Wanting to stay in good physical health throughout my adulthood, I have been an active runner since 1992. Five years ago, I wrote a series of posts about how I got started running and how I became a year-round runner. In the summer months, I typically would run every other day around in our neighborhood and since 1999, around the lake in our subdivision. In the winter, not being a fan of cold weather running, I would run at a local gym.
Now that we have officially reached the fall season and outdoor temperatures have begun to drop, I am facing a real exercise dilemma. The reasons are two-fold.
Someone once told me that runners experience a near 100% injury rate through their exercise regimen. I suffered my first bout with this statistic in 1994 when I was training to run a half marathon and tried running a 10-miler without progressively building up to this distance. I suffered a left knee injury at about the seven-mile mark and ended up hobbling into the finish line. It took me months to recover but I did.
A more serious injury occurred four years later when I developed sciatica in my right leg. The cause of this condition was ultimately diagnosed as a ruptured disc in my back—no doubt aggravated by the constant pounding of my heel strikes—and required back surgery. Following surgery, my recovery was slow but with physical therapy, eventually after a number of months I was able to begin running again.
Then in 2010, after taking a 2,000-mile road trip in my little red sports car, sciatica returned in my right leg. It was only after months of first working out on an elliptical, then a treadmill, then an indoor cushioned running track was I finally able to run outside again.
As I aged, I found that my pace slowed somewhat but still I didn’t mind as long as I was running for about 30 minutes. Once I got into my forties, I added in resistance training and the years I worked out weekly with a personal trainer are the years I feel I enjoyed my best physical fitness of my entire life.
Over the years, I have been a sporadic biker but last summer, I developed a regular routine of running one day, resistance training one day, and then biking one day repeating this sequence for a weekly exercise regimen of six days a week. Over the winter, I backed off this a bit by running three days a week and doing resistance training twice a week.
Then the pandemic hit this year—the first reason for my quandary—and with the closing of gyms, abruptly brought my cold weather exercise routine to an end.
Without the ability to go to the gym, I upped my running which then prompted another setback as I began to get that similar sciatic pain in my leg, this time in my left leg—the second reason for my quandary. I had no desire to undergo back surgery again if that was ultimately the cause or the outcome of continuing to run and so switched to biking almost exclusively. I only ran once in July, once in August, and once in September just to see if I could still run. Apparently, the leg movement from biking was enough to avoid that painful lactic acid burn that occurs when someone runs infrequently. But the last run in September left me with a lower back pain that took a week to resolve.
Recently, I wrote a post about the progress I made over the summer with my biking and how I learned that it was a much less stressful form of exercise on my body. But my real question is what am I going to do when the weather gets too cold in the morning and I can’t go to the gym?
At least as long as the daytime temperatures are fairly warm, I can simply adjust my exercise schedule and bike in the afternoon. I am retired so it’s not like I have a work schedule to juggle. But I know a day will come when even cooler temperatures during the day will make it challenging to bike. For when you are riding at 12 to 15 miles an hour, the wind can feel quite cold even on a 60-degree day.
When it gets too cold to bike, it still might be warm enough to run outside in the afternoon and so I have to decide if I want to risk further injury by taking back up running. Or maybe I could just walk around the house as a form of exercise. I have in fact logged 10,000 steps just walking around inside the house before.
But whatever solution or solutions I figure out, I know I will continue some form of exercise over the winter as I really do want to stay in good physical health. I guess, only time will tell how I accomplish that.