I am not afraid of the cold. Or snow, for that matter. But there have been a couple of reasons during this past winter that I have been forced to go to the gym instead of doing what gives me peace – run outside.
The first reason is simply because I live in New England and we got a bit of snow this year. Actually, I live in the city that won the award for “snowiest city in the United States” and also broke records in terms of snow accumulation.
The first few times the flakes fell I was mesmerized and enchanted by the billowing drifts outside my house, white clouds sweeping over trees and bird feeders and porches. And that was fine, at first – I am used to the winters including a couple of weeks where I am trapped inside on a treadmill. But other than that, I have always been able to run the roads. And to be honest, the winter is one of my favorite times to be running. I am not good in the heat, so summers kill my body. There is nothing more peaceful to me than quiet roads and icicle-laden trees and air so fresh it hurts. Anything between 20 and 30 degrees is my prime time.
But this year, there was too much snow to run the roads. There was, in fact, no where to put it all in New England. So that is the first reason I ended up at the gym for my runs (aka my “me time”). The second reason is one that has been plaguing me for months. In October, I came to the realization that I had a runner’s worst nightmare (well, one of them). Plantar fasciitis, an injury in the muscle along the bottom of your feet. I have it in my left foot, thanks to over-training for a half marathon last year. I guess I thought my body was invincible. Turns out it isn’t, and at 23, I am already limping.
Plantar fasciitis is not like a broken bone that heals and probably won’t break again. There are some days where I can run without a hiccup, and others where I wake up and limp to the bathroom. I keep water bottles and golf balls in my freezer to roll along my heel when my muscles complain a lot. I always always have a bottle of Aleve and a roll of Ace Bandages in my purse. I did the physical therapy deal, and it does help — but months later there are still days when I am on the treadmill and I stop mid-mile because I just can’t.
I never used to stop mid-mile. I never used to stop when it hurt. And that is exactly why I have been forced to slow down now.
Last week, the sun finally turned a gentle face to New England and melted some of the mounds of snow rolled along the roads. My sneakers hit the roads again and I closed my eyes running, because I hadn’t had a moment to myself in months. Gyms are not magic like the roads. I hate treadmills and ceilings and other people when I am trying to find myself. That is why I ran too many hard hills outside before, chasing the magic that comes when I can’t breathe. Plantar fasciitis and the winter of 2015 robbed me of that. But it is officially spring now, and new seasons mean new beginnings. Gyms may not be magic, but being forced to work out in one 100% of the time for months has given my body the boost it needs to handle the roads again. But this time, I’m not going into overdrive.
This season means recovery. It means that limping at 23 isn’t really a big deal, because there is sun enough to run and I can always walk when I am tired. That is what plantar fasciitis taught me — slow down, girl. You’ve got your whole life to run.