The Day When My Worlds Collided

This morning, I once again got up way too early to hit the trails for a run.  The early wake up was made a bit better by the beautiful splashes of pink and purple that were streaking the sky as I drove to the trails.  I left my cozy parka behind in the car, met up with my friends, and we were off.  After the spring-like temps last week, this morning’s 26 degree start felt particularly harsh.  The first mile was tough, as always, but then we settled into a nice pace.  To be honest, it felt a bit easier than usual, and I assumed my running partners were choosing to go “slow” for once.  As the one who’s always struggling to stay with the group, I was grateful for the more comfortable pace.  We cruised up and down the hills, which are starting to feel slightly easier, or maybe at least a bit more predictable.  I actually found myself reluctant to leave them behind after 14 miles, knowing they would be carrying on for a longer distance.  I even joked that you know you must be an ultra runner when you are sad to miss out on a 20-mile run.

I finished the run and literally jumped right in the car to grab a quick shower before meeting my family.  Then it was back in the car to drive up to my alma mater for a gymnastics meet.  See, I’ve always been an athlete, but before this whole running thing took over my life, I was a gymnast.  I started gymnastics shortly after I started walking, and trained and competed for close to 20 years, until a knee injury sidelined me right at the start of my senior season.

I’ve always found it funny that I moved from running to gymnastics.  When I was a gymnast, I had awful endurance.  A 90-second floor routine used to leave me winded.  My college team used to go for 3-mile runs in the preseason, and I was always the one gasping at the back of the pack.  Gymnasts thrive on fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Endurance runners depend almost completely on their slow-twitch fibers.  The sports are worlds apart.

Then I think about the girls I went to college with.  There were six of us that competed together for four years.  Now, nearly 15 years later, we have all left gymnastics far behind, but 5 of the 6 of us have completed marathons.  It seems such an odd transition.

Under Armour recently aired a new ad campaign.  The ad features elite gymnasts and shows all the hard work and dedication that they put into their training.  Today, a fellow runner shared that ad online, noting that she loved it because it demonstrates the drive and commitment that we all put into our training on a daily basis.  With that, a light flipped in my head.

I realized that maybe it doesn’t matter that gymnastics is an anaerobic sport while running is an aerobic one.  Maybe the connection is that both sports require long hours of training, training that is often monotonous or undertaken alone.  My years in gymnastics may not have prepared my lungs for running, but they taught me how to work hard, how to push through pain and setbacks, and how to work towards goals.  Perhaps these two sports are more closely linked together than I thought.

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