2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  THE NEXT THIRD: MINDFUL AWARENESS
(2nd of three parts)

 FRIDAY, JANUARY 15

 
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain."
~ unknown
 
 

Let's dance!

How's that for "reinvention?" Actually, I'm much too uncoordinated to dance. I just love the great quote. I've used it previously but it really fits this series of entries about adapting to changing circumstances and carrying on with new or modified goals.

I've already discovered, for example, that there are some real advantages to walking that running doesn't afford. Whudda thunk?


A bit of humor along the Trail in VT on Day 109

[Note: all but two photos in this entry are from our Appalachian Trail Adventure Run/Hike in 2005. You'll see why I featured them later.]

COMING FULL CIRCLE ATHLETICALLY

I have lots of time to think now when I'm "just walking" and don't have to worry as much about foot plant, breathing, drinking, and other things that occupied my mind when I was running and had to worry about face plants.

One of my insights on a recent walk is the realization that I've pretty much come full circle with the walking-running continuum in my life.

My first thirty years I did quite a lot of walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, tennis, golfing, and other active sports for fun. I didn't think much about the fitness angle; I'd always been active and I just continued to be active. That's who I was and will always be.


Bright fall berries in NH on Day 116

Friends at work who were already runners influenced my decision to start running. That, and "suddenly" gaining weight in my late twenties. I needed an effective way to lose it. I'd always been a String Bean; I felt fat with the extra 20 pounds I added as I focused more on my career than on aerobic exercise.

Out with the daily milkshakes, in with my new running routine and healthier eating habits. The pounds melted away in a few months and I felt the best I'd ever felt in my life -- not just physically, but in every way possible.

Running will do that if you give it enough time to become a habit.


Fence line in NC on Day 25

I already outlined the various running stages I went through during my Second Third. I also did a fair amount of cross-training for variety and to gain strength in other parts of my body that weren't used as much in running: walking, hiking, cycling, weight training, yoga, pool running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, various cardio machines, etc.

Now I'm back to walking as my main aerobic exercise in my Next Third, but with more purpose and awareness than I had in my earlier years. My life literally depends even more on it now than it did when I was younger. It's a slippery slope downhill in your 60s and 70s if you don't maintain enough exercise and strength training.

If you don't believe me, you will after reading the men's or women's version of Younger Next Year:

       

My athletic goal is to remain fit and happy in my senior years. There isn't much point in living to 100 if I'm not healthy enough to enjoy it!

I know myself well enough to know this pursuit must involve as much aerobic physical activity as possible, preferably outdoors.

There are several reasonable options for someone like me who has virtually no knee cartilage left. They include moderate (not ultra-distance) amounts of walking, hiking, road cycling, mountain biking, swimming, pool running, and cross-country skiing.


Three insects take a nectar break on a flower in VA, Day 43

I also have indoor options using cardio equipment like elliptical machines, but those are at the bottom of my list of Fun Things to Do to Stay Fit.

I will also continue to do yoga and other strength/flexibility training. Those activities are important as we age, too.

TRUE CONFESSION

Although I've run my last training run or race of any distance, I have not run my last step yet.

> GASP! <     Don't tell my orthopedist!

That shouldn't surprise anyone. I've reached the acceptance phase but I'm not totally incapacitated yet. Heck, I still plan to hike up a few more mountains, too, as long as the trails aren't too steep coming back down.


Details of colorful quartz rocks in NH, Day 115


Pretty layers of rocks in VA, Day 44; lichens contributed to the color.

The purpose of the miniscule amount of running I'm still doing is not to produce endorphins, get farther faster, or continue to call myself a runner. It's an attempt to stay fit with short bursts of more intense activity than just walking can produce.

On some of my walks that include moderate hills I still run a few up hill sections to get my heart rate higher than I can manage otherwise. All the short segments add up to only about one mile per week, sometimes less.  Nothing epic. Maybe that's not even enough to produce the effect I want, but I figure it's better than nothing.


Balancing rocks in VA, Day 56

There are other ways to increase my heart rate, like walking up a steep slant on the treadmill, but that's not nearly as much fun to me as being outside on a trail. I can go uphill all day without feeling pain in my knees. Coming back down is the problem.

So even walking/hiking up a mountain won't work unless there's a way to ride back down!


More unusual rock striations:  the Highway to Heaven?  NH, Day 115

I've reduced my mileage by foot from ~ 30-50 miles a week to ~ 20-35 a week. All but about a mile of it is walking, sometimes fast and sometimes at a more leisurely pace. Most of it is on forgiving dirt trails that are either smooth or not very hilly, rocky, or rooty.

For a klutz like me, this is a much more sensible way to enjoy trails than running! With less momentum, if I stub my toe I'm much less likely now to fall down and get hurt. It's also nice to leave the ASO ankle supports at home; I rarely need them now for stability.

CROSS-TRAINING

After walking and hiking, my next favorite aerobic activity is cycling. I'm riding Jim's mountain bike and my Terry road bike several times a week. The longest I've gone recently is ten miles but I'll gradually increase the distance as my cycling muscles get stronger and the weather improves (even southern Texas has some lousy winter weather).

This is the first trip we've brought the Terry bike along, knowing there would be more opportunities this winter to ride on paved roads than where we go in the summertime.

It still fits me perfectly; before I got it about ten years ago, I had a professional "Fit Kit" done to see which make and model bike would fit me best. The Terry Isis won. My knees never hurt when I ride it, even uphill. On the other hand, as soon as I get on Jim's bike, my knees start hurting. One of these days I'll get my own trail bike that fits me. Carrying three bikes may be a big hassle, though.


It's not as easy to spot little critters on a bike.  (Salamander in NC, Day 24)

On our winter trips I'm also able to continue doing weight workouts at local YMCAs and military fitness centers every two or three days. It's much harder to find free fitness centers I can use in the summer, particularly in Silverton and Leadville, CO. I really appreciate the generous YMCA "Away Program" which lets me use other Ys for free, up to a dozen times a month in some locations. I mostly use the weight machines, although indoor cardio equipment and pools are also available if I want to use them.

I also do some free weights in the camper to maintain the strength in my shoulders since I had rotator cuff problems a year ago, as well as yoga and other whole-body strengthening/stretching exercises.


Not so well camouflaged that I couldn't spot him . . . frog in MA on Day 105

I average a couple hours of physical activity a day, often more. Just because I'm not running doesn't mean I'm turning into a slug!

SMELLING THE ROSES

I mentioned earlier in this entry that I've discovered some advantages to walking vs. running. Here's another example.

I've always had the ability to notice quite a bit of my surroundings on trail runs, even while keeping an eye on the ground to avoid falling. I frequently would stop dead in my tracks to take a picture of a gorgeous view or a tiny flower beside the trail, to listen more closely to the call of a bird, or to seek the source of a delightful fragrance -- usually honeysuckle!


Not real fragrant, but certainly pretty:  laurels in bloom in VA on Day 56

I am in my element out in nature, the more remote the better. Being attentive to my surroundings has many benefits besides safety.

I was almost hyper-aware of everything around me on my AT Adventure Run in 2005. It was all so new and exciting!

In retrospect, I'm glad I wasn't able to do as much running as I'd intended because I saw so much more by going more slowly. All of the photos in this entry are ones I took during that journey of discovery, from broad vistas that made me suck in my breath because of their grandeur . . .


Day 14 in the Smokies in NC/TN


Day 118 on Franconia Ridge in NH

. . . to minute details I might have missed if I'd been running more.

Lots of different things catch my eye along the trail, especially if they are pretty, colorful, artfully arranged, unusual, or humorous:  flower details, fungi, moss and lichens, ferns, leaves, tree bark, patterns in rocks, insects and other small creatures, little vignettes in nature, unusual objects like memorials to loved ones -- things both ordinary and unique.


Small token at the gravesite of Nick Grindstaff.  NC, Day 29

How many of these things in this entry do you think the men and women going after AT speed records saw??

Now that I'm forced to walk instead of run, I'm discovering even more interesting things to see, hear, and smell. It's like the old clich of "smelling the roses" as we go through life.


Wild roses in VA, Day 56

I have gained a more heightened sense of awareness simply by literally slowing down my pace and paying even closer attention to the natural world around me.

MINDFUL AWARENESS

Without knowing the term until recently, I've been practicing my own version of "mindful awareness" much of my life.

I brought some old magazines along on this trip to read again before recycling. I remembered reading one of the articles a while back but it didn't strike the same ah-ha! chord with me then as now. It's interesting how something like that can suddenly become relevant to you.

Always a sucker for unusual fungi:  VA, Day 58, above;
ME, Day 147, below;  NH, Day 115, second below

 

There is a good description of mindful awareness by Deep Survival author Laurence Gonzales at the end of an article he wrote describing how the practice can alter our sensory perceptions to save us during an emergency. The article, entitled "Altered States," was in the September, 2008 issue of National Geographic Adventure magazine, p. 26:

"As we grow older, especially in an environment that is contrived to be (or seem) safe, there is less novelty. More and more of the world becomes interpreted and categorized and falls into the background. Time seems to speed up. As people age, the years seem to fly by, partly because there isn't a lot that's new.

One of the tricks of mindful awareness, the sort of awareness that can help you make correct decisions and protect you from harm, is that you can make everything new again. You slow down, examine things more closely, try to appreciate every facet of what's around you. It's what Zen practitioners refer to as "beginner's mind."

It's also why we go to new places, why we seek out novelty and excitement. When you go to the wilderness or an exotic land, what you're implicitly saying is: Surprise me. Seeking novelty and surprise, doing what you're not used to doing, is a prescription for triggering that ancient perceptual richness that helps us to live more fully."


Red leaves in June??  VA, Day 44

As hard as it's been for me to give up running, it's obvious that there are plenty of other things that can continue to enrich the rest of my life. Morphing from running to walking is my first step athletically to "make everything new again."

I just need to keep my mind as open as my five senses and convince myself it's even more fun than running used to be!

Continued in Part 3:  time for a new bucket list of adventures!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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