For many years I have been a distance runner, I loved it. I worked on my form every day, running defined me. I would often be greeted by a stranger when I was out and about “Not running today?” Although it came to be something I loved to do, I also assumed that an added bonus was that it was good for my health, that I was fit. Most people who know me think of me as fit and therefore healthy.
But fit for what? Through the work of Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement, I came to understand that I was fit to run but not fit for much else and not entirely functional either. Through my practise of Restorative Exercise, I realised how much of me was not fit, that my body was underused in so many ways. This was incredibly eye opening to me. Very poor ranges of motion, zero upper body strength, not much core strength and most of the time I was using my spine to do the work that my very immobile hips could no longer do. I could go on. Running had been all consuming and in any case, I had ticked the exercise box, right?
So little of life these days requires movement. Very little, if anything, requires us to use our upper body at all. We tend to sit in chairs in a fixed position for large parts of the day with a tucked pelvis asking nothing of our hips. There are hardly any tasks in this modern lifestyle of ours that require twisting motions. Movements that are nourishing to the body in many ways. Even as a runner, not very much of me was moving at all.
One of the reasons we take up exercise, in my case running, is to improve our cardiovascular health. For many years, I focused on heart rate training in an effort to bring my heart rate down while running only to learn later that one of the reasons my heart rate was higher than I would like was because I was asking it to do more than its fair share of the work. As far as I know there is not much wrong with my heart, I had what could be seen as an enviably low resting heart rate, normal for a distance runner.
I now understand that my largely under moved body with its unyielding tissues was failing to deliver oxygen effectively. How I had used my body, or not actually, was affecting how well my blood flowed and to where. Stiff muscles equals stiff arteries. As a result many parts of my musculoskeletal system were not participating at all due to the resistance of my adapted tissues. Listen here for a great discussion on cardio and whole body health.
Our bodies require movement, lots of it and in many different ways throughout the day. All our cells need feeding and if you don’t move, they don’t get fed. Read Move Your DNA for more on this.
I started to walk more because I felt it gave me more bang for my buck in terms of overall health. The more I walked, the less I ran. Generally I will always choose walking if possible to get somewhere over driving, much to the annoyance of my youngest daughter. I have come to love it, just like running. I have found it to be a great way to continue my education while listening to podcasts and books and spend time with friends and family. I am more likely to stop as a walker, enjoy the view, savour the present moment. I have also incorporated more natural movements into my life eschewing furniture where possible in an effort to regain some lost motion, see previous blog.
A few weeks ago, walking home after a run, I found myself thinking, that was my last run - for now anyway. In time, I may well come back to it when I feel my body is more robust. It had taken me a year to arrive in this place and there was no real conscious decision to stop, I had just reached a point where I was ready to let it go. The thing that had given me a career, many wonderful friendships, introduced me to so many inspiring people and much else besides. I never saw that coming.
I want to try lots of different things, move in many different ways. Climb a few trees, become less fearful of heights, play more and do it all with a body that is getting stronger not weaker with age. Mostly I want to spend as much time as possible outdoors, in nature preferably, because that’s where I’m happiest and it feeds my soul. Besides as one of my mentors and friend Danny Dreyer says, there is more chi outside :-)
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