Thursday, December 4, 2014

Good Advice (#ThinkKit Day4)

Whether you asked for it – or not – what good advice did you get this year? Did it come from an unexpected source? Was it unsolicited, or did you need a word or two after an eventful day, week, or month? Has the advicechanged the way you think about the world? Changed the way you think about your advisor? Changed the way you think about yourself? Changed the way you act? Can you distill the message and help the rest of us out, or is it too personal to be universal? 

This was the year I fell, suddenly and unexpectedly, in love with running. Before that day, I considered running to be a nuisance, an obnoxious activity that nevertheless was good for fitness. I had runner friends that I assumed had a screw loose, the way they would venture outside in all kinds of weather - even the days we were warned not to drive they were out there running.

I really wanted to be a runner. I tried a few times in my old neighborhood, running a loop over and over in the few blocks around my house where I felt safest, but I was always huffing and puffing and generally feeling miserable and self-conscious about it. Sometimes I would run on the treadmill at the gym, and that seemed less painful, but it was mind-numbing. I somehow always got stuck in front of the TV playing Fox News. I tried reading e-books with the type scaled up, but reading and running at the same time turned out not to be a great match. I would make a terrible Nook.

When I moved, and no longer had a cheap gym nearby, I stopped trying. But then I signed up for a 5K and ran it hard, which was painful and amazing, and just like that I was hooked. I started running every day after that - I couldn't get enough of it. The Monon Trail was right next to my house and I woke up excited to run at 6 a.m. This went on for a couple of weeks until one day, half a mile from my new house, my knee completely locked up. I could barely bend it, let alone run on it. 

This really freaked me out. Not because of the injury itself, but because it could get in the way of my new running obsession. I link it back to the years I played roller derby. That's where I discovered my competitive side. We were nuts - skaters would blow out their ACL or break an ankle and their first question would be "when can I skate again"? I loved the determination and single-mindedness. The down side was that we often didn't give ourselves enough time to recover. 

The problem with my knee didn't go away. I waited a day, then ran on it anyway. I only went a couple miles, and slower than I wanted, so I considered that taking it easy. But it locked up again and I had to hobble home. It got to the point where walking down the stairs was really painful. I still didn't want to stop, even though I knew I should. I was petrified that if I took too much time off that it would all disappear - that ability to get up at 6 a.m. and be happy about it, the progress I was making in being able to run further and further, and just being able to enjoy running itself. I didn't want to go back. 

I solicited my running friends for advice, and they told me two things:
  1. Get better shoes. I was running in old sneakers I'd bought years ago on sale at JCPenney. So I ventured to Blue Mile and had them assess my running style, and bought the shoes they suggested. The price tag was painful, but if it would let me run again it was worth it.
  2. Recovery is just as important as running. This advice was harder for me to take. Intellectually I knew recovery time was necessary - all the books I was reading said so, and so did the runners in a group I'd joined. It made sense. I just didn't like it. Why should I rest if I could run?
I finally gave in and followed the advice. I stopped running for nearly two weeks, even though it seemed like forever. And then I worked up a training plan with more moderate increases. And it worked, my knee gradually got better and I could run again, within reason. They were right, recovery is just as important. 

I started thinking about the concept of recovery time, and looking at where I could apply it to other parts of my life. 

I'm not someone who's good at sitting still. I can marathon some Netflix with the best of 'em, but I keep my schedule pretty jam packed. I love to join new organizations, volunteer my time, take classes, sign up for anything that sounds interesting. And that's brought some great things into my life and introduced me to some wonderful people. But doing so much all the time has its drawbacks too. It's missing something - that recovery time. 

Without that recovery time, I don't take time to reflect on where I'm at, where I want to be, what's really important to me. And I don't really process things well before jumping into the next big thing.

So I've taken that advice way out of its original context, and I'm taking it seriously. I'm taking stock of my life and making space to move around. A big part of that is that at the end of the year I'm stepping down from the board of an organization that I really like. The people are wonderful and I believe in what we do, but it's a significant time commitment, and I need that time to myself for a while.

It's scary to me - looking ahead and seeing open spaces on my calendar. I've seen other groups that I admire looking for board and committee members and I've been so tempted to throw my hat in. But then I stop, and remind myself that - for now at least - I'm sticking to the basics, so that I can see what really matters, and where I really want to go next.