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Out There: Self-Improvement Projects

  • By Susan Lacke
  • Published Aug. 29, 2013
A runner fixing his or her body can be like undertaking a home improvement project. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

We’re fixer-uppers, constantly seeking to improve ourselves.

If you’re a homeowner, you know a home improvement project is never really done. Just as you erase one item from the to-do list, three more appear in its place. While painting the fence, you notice the gate needs a new hinge; while at the hardware store for the gate repair, you discover grass seed is on sale — might as well pick up a few bags. Before you know it, there’s a backhoe in your yard and your spouse regrets asking you to paint the damn fence in the first place.

I’m having one of those moments myself, only instead of a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Cape Cod, I’m working on a different fixer-upper: My body.

It started with a knee injury. As I wrote in last year’s column, “Hips Don’t Lie,” I learned the problem wasn’t actually in my knee, but, strangely, my weak hips. So I went to work on those rump-shakers, which led to the discovery that my abdominal muscles were also shabby. As a result of all of these workouts, I learned that my balancing skills are off — way off.

As more pieces of the puzzle came together, we discovered my inability to remain upright while trail running, jumping, or really anything that requires balance, is due to — you guys are gonna love this — my ears.

Turns out the defective parts that caused my deafness also regulate (or, in my case, do a very poor job of regulating) balance. The human body is a fascinating thing, y’all.

RELATED: Out There: No Time To Run On The Road

The good news is that after 30 years of chalking up my frequent skinned knees to klutziness (and sometimes one beer too many), I have an explanation for why I stumble around like Courtney Love circa 1995. The bad news is that I’ve got to undo 30 years of bad habits my body developed to compensate for my wonky ears.

Cue the backhoe.

Re-wiring the proprioception pathways in my body has been humbling, to say the least. At my physical therapist’s office, I struggle atop foam blocks and Bosu balls like Bambi on ice. Meanwhile, there’s a woman in her 60s next to me, doing the exact same exercises with ease. I want to body-check her when she’s not looking, but I’m too busy flailing around like a jackass.

Technically, I don’t have to do any of this. Like a home improvement project that gets too overwhelming, I could slap some duct tape on it, walk away, and halfheartedly mumble something about finishing it at another time. I could revert back to laughing about my klutziness — making it part of my shtick, even — except it’s not in my nature to do so.

RELATED: Out There: Should You Dope?

Then again, is it in any runner’s nature? We’re fixer-uppers, constantly seeking to improve ourselves. Even Olympians admit to being a work in progress. We’re all looking for the best ways to run faster, longer, and with more ease. Accomplishing a goal inspires the creation of loftier ambitions; one aha! moment jump-starts the quest to find another one. In my case, fixing a knee injury has led to a complete overhaul in the way I move. I’m a little scared of what might be next on the to-do list, to be honest.

Unless, of course, it involves body-checking people on Bosu balls.

Now wouldn’t that be a fun project?

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

Follow Competitor on Twitter @RunCompetitor and be the first to know about new running products, event announcements, and pro-racing news!

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