Preface: The paths to fitness are as numerous as those who travel them and should be judged and measured only by those who choose to take them.
When asked ‘what should I do to get back in shape?’ my answer is simple – whatever moves you. It’s nearly impossible to spend your precious free time doing something you dislike or even marginally disdain. Find what you love, your ‘path’, then go.
Lately, I’ve been fascinated and saddened by the outpouring of worry and concern as COVID-19 has erased fitness events from the landscape. Virtual and at-home events have stepped in to partially fill this gaping hole, but it seems that so many have lost their way without the ultimate goal of the event to work towards.
When the pandemic began dissolving my events, I too wondered what I’d do and why I’d do it. What could I measure, how should I train, and why should I train?
No events, no raison d’etre. Yikes.
To be safe and solitary I began to run a 5K course on my road, which ironically placed me in harm’s way. I was guaranteed no exposure to other runners, but my winding, narrow country road is driven on too fast by too many.
I hated it. Trying to be safe was going to kill me. No events to train for left me rudderless, and I couldn’t even use the rudder to dodge the drivers I was pissing off. Uncertainty weighed me down, which we all know is bad for a runner.
It was a huge step to head out to the trails, because I assumed that was where everyone was. I suited up with three layers of face mask, and believe me if I had a face shield I would have worn it.
Of course, I was wrong. The trail was mine, and all the stress and fear that had built up during my dangerous road running melted away with each step, leaving me in the woods running to hit the…, to make a time of…, with a goal of…, to hit a distance of…, to keep up with…
I was running for the love of running. In the woods. Alone or with my wife, Kathy. To no end except whatever I felt in the moment on that day.
Of course I passed an infrequent traveler on the trail, but six-feet and a face covering made the occasional encounter acceptable.
Over time, each run became my ‘event’ du jour, and each weekend I scheduled something a bit more ambitious based on the running I’d done during the week.
What has fascinated me about this evolution is how I’ve responded with a newfound accountability to myself. When I’m feeling good, I run, mediocre I run slower, tired I rest.
I’ve seen progress in my running speed and distance, but more importantly I look forward to my adventures every day and feel tremendous gratitude when I’m out there. This progress has also enabled me to explore more challenging routes, resulting in even fewer people sharing the trail.
Everything on my terms.
There are times I’ve loved ‘training,’ times when I’ve worked hard to achieve a goal, overcoming failures along the way. I absolutely loved being coached and being held accountable for my daily training. There are events I’ve participated in that have brought me incredible joy and accomplishment. There are wonderful people I’ve met along my journey, and memories that will last a lifetime.
And today, this new phase of my fitness journey feels perfect.
I’m not claiming an event-free world is better. I am saying that right now, for me, nothing is missing.
I’m living proof that in the fall of 2020, there is event-free joy to be had. It may be in the woods, on the rail trails, even the roads, but it’s there, somewhere.
Don’t ever stop exploring.