Regular followers of my blog know there are certain battles I’ve been fighting for the last few years. Here’s an update on three of those things, all of which I have a love-hate relationship with, which I think will actually turn into an update on a fourth as well.
I didn’t start running until I was about 40 years old and only then because I volunteered to run the 5k portion of a sprint triathlon with family. There were plenty of bicyclists, I wasn’t interested in swimming a half mile, and not enough runners. So, I ran. I spent the month or two before the race “training” for it and by the time it was over I realized that I wanted to keep running. No matter how much things hurt while I run, there is something rather simple and clean about it as a form of exercise. You can basically run anywhere with nothing other than a pair of decent running shoes. So, I became a runner. I loved it. I hated it.
In the next few years, I ran four half marathons and plenty of 5ks and 10ks. And then I tore a groin muscle playing soccer. And tore it again. And again. I haven’t run so much since. I spent almost a year doing physical therapy exercises with little noticeable change in the ol’ groin muscular system and because of that, I didn’t run. Then I spent about a year doing just about nothing — no exercises, no running. Nothing. Then I decided to try to combine some physical therapy with walks, long walks. And, that didn’t last too long. During this time I also tried bicycling again, but it just doesn’t work for me as well as running does. Assuming I can run, of course.
As a result, I’ve become a bit of a lump over the past couple of years and my lack of exercise has been one of the things that has given rise to a growing sense of frustration with my current existence.
Right around when I stopped running, a couple of co-workers started running. They have done a lot of 5ks, 10ks, Tough Mudders, half marathons and full marathons over the past couple of years and every time I talk to them about running, it makes me want to get back to it again. I’d love to run a half marathon with them.
So … I’ve started it up again. A couple of weeks ago, I started doing some light physical therapy — three or four basic exercises to strengthen my legs and a number of exercises for my core. Last Saturday I went for a walk that turned into a jog/walk. Over a little more than three miles long, I managed to jog for about a mile and a half in the middle before the spot where I tore my groin muscle started feeling sore and weak. I stopped jogging and walked the rest of the way and for the past week have continued my physical therapy exercises every day. This morning, I went for a run. The same route and the in between jog lasted for almost three miles without that pulling sensation in the tear spot. Maybe something is starting to work. We shall see. I plan on continuing the exercises and not waiting a week for my next run. Maybe Wednesday or Thursday.
That Beer Thing
It’s a constant and daily struggle. When I got back from Cabo, I committed to stopping and I did for a few weeks. Then one day, as the work day wound to a close, I just started thinking about having a beer and got frustrated that I couldn’t have one. By the time I got home, was a six-pack of Peroni in a Safeway bag in my hand and I had a couple of beers that night because dammit, why can’t I just have a beer or two. I finished the six-pack over the next two days and then didn’t drink anything for another three or four days. And, then I did it again. Got a six pack and drank it over the next three days. Took a few days off and did it again. Only, the six pack didn’t last quite as long.
Which leads to this weekend. I did the Ice Water Challenge and had to stop at the store for a bag of ice on the way home. You know what the store has right? Beer and lots of it. I did it again. Got the ice and a six pack of Trumer. And after I had completed the challenge, I popped open a bottle of Trumer. And another. And another. And another. And yesterday, because I challenged one of my sons, we had to stop and get ice. At the store. And you know what the store has right? Beer and lots of it. Yes, I had two beers left over from my Trumer six pack, but I was planning on making pizza last night for dinner and as beautiful and wonderful as Trumer is, you gotta have Peroni with pizza. So, I got a six-pack of Peroni. My son did the ice water challenge and I started making pizza and drinking beer. Do you know how long it takes me to make pizza from beginning to end. About 2 1/2 hours. That’s making the dough, grating the cheese, preparing the toppings, firing up the oven and baking stone, and making seven pizzas, and then consuming one made just for me. That’s also five beers later.
And, that’s why I just need to stop. When I stopped a few months ago, I insisted that I had to think about it in terms of permanently never having another beer again because I had come to realize that I couldn’t control it anymore. If I have a beer and know I don’t have to drive anywhere, it is really hard for me to stop at one or two. I open my mouth and just start pouring.
So, I need to re-commit myself to stopping. This weekend showed me the truth and the reality. It’s time to make it permanent. Each and every day.
When I first started writing almost eleven years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook. I didn’t have a blog. We had one computer in our house and no smart phones. My kids were eight and five and they were very active inside and outside. TV was kept to a minimum. Somewhat. And there was a lot going on in terms of personal interactions in our family. I spent many evenings and weekends coaching them in baseball and soccer and in that first year, I managed to write an 80,000 word novel. In the second year, I managed to completely rewrite it and turn it into a 120,000 word. And I started writing short stories, too. While so much was going on, I was able to write all of this stuff and kept coming up with new ideas and new stories and churning them out.
Something changed a few years ago and I’m now at the point when it comes to my fiction that I can barely pull a handful of words out before throwing up my hands and giving up in frustration. And turning to FB or WordPress or my email or whatever else is easily at hand to distract me. I simply have lost the ability to write and I wonder if my brain chemistry has fundamentally been altered over the last few years.
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A fellow blogger who knows a thing or two about it, posted after Robin Williams’ suicide that alcohol and drugs, particularly the abuse of those substances, can alter your brain chemistry. There are studies that show technology can alter your brain chemistry. And studies that show how exercise can also change your brain for the good. I also read something yesterday that distinguished between organic and situational depression. I pretty much believe in the truth of these things. We can alter our brain and our mood with what we put into our bodies and what we do with our bodies.
The point of all of this is that I need to see if I can get my brain back to where it was a few years ago. Before I started to abuse beer — I never got to the point where I was an out-of-control drunk, but I’m pretty sure I got to the point where I was “abusing” it. Just drinking too much. Combine that with my lack of exercise and the benefits it provides. Combine that with how technology has overwhelmed our lives — we now have a first generation Kindle, a Kindle Fire, three tablets, two laptops, a desktop, and four smart phones in our family of four. There is no family interaction that doesn’t include one or all of us looking at a screen. They are omnipresent. And, too, I have been sucked into the whirlwind of what’s on the internet — looking for the quick and easy stimulation of what’s going on out there on the web, rather than settling into something that is more real and close at hand.
Starting today … I’m going to focus on getting back to where I can run. I will not drink alcohol anymore. And, I will not live my life so dependent on technology. What that means for this whole blogging thing is that I’m going to be cutting back my presence here more than I already have — what started as an effort to blog every day and which became more like several times a week, will now become … well, I’m not sure. Not very often. Maybe, not at all. What it also means is that I’m not going to be spending as much time at your blogs either. And, it’s a shame because I’ve “met” some incredible people here in the WordPress blogosphere. Great writers and poets, great thinkers and commentators on life, funny people, talented people. I don’t want to lose contact with a lot of you.
But I like the person I was a few years ago a whole lot more than the person I am today and I’m dedicated to getting that person back. It’s going to take a while but I want to be able to write 100,000 words a year again. I want to feel good again about my health and my effort. I want to interact with my environment without a piece of technology. I want a lot of things and I’ve done nothing about them for far too long.
My biggest fear? I know I have situational depression. The last thing I want is for it to grow into something that is organic. That terrifies me and I have to take that fear and do something with it.