I fear I may never learn the art of moderation. I seem wired to either behave in one extreme or the opposing other. In other words, I have no concept of the middle.
In my past, I struggled with addiction and all the fun stuff that entails–hopelessness, turmoil, shame…and obviously, no exercise. But since February of 2002, I’ve been one of the fortunate ones who has managed to stay away from that melancholy condition and spend my days in the opposite extreme—a life of sobriety—and for me, consequently, a life of running and marathons.
Three months into my recovery, my husband (who was my partner in crime and also has nine-plus years) and I had a surprise: I got pregnant with our first daughter.
Quoting from one of my own blog posts, “I often think of her as an angel sent to save us…I’m pretty positive that without her, Chad and I wouldn’t have this nine-year chunk of sobriety.” And then I go on to explain how I started running: “I was antsy from being a stay-at-home mommy. And an only one-year-eleven-months-sober mommy at that. No evening glass of wine to unwind with. No mother’s little helper. I needed a goal. And for whatever reason, I came up with running a marathon.”
And my polar tendencies kicked in. I went from unhealthy addict to running mom. From 2004—2010, I ran ten marathons, along with various other races to help prepare for those marathons. (And we also had our second daughter, where I took a one-year break from running.) I became the typical runner—weekly runs, long runs, track workouts, my running group, etc… Like many runners, the sport became a bit consuming for me. (Know any runners but aren’t one yourself? Are we ever obsessed or kind of annoying sometimes? For sure.)
In the thick of my pastime, in May of 2009, I severely ruptured my L4/L5 disc at a roller skating birthday party and had to undergo surgery, removing 50% of the disc material that had exploded into my spinal canal. The surgery was a success, and I resumed my running only a few months later.
But something was different; the intensity was gone. I wasn’t as into it, because when I say the surgery was successful, I mean that it cured my scary sciatica symptoms–but I was still left with a half-disc that would turn out to only be able to handle two more years of running.
As the “regular” back pain began to set in, so did the realization that my days as a runner were numbered. Half a disc at age 37, along with two other bulging ones, isn’t like tendonitis or other common running injuries. We’re talking my spine and it’s future as I get older. Therefore, I came up with the grand finale plan of switching gears and ending my racing with an ironman triathlon. And six months ago, I went out with a bang, participating in Ironman Texas. Since then, I’ve been retired from the world of running and races.
It wasn’t as dramatic or devastating as I thought it would be. I was bummed, for sure, but I had to quit to protect my shaky back. I suppose I used AA’s Serenity Prayer–“to accept the things I cannot change.” Also, it’s been really nice to sleep in on Sundays instead of always waking up early for some long run or bike ride! And nice to not have some future event hanging over me, always on my mind.
So when Carla met me in October and invited me to be a guest writer on her blog, she was catching me in my present, opposite extreme—no exercise.
I had planned to get super into Bikram yoga, but so far I’ve only dabbled with it and then haven’t been back lately. I also had planned to take our sweet, wild pit bull mix on longer walks, but so far she’s still just getting the same, short route around our street.
What was I going to write about! I guess this struggle with understanding the middle.
What am I talking about—the middle? In terms of exercising, I mean this place of just working out. Not needing to conquer something or feel an intense accomplishment. No goals, no finish lines. Just enjoying the moment.
But I went from zero exercise to training for a marathon. To training for more marathons. To training for an ironman. “Training” I get. But “exercising”? I’m unfamiliar with it. I’m not responding to it. Can I do this exercising? So far, no. I couldn’t just go to Bikram yoga a few times a week. I had to be typical me, making big plans of a 60-day challenge and someday teacher training.
But instead, I totally flaked and have barely been the past two months–still paying the monthly auto-pay, though, that I set up because I just knew I was going to go so much. Such a spaz.
Come on, Sarah. Cut it out with the extremes, the all-or-nothing. On the wagon or off are not the only choices. (Except in recovery.)
There is a middle. Find that middle. Learn to appreciate this mysterious place—one of humility, contentment and gratitude. And take your poor dog on longer walks.
Wish me luck!
Sarah Broyles is a stay-at-home mom with a history of marathons and triathlons. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband, two daughters, one pug, one pit bull mix and a cat. Her favorite food is icing, and her favorite drink is a Venti bold coffee, no room, from Starbucks.