what I wanted from my runs once I got back. I highly recommend that book for anyone that has reached a plateau with physical training and is looking for another push.

After 5 weeks I was able to start physical therapy. It wasn’t anything special, I just got to move my ankle a bit, but it was something. I still wasn’t back to work, but I had developed a floor/chair regimen to work out my upper body and core for a little while each day. I stuck to everything on my PT plan religiously. As I was able to bear weight on my ankle, I made it to the gym. I swam and biked. Once I started running again, I came back almost at full speed. I owe this to not only the PT, but during my healing I progressively added higher intensity workouts that fit with the demands my ankle could handle. I was able to go back to work. I felt useful again, which did huge things for my mood. Eventually I was feeling happy again.

I ran a race almost four months to the day of my injury. It was a mile road race, and it would be my third year in a row competing in it. I ran it one second faster than I had the previous year- 6:34. I was floored. That feeling was good, but it was nothing compared to the one I got a few weeks later, when I was able to work a run club event, and jog next to a new runner who was trying out one of our events for the first time. She struggled with the same mental games I knew so well, but she did it. There is nothing like feeling like you can’t and then finding out you can. This event and similar ones that followed motivated me to begin pursuing my interest in personal training again.

“ShesTheRun” is an invention for sharing my running, travel, and life adventures in a way that keeps me motivated to do more for myself, and others. It is a by-product of my personal journey with truly missing running and the ensuing depression that followed. I can’t keep something unless I give it away. Equipped with this point of view, I hope I can create something for others to enjoy and be inspired by.

Thanks for reading,

Holly