Health check / Return to running: Reflections from an intermittent runner
WESTPORT — Soon after I moved to Fairfield County in the fall, fresh out of college, I set out to run a half-marathon. Although I’ve been an intermittent runner throughout my life, I printed out a training plan for beginners that I believed could carry me to the finish line come spring.
As the days grew shorter and colder, I woke up most mornings and traveled down to the basement treadmill in my apartment.
Each week, the plan mandated longer runs, which I nearly sprinted so as to avoid spending an hour on a basement treadmill.
My steady start was halted a month in, by a one-two punch of knee pain and a debilitating flu. I stopped running, lost my momentum and haven’t looked at the plan since.
I stuck to yoga for exercise to get me through the past few months, but with the promise of spring and warmer weather ahead, I’ve felt a renewed sense of energy and the desire to return to running. But I didn’t want to end up in the same defeated state again, so I consulted a running expert.
“If you’re a former runner and you’re getting back into running, the typical path is to run slowly but more frequently,” said Jean Paul Desrosiers, a runner and owner of the Westport-based training gym Sherpa, which offers coaching for runners.
“Your body has to get used to a new form of exercise, even if you’ve laid off for a while, so if just go out and run quickly your body might not have the supportive tissue,” Desrosiers said, adding slow running is lower impact than fast running and thus helps thwart injury, which I may have avoided had I not insisted to sprint out of the gate.
“Try not to take on too much too soon,” said Greg Dorsch, a fellow runner and exercise physiologist at Sherpa, suggesting I start with a 5K or intermediary race before tackling the half-marathon.
I’m notoriously impatient and, at 22, the restlessness and uncertainty of being in my 20s has only exacerbated the problem. I want to be at the peak of my career before I climb the first rung, choose a fancy house to settle down in before I’ve paid this month’s rent on my apartment, run the half-marathon before the 5K.
With running, as in life, I’d do well to remember the tortoise and the hare. Slow down, focus and I’ll get to where I want to be. On a fine, brisk morning following this week’s rainstorm, I woke up and ran, for the first time in several months, slowly, so that one day I may one run faster and stretch out my arms farther.
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