I did five pushups this evening. I’ve been off running for two weeks now, with tendinitis in my foot, and although I’ve done a bit of biking – commuting, is all – nothing for me tops the pleasure of rolling out the door for 6 or 10 miles and checking my watch to see how close I am to my goal time – per mile, per route, per plan. I miss my marathon training like crazy.
Last night I was chatting with a good friend at a gig, and brought up my frustration at being off my feet. She said she’d gone through the same thing, stopped running a year ago, and recommended pushups. I said she was crazy. She pointed out that you could count them, and improve your number every day. And I said she was awesome.
Why did that simple statement make all the difference for me? Running has been my dream sport for years not because I am a good runner, or fast, or apparently able to do it without injury. What I love is the numbers. I can go out for a run and push myself to achieve more than the day before, and I can know that I did it by the numbers on my watch, or in my training log. When winter weather keeps me off the streets, I can enjoy a treadmill all the more because the numbers are all there right in front of me. My pace, the seconds, the tenths of a mile just ticking off digitally before my eyes. If I ran with no goal, no measurement device, and no idea of what I did yesterday, I’d still enjoy the endorphins and the experience – but I’d probably stop after ten minutes. In the absence of that personal drive to top myself, or to hit a certain pace for a certain time in my plan, the exercise itself wouldn’t be exciting.
But pushups, now. I could work up to ten in a row. I could do two sets, or work up to three. I’d be able to feel and see myself getting stronger. I could get a little better every day and I LOVE doing that!
Years ago I commented to my father, the marathoner and superman, that running gave me an outlet for my obsessive need to analyze and improve my own performance – a thing to work on that was low stakes. Zero stakes, compared to playing the oboe. After all, every time I play in public I am heard, and judged, to an extent, by my colleagues and bosses if not always by the audience, and I really can’t afford to play badly. As a freelance musician, my career is on the line with every appearance, and a few bad ones can drop me down a call list pretty fast.
When I run a race, though, the only one who cares about the result is me. I’m not naturally fast and won’t ever challenge the front runners, but I can compete against myself to my heart’s content, and enjoy the challenge with no negative results. Except, I suppose, irritating injuries which then keep me from running.
Hence, pushups. Let’s see if I can’t get strong while I’m waiting around to get healthy.
I love my life.