The Plagued Parent

posts about surviving our children, the Baby Boomers who raised us, and everyone else with an opinion...

Effortless Effort?

I screwed up my knee. For the past three weeks running has been painful. Equally painful is the fact that the registration deadline for the half-marathon came and went on June 30th. True I can still register and run the race in October as planned — a birthday gift to myself which I announced months ago — but at a higher cost and because of the injury a shorter training season.

This displeases me. However, what displeases me more is knowing I did this to myself.

My original plan was to run the 26.2 miles rather than the 13.1. “Are you sure about that,” my wife asked. “You might be taking on too much.”

I was certain. I had a plan — a 21 week plan that I was beginning 9 weeks in advance. I had a new heart rate watch that would help me with the metrics. I had a new guru in the form of plant based ultra-athlete Rich Roll and his blog. And I had the goal of pushing past that hurdle of my impending 50th birthday with dignity, grace and a new race shirt.

My wife then pointed out that nearly all I do borders on the obsessive and lacks a certain sense of balance. She’s not wrong. So I reflected and sacrificed training for a full and opted for the half-marathon. With a caveat: I wanted to PR the son-of-bitchin’ thing.

For me the distance isn’t a problem. Speed is. After all it should take some effort, right?

Therein lies the problem. Deeply embedded in the American ethos is the persistent mythology that everything worthwhile has to come with some Herculean effort. Pay your dues. Blood, sweat, tears. No pain, no gain. Right?


Sometimes work and effort are easily confused which could be my issue for certain. Work is a particular task. Effort is the exertion required to complete that particular task. Effort is not work, work is not effort. As with most issues I confront in my life, I tend to get things bass ackwards initially.

In trying to be “fast” I went too far, too fast, too soon. Hence the knee thing. Now, I have to content myself with cycling; post-work out icing; taking handfuls of ibuprofen and magnesium; creating anti-inflmmatory concoctions with Turmeric, red pepper and cinnamon (yea, you read that right); and accepting a total lack of flexibility in my right leg.

Needless to say this pisses me off. Even more so when I read an article by Dr Phil Maffetone called “Want Speed? Slow Down!”which only reinforced my total dumb-assery.

One thing I am loathe to admit is that despite my overall contrarian attitude, I’m nothing more than a brainwashed conformist. I have perpetually fallen into that mindset that says if it doesn’t hurt, then you can’t call it training. Not only did I drink the Kool Aid, I went back for seconds. What a crock.

Understand, I do enjoy pushing myself to physical and mental limits. But now it’s actually causing me pain. Now it’s time to grow up and “slow down” not in the way a septugenarian has to take it easy, but finding a sensible balance between the goals I would like to accomplish and a reasonable means of achieving them.

Our lives require effort, that’s always been true. But whether or not that effort becomes a painful struggle is entirely a choice. For now I’m actually enjoying the fact that I can’t run since relying on my bike to stay fit has taken me down some well traveled roads of which I can absorb the scenery as it slips from suburbs to farmland to ocean.

Gliding over rolling hills and thoroughfares crowded with cars and beach going tourists allows me the chance to breath deeply and feel the constant flow. On the bike I fly constantly, effortlessly homeward. This self-proscribed rehab has been a healthy twist.

That is until the orthopedic guys looks me over tomorrow. With my luck he’ll probably give me the “What the hell have you been doing?” lecture.

I’ll just tell him I’ve been flying instead of sitting still. That’ll fix him.



Updated: August 30, 2017 — 2:05 pm


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  1. I have a knee thing too. It first happened many years ago when I was rollerskating with the kids and had to stop short…twisted the knee and it has never been the same since. Falling down the back stairs a couple years ago didn’t help. I don’t run but I have been walking about 20 minutes a day. No pain but I definitely feel like I am gaining something by being able to have some quiet time to think and see the world around me. Good luck with your knee!

    1. Thanks, hopefully the tests will show nothing waiting for it to heal on its own is frustrating…

  2. I’m training for my first half marathon. I looked it up, this time last year, I had never run more than 3.5 miles, and last week was my first 9 miler. And when I started training, I knew that in order to go longer, I’d have to go slower as I built up – and I think the hardest part is training my brain that it’s okay that I’m slower than all of the other times posted on Twitter and IG! I was never really fast to begin with, but I’m learning to embrace the slow as my body gets stronger with every new thing I ask it to accomplish! I’m glad you are listening to your body and enjoying your rehab time! And good luck!

    1. Fantastic Kate! Agreed: The mind is harder to train than the body. Listening to the body is complicated by the ways the mind (mis)interprets the signal the body sends (aches and pains, perceived performance goals, etc.). Keep logging those miles and enjoy your first half!

  3. All the best for a speedy recovery! Cycling is fun and a good way to rehabilitate. Take it easy 😊

  4. This resonates with me so much. I push far too hard in everything I do. I’ve learned to balance my fervor with needed rest. Take care of that knee!

    1. I will, thanks. It is hard to take things slow in this culture that holds more reverence for “outcomes” and “results” rather than the manner in which we arrive at both.

  5. A few years earlier while running through pouring rain across slick granite on the Crawford trail in the White Mountains. I took a wrong step and went flying. I didn’t know I had a problem and kept plodding along until I got to the Lakes of the Clouds cabin. It wasn’t until I thawed that I realized my knee was sore, swelling and starting to bruise. I had to hike up Mt. Washington to get off the trail the next day and get a ride back to my car. Ortho said it was a smart decision because I damaged the LCL, the stabilizing ligament of the knee, and if I tried going down I would have made it worse. But I’m not sure if I damaged it more after the fall because it was so cold, I didn’t notice any pain and kept running as best as I could. It took almost a year to get better, but when I overuse it, it swells. Welcome to the 50’s!

    1. What an ordeal that sounds like. Welcome to the 50’s indeed. I love it when the Ortho says there are only two choices: surgery with no guarantee that it will work, or live with the pain. Living with the pain means giving up a whole lifestyle almost. As of now, I’m opting for the knife. Thanks Jennifer.

  6. Hope the recovery is going well, this getting old thing really sucks sometimes!

    1. This “pre-hab” stuff is bull@#*t. Great one day, swollen the next. Hopefully that will get straightened out. Thanks for your well wishes… not so much for the chronological reminder though…

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