Sunday, August 31, 2008

pain and suffering

The book I'm currently reading is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. It is a book outside of my usual fare - which doesn't matter due to Murakami's skill. His writing is so clear and personal, it flows from the page. He doesn't preach that everyone should run (and even cautions against that); rather he writes that each person must find what they enjoy as far as physical activity and that we don't all need the same things.

I am about one-third of the way through the book and I recommend it. He weaves his life, his thoughts, his hopes and his stumbles throughout the book (so far, and I assume that will continue) in a way that is not self-deprecating nor ego-based. It is what he experienced and his thoughts along the way.

While running is not one of my aspirations, becoming more physically fit and more active is. I now stretch every day, and get a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio exercise four to five days a week and strength training (some with a trainer) two to three times a week. And my exercise partner and I have started doing some longer hikes. We started with the 5.6 miles Silver Falls park loop last week. This recent weekend we went to another park -- where we got lost due to poorly marked trails and being unable to distinguish some designtated trails and undesigneated trails. My guidebook had warned us. But my guidebook also had a couple of trails which we never saw and found one trail which is not in the book. We finally met up with a cyclist who was able to describe how to find a trail up to the meadow (which we'd passed twice) which would lead us back to the car.

So today I was reading this book - started it today, actually. And I ran across a quote he used from another runner (or maybe it was told to this other runner by another runner) ... it has been passed down, anyway! The quote relates really well to a conversation my workout partner and I were having about doing a big hike or the Mt Tabor stairs or something where we have to push ourselves to get through it -- and we do and it is sometimes hard and then, as our bodies say "look what we did!" and our breath returns to normal and muscles relax to normal we think: "that wasn't so bad."

And the quote sums it up beautifully: (advice from a top runner about running) "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

This is what I am learning on a physical, visceral level. Intellectually I know. And I know that starting a new exercise regime, especially since I'm well past my 20s, will bring with it some aches and pains. The goal is to have shorter and shorter recovery times and less intensity to the pain. Pain is a part of life. But it's the attitude we can work on!