Julie Lyles Carr: Arc, the Limping Runner Sings....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Arc, the Limping Runner Sings....


I'm a runner...okay, jogger. But a runner/jogger I am. I would love to be a Jazzercizer or an aerobics girl or a Pilates princess. But that would take coordination and cute outfits and I just can't seem to muster that. I am only willing to engage in aerobic-esque activities in the privacy of my own home due to the fact that I have to pause the DVD innumerable times in order to grasp what 'cha-cha, grapevine, box step, sidelift' could possibly mean in the scope of human movement. Once I finally learn an aerobics tape, I am singularly devoted, which probably explains why I'm still doing Jane Fonda's step aerobics videotape from 1990. I can actually do the whole routine. And it's only taken me a little over a decade to nail the choreography.

But I digress....running, that's the thing. I'm not fast but I do endure, slow mile after slow mile after slow mile. I'm not built for speed or power bursts but I can last...which has the unfortunate side effect of turning your knees into powder once you enter the orbit of your fortieth year. My right knee began swelling like a melon, then making odd popping noises. To compensate for the sore right knee, I adjusted my running stride which did alleviate the most aggressive symptoms on the right side...and then sent those symptoms over to the left knee. Hmmmm....

After an extended running hiatus due to the twins' pregnancy, partial bed rest and post partum exhaustion, I've been back in my Nikes and running well. But M has serious concerns about what I might be doing to my knees again. He knows that it is my goal to NEVER have knee surgery if I can help it. He has tried to reduce some of my knee surgery fear with a recitation of his own knee surgery which occurred after blowing out his ACL during football --"It wasn't bad at all--there's only this six inch nasty scar and the complete numbness down the length of my shin from where they nicked the nerve..." Somehow, I don't find this comforting.

I've run for years either outside on the pavement (I know, I know) or on a treadmill we purchased years ago that has now seen a crazy amount of mileage. The motor still runs fine, but my gait over the years has stretched the tread, the belt, into a warbly, slipping mess. I try to think of the resulting tread terrain as an obstacle course of sorts. I run straight on for a while, then the belt moves over to the left, squeaking and squealing, at which point I hang on to the handrails and run at an angle to move the belt back to center. It's not pretty, but it works and it definitely keeps me alert...

M has been working out on a new machine, a sweat-inducing device that he has believed could be the answer to all my knee-phobic, wanna-keep-running dreams. He discovered said machine at his fitness club and has been a devotee for over a year now. M has been wanting me to come with him to test drive this marvel. It's been a long process to get me to agree--I first had to lose a bunch of pregnancy weight so I wouldn't be horrified to be seen at a health club, then I had to start working out like a fiend so that I would be in good enough shape and skinny enough to be seen at a health club--ironic, I know, but vanity knows no limits. While there is still a ways to go, I finally decided that I was ready to climb aboard and give this whirligig a go.

It's called an Arc Trainer and is the product from the Cybex company. It looks like a good ol' fashioned elliptical trainer, but the motion of the feet is more akin to the inbred cousin of the stair climber and elliptical. M jumped on, reved up the incline and resistance, cranked up the iPod and was in training nirvana. I, on the other hand, couldn't figure out what I was to do. Did I need to put my feet all the way to the front of the pedals? Was I supposed to lift my knees straight up? But then how was I to stretch out my quads? Was it supposed to feel like I was going backward? Great, a device that was going to require coordination. In the meantime, M was increasing incline and resistance, hands saluting like a sprinter, sweat pouring, 'arcing' with all his might. I looked like a cat with baggies on its feet.

I ended up doing 30 minutes and my quads definitely took on the burning aspect of lactic acid run amok. I finished my time, surveyed all the shiny machines climbing, cycling, rowing...and then I saw it. The latest generation....treadmill. Now there's my game. I climbed aboard, turned the speed and I was off. No special steps, no pedals, no choreography. Just pound out the miles, pound on the knees.

I'll be back to visit the Arc Trainer. I think after a bit I could adjust, could learn to 'swing step' or whatever the motion is. I might even begin to look more like a 'natural' after some training, maybe even look like I was achieving some level of aerobic burn. But for now, I gotta say---have you seen the newest treadmills??
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