Saturday, September 11, 2010

Taking on the hills! (Bad metaphor)

So, I survived the week with only one major f-up: forgetting (not checking) my Friday schedule, only to be informed that I have class right at that moment. I didn't miss the entire class, fortunately, but I did arrive very unprepared. Like, extremely so. Ah, well.
On another note, I have actually graded ALL of my senior class's essays. This might be a record for me in turn-around time, but before I become too pleased and smug with myself, I have to admit that they don't count for a grade. Still, I would like to think that this action might counter-act my "bad teacher moment" yesterday.
Enough of the tangents - the topic at hand: sports as life metaphor. Yes, it's cliché and overwrought to resort to this pat and easy metaphor, but I'll get over it. I'm not much of an athlete myself, being more accident-prone as an adult than anything else, but as I've recovered from surgery last year and found renewed pleasure in running and have even begun to enjoy cycling a bit, I can't resist the temptation to delve into this territory.
So, here it goes: For the first time in YEARS (maybe ever), I'm finally able to do the downhills. When I say "do" the downhills, I mean attack them and/or sit back, relax and let the moment carry me along. Either way, it's a fairly new sensation, both in terms of my running and biking experience and also in terms of my life experience!
Let me explain:
Running has been a no-no for the past 6 years, pretty much. While I tried to run consistently a few years ago, I realized that my body (knee) could not take the pounding. An operation and a year later, I have the strength and stability to head outside for an easy run around the neighborhood or I can try to push myself a bit harder by tackling horse trails and some wicked hills. Last week, while I was running up a hill, I came to the crest and started down it. In the past, the downhill was actually MUCH more problematic for my knees and psyche than the uphill - this was the terrain that seemed to trip me up, where I felt much more off-balance. Tuesday afternoon, however, I just cruised downward and enjoyed the speed that I gradually picked up. I don't know if I can quite describe the freedom and excitement that I felt by my full "embrace" of the hill.
Recently, the same sort of thing happened on my bike. When I gave up running a few years ago (before surgery), I decided that I should transition to biking. It hasn't been an easy "fit" for me, and I still sometimes struggle mentally when I ride. Rather than just enjoying the experience, I hear my drill sergeant's voice shouting out commands: UNCLIP NOW!!! SHIFT GEARS, SHIFT GEARS, SHIFT GEARS. PRACTICE LOOKING BACK. And the main one: RELAX GOING DOWNHILL! That final command always eluded me - I felt a bit terrified going downhill. On my most recent ride, however, I found myself looking forward to the downhill, excited to get into "my drops", able to enjoy the momentum that pulled me along. What a freakin' difference!
And so, what does this have to do with life?!
I think that I'm finally able to enjoy the downhill moments - whether it's losing myself in a moment that just pulls me along or whether it's leaning into the downhill all on my own, the "easy", fast, fun moments don't pose a threat to me. I don't always have to be working but can sit back and enjoy life.
I know, I know, this could turn into "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handy at this rate. But it has been a pretty big realization for me, and I'm content to revel in it for a little while.


Kim said...

Downhills are hard -- on the body and mind. I always hate feeling like I'm going too fast, getting carried away. There is something out of control about going downhill. But, like you said, if you just relax with it, it can be so enjoyable and freeing. I'm all about deep thoughts by Jack Handy, so bring it on ;)

Jaya said...

I've talked about the symbolic downhill, but you are bringing up a great point, which is that the real-life downhill (leaving aside theories of reality and phenomenology for now) is really stressful. I think people really underestimate how challenging it is to decelerate and descend on bike or foot. I'm really happy for you, and sharing the injury bond, I know that you must feel so good to do things you never thought you'd do again..or at least not for a while! I'm in kind of a similar zone with some of my exercise, in that I haven't fully overcome that last psychological hurdle of being able to relax enough to push myself. I'm fine with that for now, because I think it's protecting me from pushing too hard, but it makes me realize how sophisticated the body's defenses are in defending us from doing too much, too hard or too soon.
I'm glad you can enjoy the downhill moments - and don't repress the deep thoughts - I'm a shameless consumer of those!

Anonymous said...

I have terrible knees and the downhill really kills me too! Plus I always feel like I'm going to fall on my face, especially since I am totally uncoordinated.

I'm glad you can enjoy the downhill moments - I need to learn to do the same!