Saturday, August 11, 2007

NPR - Running and HELP

Every runner has their own physical and mental preparation for a run and every runner has their own mental process during a run. That's obvious, as every runner has a way of evaluating their run when it's over. I'm no different, even though I'm not a serious runner, running only 2-4 miles 3-4 days a week depending on other things in work and life. And as I get older, it's become harder to run consistently during and over weeks and during runs. For that I use HELP.

My HELP isn't what you think, but an acronym for (H)eart, (E)nergy, (L)egs, and (P)assion. As I run I take mental notes about each of these to see where I am that day and that run. I don't keep running logs or keep mental notes about my runs, but I do keep some general feeling over a week how the runs compare and note on a wall calendar which was run was the best of the month. That's it, and over the months, the memories fade as I focus on the run of the day and the runs that week.

Why these four things? Every runner has their own characteristics about themselves that make their runs good, bad or indifferent. And for me these four pretty much explains my runs and body and mind during the run. And for each there is a reason.

First the heart. I have a heart condition. I had Rheumatic Fever when I was three years old. I had all the symptoms but doctors at the time said children 3 and under can't get it. Go figure, because they treated me for the next 18 years as if I had it. I have a heart murmur and last year a cardiologist found a small amount of damage to one valve. But it hasn't hurt my interests in life except for one thing we found at the same time.

I took one of those 24 hour test where you wear 5 sensors on your chest and a recorder which monitors your heart for the whole period. The cardiologist then said, "Now, go out and run your heart out.", meaning to stress it so we can see it through the complete tests of my life. We found my heart has an extra stimulus connection which races the heart faster than normal and faster than the rest of the body can adapt to.

This causes me my heart to go from nornal rate to over 180 beats faster than normal, in less than a second or two. The cardiologist can't explain it but it does explain why I run myself out of breath at times - my lungs and body can't cope with the faster heart rate. I now have to pace myself in the first one-quarter to half mile to get my heart and breathing in sync and then running after that is easier.

Second energy. I have a slow metabolism, and it's a similar story where I have to get the body to work during my runs where it's circulated the energy the body is using, and not get tired part way into it.

Third is legs. My body is defined by the fitness and condition of my legs. It's the driving force of my whole body. Everyone has parts that are similar, and for me, strong fit legs are it.

Fourth is passion. This is the muddy part of it. It's the whole mindset of me, and like every runner, the reason we run. Some days it's not (mentally) there but the run may be good, and some days you feel good but the run sucked. And some days it all comes together.

After the run I assess these four factors and make a mental note about it, and then get on with life. I don't track my time, distance - this is predetermined because running outdoors on the same course every run with known distance markers, or any of the fancy stuff serious runners do. I used to have one of those fancy heart monitors and watches, but let the batteries wear down in the drawer where it sits.

I just run for the sheer enjoyment of running and being outdoors on a tree-lined rural road. Just one foot in front of the other. Nothing more.

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