If you follow me on Instagram – my handle may be really hard to remember: it’s willrunforbiscuits – then you may have noticed 1) no photos related to exercise and 2) everything seems really awesome in my world. If you don’t follow me but you follow social medial in general, you probably know that most people seem to paint a picture that everything in there life is sunshine and puppies, PR’s in every race, babies that sleep 15 hours at night at 4 weeks old, pay raises, surprise giant bouquets of exotic flowers from significant others, and selfies. I find it highly improbable that life is that perfect all the time. People just want everyone else to think everything is hunky dory because really, who wants to be depressed by your screaming kid that just smeared bodily fluids on the wall? Or maybe there is something missing any putting cute and happy pictures into the universe makes life better for the time being.
I know this isn’t really related to running, or triathlon training, but I’m going to connect the dots soon. For the last week, I have not been able to work out. No running (that makes three weeks now), no cycling, no swimming, no lifting, nothing. Remember that leg thing that has been nagging me for a while that I self-diagnosed as compartment syndrome? Wrong, it isn’t compartment syndrome. I jacked up my back somehow. I really have no clue how I did it. I didn’t slip, trip, or fall. I didn’t lift anything heavy other than one of my giant children or 50 pound dogs. It just sort of happened over the last several weeks. Really, since before my triathlon in July. But I thought it was due to tight shoes or something. In retrospect, I should have known it was my back, because when you herniate a disc at a certain point in your low back, it pretty much ONLY causes leg and foot symptoms. That’s it. No back pain.
I mentioned what was going on when I talked to my former boss last week (we’ll call her Jim). It’s interesting because we joke that she is either future me or I am pre-millenium Jim. When Jim was my age, she had two small kids. Then she herniated a disc in her back and ended up having surgery. Now she has two awesome teenageers and we have a lot more in common which i won’t get into, because I only overshare about myself, Super Dad, and the Super Kids. Jim wanted to know how I was doing because she noticed that over the weekend I posted a lot of awesome, super happy photos on instagram from a bachelorette party I went to. Then when I got back I posted a bunch of happy photos of Super Baby and Super Kid. No Facebook updates to the effect of “Wow, my leg hurts. Still not running. Really getting depressed.” I think Jim knew that something was still up, so she just wanted to check in on me, which I so appreciate. Because it’s time I really check in on myself.
Running, exercising, pick your poison, has got to be one of the best anti-depressants out there. I think most people involved in some form of fitness know that exercise makes you happy. It’s science. You’re probably familiar with the term “runner’s high,” which refers to the euphoric feeling one sometimes gets when exercising. Researchers have found that heavy weights or training that incorporates sprinting or other anaerobic exertion produce endorphins. This is because when your body crosses over from an aerobic state to an anaerobic state, it’s suddenly operating without enough oxygen to satisfy the muscles and cells screaming out for it. This is when the “runner’s high” occurs. This explains why I always feel best when I run so hard that I want to vomit.
Since I have not been able to tap into any natural endorpins, my mental state has been less than awesome. Not just because my body doesn’t feel right, but because I really felt like I was getting on the right track with my tri training. I was proud of my cycling, my newfound commitment to the pool, and just being able to get some sort of schedule worked out that accommodated our family. Now, I know it’s only been a week, but I naturally go to this place of “what if I need surgery?” and “what if I’m not supposed to bike anymore, or run?” or “what is nothing helps the numbness and burning in my leg and foot go away?”
I entered what I consider the four stages of grieving: 1) ignorance- pretend you will be running again in a matter of days. 2) drinking and eating a lot of processed foods to deal with fact that ignorance isn’t working. 3) purging processed foods from house because stage 2 has made me feel totally gross. 4) being a bad friend.
I’m a bad friend because I don’t want to know how fast you are running, what upcoming triathlon you are sure to crush, how many miles you swam after working 9 hours and making homemade baby food, how ripped you are now that you can work out three hours a day and don’t eat any sugar or dairy or carbs, or how it’s soooo crazy that you never get hurt despite running 60 miles a week. I should be supportive but right now, I don’t have enough endorphins to get me through the day without despairing that my hard work has been for nought. That I am on my way to becoming a decrepit, unathletic middle-aged woman who will be limited to water aerobics and tai chi. Not that those things aren’t cool. But I want to SWEAT. I want to compete. I don’t want to be in this place, and so if I’m not commenting on Instagram or Facebook about what a badass runner you are and how you inspire me (because you really do), please don’t be angry with me. I need more endorphins. And I need my leg back.