Almost two years ago, gravity, my mountain bike and a lack of talent combined to separate my acromioclavicular joint -- more commonly known as an AC joint.
Big picture -- not a big deal!
It did, however, prevent me from running for several weeks. On my first trail run post-injury, I experienced the dreaded STDs (Screaming Thighs of Death), burning lungs, pounding heart ... and that was just walking to the trailhead.
As often happens during a run unless I keep a close eye on it, my mind wandered off and started pondering ancient Greek stories (doesn’t everyone’s mind do this?). You may have heard of Sisyphus. After quite a lot of naughtiness, he was condemned for eternity to push a boulder to the top of a mountain. As soon as he reached the top, the boulder would roll down, and Sisyphus would have to start all over again.
I also thought of Homer’s tale about the land of the Lotus-eaters. Odysseus and crew washed ashore there during their long journey home. When members of the crew joined the Lotus-eaters in dining on the lotus plant, they abandoned all thoughts of home. They wanted to do nothing more than spend their days lounging about, enjoying “the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus.”
I can sympathize with Sisyphus. Getting into (or back into) shape is a bit like pushing that boulder up a mountain. It’s hard. It is also incredibly discouraging when injury, or work, or “life” send the fitness “boulder” tumbling back down the hill.
I can also relate to the travelers in Homer’s epic. Getting that boulder up the mountain is a difficult endeavor, often with no end in sight. It is so much easier to relax and convince ourselves we’ll work out “tomorrow.” In many ways, our land is the “land of the Lotus-eaters,” offering many pleasant alternatives to sweat, burning legs and aching lungs.
I’ll be honest, that first post-injury run wasn’t fun. It was slow and discouraging. But I also had some history with that boulder and that mountain. I knew if I persevered and kept pushing, it would get easier. It would become fun again. Eventually I would feel good both during and after a long run.
And if I maintained an active lifestyle, I might actually be able to keep that boulder from rolling down the mountain ... at least for a while. Whenever I was tempted by a beer and a bag of lotus-fruit chips, I was encouraged by the healthy, positive peer pressure in Flagstaff. It’s much easier to get out the door when so many others are out there doing it.
So, I put my wandering mind back on a leash and finished that mediocre run. And then I went on another ... and another ... and another. Each time, I managed to push the boulder a little higher. Each time, it got just a bit easier. The encouragement is this; wherever you are on the mountain, keep pushing, keep climbing, keep working. Sisyphus and the Lotus-eaters might disagree, but it is so worth it.