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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ready to Run?

I've always been a walker. I love thinking out things and seeing the world around me when I walk, whether I'm take a meandering stroll or moving energetically at a fitness pace. I've never been much of a runner; I've tried to start regimes several times over my life but could never keep at it.

In my twenties, I suffered from several bouts of pneumonia and serious bronchitis and I used my lungs as an excuse to stay away from running. And then there was the whole thing about knees. I wanted to keep my knees as long as possible because of the fact I love to walk, and cycle and garden and climb dunes and rocks.

But lately I've been craving running. Ever since Peter received a diagnosis of cancer and all through the hideous weeks of finding out how bad it was I wanted to move fast, to dispel the anger at an idiot and rude doctor who took far too long to get to a diagnosis, to shake the fear, the uncertainty and to feel healthy myself. I also knew I'd have to be strong for the months ahead and that meant fit and mentally calm.

Our daughter came to visit the weekend we got the diagnosis. She somehow inherited my love of walking and my ambivalence toward running. In the summer, she described herself as a "runner," thanks to some zombie-run app on her phone that didn't stick. She is trying again and has a new app that is training her to run. It has a program that increases the amount of running over the course of thirty-five minutes each time she does a workout. While she listens to a playlist of music, the app tells her when to walk and when to run and when to cool down. We found an earlier version of the app for the old Ipod I have for my music. My daughter instructed me to make my own "running" playlist. Find songs that "get you pumping," she said. "You can't run to Leonard Cohen." So I found the fastest music I had including some obvious choices like Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, and the Dixie Chicks' Ready to Run. I threw in some more Bruce, some Dire Straits and some Johnny Cash (I am of that generation.) I even found a few of Lucinda Williams' songs that worked and yes, some Leonard Cohen. There'd be cool-down periods after all.

I can't say I'm a runner yet - not by a long shot - I've only tried the app a few times. When the day by day app increases the amount of running too quickly for me I just go back to the day before. Day One is still quite popular.

The old worries about running remain. My lungs are in good shape now, my heart; my joints in relatively good shape. But I'm a cautious person and a journalist so I had to check out whether it's stupid or not to take up running in the third phase. I found mainly good news. A study in Medical News Today reported that seniors who run slow down the aging process and are better at walking than seniors who walk for exercise. And there are lots of running websites and tips online for how to do it right.

I'm not wrong to worry about my knees which have held up pretty well so far. But it seems that avoiding injury to the knees has as much to do with the runner, the training style and the surface (I do find  an indoor track easier on the knees than the sidewalks.). But it doesn't look like I can get away with using my knees as an excuse anymore. For those without past injuries or who aren't overweight, running, if done properly, might actual be good for knee joints.

I don't know where my running app will take me, perhaps just back to walking. Peter begins five weeks of intensive radiation and chemotherapy this week for third stage cancer of the esophagus. And then, hopefully, surgery. I'll be running when I can, running for both our lives. D

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