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Psychological effects

5:30am in Terrigal and the first Trotters begin checking
for the Saturday run or walk.

Like most Saturdays, today started with a 4:30am alarm and arrival at the Terrigal Surf Club fifty minutes later to join my Trotters club-mates for our weekly 6:00am run.  Only, I'm not running at the moment......but I'm not alone.

I have never analysed the stats, but my guess is that you could divide the Trotters population into quarters.  One quarter are fit and running well. Another quarter are running, but carrying an injury.  A third quarter are running, but coming back from injury, and the final quarter are unable to run because of illness or injury, some permanently.

Kurrawyba Avenue in Terrigal was on
my walk route this morning.

Many in that final quarter are not only dealing with pain associated with their ailment, but also dealing with the psychological impact.  Fortunately for me, there's no physical pain, but I do feel the psychological effects.

The easiest to deal with is the loss of routine.  Like most serious runners I have always relied on routine to help me fit training in with family and other commitments, and the loss of routine can be destabilising and depressing.  Replacing running with some other form of exercise, if at all possible, and using any additional spare time to work on other useful or meaningful projects has generally worked for me.

One of the most challenging impacts can be the loss of identity.  The thing that most people know about me is that I'm a reasonably good runner.  Although I like to think there are other dimensions to my character, I do also see myself as a runner.  In the last month, in my own eyes, and the eyes of those around me, I am morphing from a serious masters athlete to a senior citizen with cardiovascular problems.

Sunrise over Terrigal.

Along with the loss of identity can go a loss of self-esteem.  The podium finishes that I enjoyed in the past, and these days, just keeping up with younger runners, builds self-confidence.  Absorbing challenging training regimes and successfully planning and preparing for major races also contributes positively to self-esteem.  The longer I am unable to run, the less happy I am with myself, even when there's nothing I can do about it.  And the worse I feel about myself, the more likely I am to over-eat and put on weight and so the downward spiral goes.

I also have real fears that being unable to run for an extended period of time will lead to a deterioration in my overall health.  Of course, it seems likely that running caused my current cardio-vascular problems, and I recognise that running is not a guarantee of good health.  However, I have no doubt that the fitness gained through running has improved my quality of life and fended off other ailments that beset my demographic.  I now worry that all that good work will be undone if I can't get back to serious exercise.

Early morning stand-up paddle boarders.

Finally, I have always found that running refreshes me and helps me deal with life's stresses.  This was certainly true during my working life, where the morning run seemed reset my body clock and wipe away (or at least diminish) problems.  Maybe it's the lack of oxygen getting to the brain, but I always found it difficult to worry about things, or even do relatively simple mathematical calculations, while on the run.

While most of my club-mates ran this morning, I walked a comfotable 6km.  I'm still in a holding pattern.