Dealing with Runner’s Low Part 1

I never thought it could happen to me. I didn’t even see it coming. And the sad part is that I could be falling out..or can I still save this relationship before it totally fizzles out…? How and why did running became a relationship that would seriously matter in my life.

I was not the type who wanted life easy, because, by default, whatever I had almost always came to me at a price. Growing up and growing older, I bathed at the thought that I was luckier than the rest of people my age, simply because I was busy and could still be productive. Indeed, as one gained years and graduated from one life stage to another, I was never out of “work” to do. It was largely my choice.  There were, admittedly, brief lulls in my life that I had not used as true rest or recovery periods or a time to reflect and re-evaluate priorities, simply because I was always drawn to some responsibility and accountability, that resting or taking time off could not be an option. In short, I was always on the run, even before I started running.

Hence, back in 2009, it was not hard for me to get addicted to running. I tested the idea of feeling better after a run so many times that I was honestly convinced no amount of intoxication could equal my runner’s high. And so I had long, long years of running, churning in from 70kms to 100kms of weekly mileage, depending on the race distance I signed up for any given Sunday. I even learned the art and science of running without music, convinced runner-friends on ditching the MP3 player once and for all, in exchange for runners high.

thank you (from Google Images)

In 2011, I got injured from running too much. Stress fractures force your running to a halt. I buried myself into reading everything about running that I could lay my hands on, just to keep my spirits high. After 2 years I had a much shorter episode of stress fracture in my ankle, and because it was the second time, I knew the drills and what I had to do to maintain my runner’s high and not totally decondition.

As fate would not want me to forget, I got into a bike accident and broke my clavicle in 2013. A few days post-op and on a shoulder support, I defied doctor’s advise and walked on the treadmill with 10% average incline till my sweat broke and poured. Of course that was a crazy thing to do, considering the risk I took on a possible secondary infection from my own sweat, or worse, falling off the machine due limited range of motion and having another cracked bone. Twice I got into surgery, so twice I underwent a thorough rehab and each time, in my desire to quickly get back into running, my life partner would always ask the proverbial, irritating question, “What are you trying to prove?”. How does one explain that years of intensive exercise made one’s physical, emotional and mental well-being was so much in tune with the world – that even the thought of not running or hitting the gym for a couple of days gets me into panic mode, as if all order and sobriety was not within reach.

Getting back into running and getting back into shape, I never had a problem with – until now.

A couple of months ago, I had been too busy with “too many things going on at the same time”. Turned out I have already altered my running lifestyle in the  process.

  • Late nights are the nemesis of the morning person. Not only do more waking hours trick the mind into wanting more food than is necessary, a late night also sets the wrong stage for the following day as your body goes into compensatory mode.  This is a classic case of the mind ruling over the entire system to declare a holiday from exercise and fitness.
  • Stress creeped into my very core. Not even using music on the runs could block out ugly thoughts. I used to think that I had the greater advantage of being more mentally than physically strong, but when you try to plan a tight day ahead, the run just deteriorates, until it’s just so tempting not to run at all.
  • I substituted road-running with treadmills and weights. If I were a newbie runner (as I was in 2009) I would lose tons of weight, even if  means shortening my stride and weakening my core.  After all, hitting the gym from waking up late, is always a good option than not exercising at all.
  • I packed in the pounds. A few Sundays ago, I almost slugged a fellow runner who came up to me and said, “Abet, lumalaki ka…” It’s not like I didn’t know what he just told me; I just didn’t want the truth in my face and be uttered in the sacred grounds of UP Diliman Oval.
  • I COULDN’T run. It wasn’t just the snail’s pace, or the lingering leg fatigue or the intermittent breathlessness that was so characteristic of being deconditioned. I struggled as I’ve never struggled, as my legs just didn’t want to be there.

After 2 months of self-denial, I finally admitted I had a problem. In a financial analogy, I’ve hit rock-bottom. I have RUNNER’S LOW. Instead of wasting more time trying to find out the how and why, I decided to take steps to get on the road back if I had any chance of doing my next marathon in decent time.

sq25_s28_f190_cc: Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) “races” to the makeshift finish line.





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