A Change of Pace...and Heart

Our bodies change. It’s just a fact of life. There are normal developmental changes that come with growing up, going through puberty, having kids, and aging. Then there are changes that our bodies go through as a result of injury or illness. Changes that come through physical training are often the ones we desire and have more control over; for example, increasing upper body work to build stronger arms and upper back, adding yoga to increase flexibility, or adding agility drills to improve speed and coordination on the field. Changes arising from illness or injury are typically unwanted, but we benefit by managing them wisely. Regardless of the cause, all bodies experience lots of changes; such is life. 

So my question for you today is: how do you deal with the unwanted, undesirable changes that come with life?  

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I loved to run. I could run far and was even somewhat fast. I relished the chance to train…hard and be my best on race day. Then I had kids, and I found time for exercise wherever, whenever I could work it in. And, with little ones at home, I was not able to get out and run for an hour or more! My distance running was no longer my priority.

Fast forward to my return to running about 1.5 years ago. I started training, but I did not see the improvements for which I hoped. This was new for me.  To top it off, I noticed my heart would skip a beat every now and then. This was not only uncomfortable in terms of breathing rhythm, but it was also worrisome. I most often noticed the skipped heartbeats when running, which really bothered me- mentally and physically.

I went to see my doctor who calmly explained that running with an arrhythmia was permissible, as long as I did not feel chest pain, get dizzy, pass out, etc.  

So, the ball was put in my court. What to do? Walk away from what I love because in order to keep running I would need to back off a bit and go <gulp> slow? Or approach it with care and caution? For me, the latter choice would mean a total shift in mindset. In order to run and enjoy it and not risk feeling the discomfort and fear that comes with my heart skipping a beat, I would need to show extra kindness to myself and replace my goals of time/distance with more basic goals of just running, being comfortable, and enjoying each run. A totally different approach, but I am strong and I can do hard things! Even if it means updating my belief in what personal success looks like!

Since that discovery and revelation, I have returned to running… but slower. I do not beat myself up for not being as fast as I used to be. Yes, I wish I could run my old pace. But at least I am running and NOT feeling the weird breathing/heart irregularities that were triggered when I pushed myself too hard.  Instead, I often meditate when I run. I also use my running time to increase my awareness of my breath and all my senses. I tune in to feeling the cool air on my face, hearing the leaves as they’re blown across the sidewalk or crunch underfoot, listening to the birds and dogs in the neighborhood, feeling the impact of each shoe hitting the sidewalk, enjoying the scents from local restaurants and cafes I pass, and seeing the beauty of nature all around. I am the same physically, but my mindset change has allowed a valuable internal shift. Instead of fighting the reality of my body’s limitations, I now choose to be fully respectful and present for all that is within me and around me. I am able to focus on what I realize really matters most to me: peace, true presence, the gifts of nature, and the ability just “ to be.”

What about you? What’s been your mountain? Have you walked away or changed your approach in order to move toward a healthier goal?