Monday, August 18, 2008

Running or swimming?

I just joined a Facebook group called Runners are Better than Swimmers. It has 1,578 members. Its competitor, Swimmers are Better than Runners, is, as of today, ahead in the race, with 1,783 members.
It’s an interesting time to join such a group, what with everyone (understandably) caught up in Michael Phelps' record-breaking eight gold medals at the Olympics. In an interview, Phelps said he wants to help swimming grow.
I can do both, but I put up with swimming, while I love running.

I’m a decent swimmer, and was even a lifeguard in my college days. (Passing that test, in which a burly instructor seemed like he was trying to drown me, was no fun.) I like to swim for fun on a hot day, but I don’t like doing it for exercise, especially in the winter, when there’s all that business of getting wet and the first shock of getting into the water, which feels cold at first even though it ends up feeling OK.

A few years ago, I got a common runner’s injury, plantar fasciitis. It’s a severe pain in the heel and turns out to be a big pain in the butt. I tried to run through it, but I could barely walk. I almost cried at the sharp pain even when just walking into my driveway to pick up the newspaper.

I complained bitterly. When I read up about it, I learned that other sufferers of plantar fasciitis are known to complain loudly too. A year or so before this foot fault, I had suffered mightily during treatment for leukemia. I got severe infections, rashes, fevers, the works. Yet I didn’t complain. My friends and family thought it odd, to say the least, that I made so much more noise about foot pain.

The podiatrist said that swimming was the best exercise at this point. I scowled.
When I told my friend Bob, a runner and tennis player whose hips were bothering him, he said, “Sooner or later we all end up in the pool.”

So swim I did. I had gotten very rusty, but my stroke got smoother with some practice and help from my teenage daughter, Katie, who is a beautiful swimmer. Eventually I found the Zen in swimming. Counting the laps, and feeling my body glide through the water, I felt myself grow calm and focused. And it did end up feeling like a good all-around workout.
My foot took months to feel better, but as soon as it did, I turned my back on the pool and took to the road.


Anonymous said...

I can relate to your planter fasciitis. My sore knee has forced me to swim and walk, neither of which presents the same challenge or pleasure as running. Thanks for your inspiring story.

Unknown said...

You amazing. Stay on the road!