Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beware of hypokinesis

I'd like to thank you for checking in with this chit-chat about my favorite sport. This week I'm excited because a small story I've written for third to eighth graders, and maybe also for older folks who like to run, has come to life. It's about the journey of a woman and her grandson who grow together as they train together and it's called Running Mates.  You can find it on Amazon, in a few local outlets, and at my house.

I’ve been told that I do everything the hard way. Probably true. In much of my life, I’m not all that efficient. I don’t know the short cuts—the easy way to do lots of things. But that’s okay with me.  In fact, I’m beginning to think I just may like it that way.

It could be related to why I’ve run for a long time, and why I’m still at it. There’s no arguing the point that running gets harder as the years go by. More and more often I say to myself, especially while nearing the end of a race when my body is protesting: “This is hard. Why am I doing this?
It has to do, I think, with “keep on keeping on” thinking. I don’t much like the alternative. I like the satisfied feeling that comes with doing a thing as well as it can be done.

John Jerome, the author of Elements of Effort, one of my favorite books about running, says: “Aging is a disease of hypokinesis—the failure to move enough.” As we age, we are sometimes tempted to look for convenience—for the easy way out. We may avoid a flight of stairs in favor of the elevator, or decide to rearrange things so they are within easier reach. Maybe we decide to let someone else cut our grass, clean our house, or wash our windows.
If hypokinesis causes aging, then perhaps we should reconsider taking it easy. Now I’m not suggesting that those who are aging—and isn’t that all of us? go out and exhaust or injure ourselves on the ski slope, steep mountain trail, or running track. Instead I like to imagine a challenge: Finding some form of body movement that tickles our fancy, that for whatever reason, we love to do so much that we will do it faithfully. It doesn’t have to be easy, but it does have to be fun.
Doing a thing because we should, because it’s good for our cardiovascular system, or our mental outlook, or to maintain our weight, just won’t cut it over the long haul. We human beings seem to respond best to that which brings us joy.
The fun comes, not because what we do is easy and pain free, but, as John Jerome suggests, “Most of us, most of the time, have to have something to push against…” Those of us who run, and I suspect anyone involved with some form of physical activity, needs an adversary. Luckily for us runners, there are plenty. Depending on the season and terrain, we struggle with heat or cold, wind or rain, darkness and distance, hill ascents and step downhill grades. And if none of them were there, we wouldn’t like it at all.
And then there’s the aftermath—a long hot shower or a soak in the tub—a big fat pile of blueberry pancakes—stretching out near a warm fire or in the sun for a read or a nap that has been earned.
It takes courage to commit to an on-going “spectator status” in this life. It’s hard to live with knowledge that hypokinesis could catch up with us at any moment.

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