Where Is Fitness?

While I am injured and trying to behave myself by sitting still and not at all dreaming about running/riding/working out, while I am still coaching Suffer Club and helping people with bike fits and maintenance, while M sends me maps of future runs and I browse the lists of upcoming, virtual races, the gnawing anxiety in my guts is that I am losing fitness.


And my mind.

Fitness, as you stalk it, is both chimeric and ephemeral, hard to find and hard to hold onto. Sometimes downtime (i.e. recovery) increases your fitness and other times it wrecks you. I don’t know when I’ll run again, but I bet I’ll feel awkward when I do. Hurts I didn’t know were there will appear quite suddenly. My lungs will wonder what I’m up to. My heart will beat my age and ask why I think I might be younger.

Or the time will sort out my persistent Achilles issue, which will be like gaining two points, maybe three. I’ll run and I’ll be sore, but the sore will be equal opportunity. Calves. Quads. Hip flexors.

When my kids were younger they’d ask me questions like, “How popular is New York?” or “How snowy is it going to be this winter?” to which I’d reply, “About 14.” In other words, there is no real answer to the question you’re asking.

I have 14 fitness right now, and I don’t even know where it is. I’m losing it, but I’m not clear where from. A hole in my pocket? A leak from my heart and lungs? Will I be at 13 tomorrow? 12?

This is my anxiety, and these are the lies I tell myself. That I’m falling apart. That I’ll never be what I was. That I had something great, and now I’ve lost it. That I’m missing out.

I have this theory I call the ‘steady-state-lie,’ which is more or less that, as humans, we assume that our current conditions will be our future conditions. How we feel now is how we will feel always. Of course, that’s wrong. Things change. We grow, heal, fall apart again. I catch myself living in the lie all the time though.

It can be hard, when you’re injured, to see the way forward. You sit on the couch and ask yourself, “Why am I even awake right now?” You wait for your body to heal, maybe even do the physical therapy you’ve been prescribed. Where is it? Where is it? Health. Fitness.

I go to the woods with the dog, and I stalk around. I daydream about running and riding the trails. Is it here, in the dirt, among the trees? An older couple wanders past me, strolling. They smile like nothing is amiss.

I suspect fitness is really between my ears, in that space that can be settled and content or restless and dissatisfied. Even when I can run 10 8-minute miles, I can be unfit, because I let the contentment ebb away without seeing what I have, because I believe there’s something out there I don’t already have. And even now, when deep breaths hurt and the gentle swinging of my arm in stride leads to a late afternoon handful of ibuprofen, I can be fit, I think, if I can just stop trying so goddamned hard.