I hadn’t run for several days, not since before Christmas. Christmas, unfortunately, despite my great love for it, is a tremendous trigger for my anxiety. Usually the week leading up the holiday is spent with an enormous knot in my stomach as I wait for all my well laid plans to fall apart. I think this is a left over from several unfortunate Christmases in a row where one member of our family fell ill right before or after, or during one particularly awful holiday, right on Christmas.
This year I also had a pandemic to contend with. Naturally I assumed one of us would contract the coronavirus just in time for Christmas. We already would have to spend Christmas Eve and Day away from our families as my son had been exposed to COVID-19 while at school. It only seemed inevitable now.
So, while I had developed a reliable running routine leading up to winter break, I couldn’t bring myself to get out the closer we got to the big day. My chest felt constantly tight. I imagined the air my lungs struggling to move in and out. Breathing felt laborious. I thought about each inhale and exhale minutely. I would stop multiple times a day, for several agonizing days in a row, to monitor my breathing. Running felt impossible.
In reality, it might of helped. The lack of fault involved in moving one’s body ever forward, the physical exertion, may have relieved me of the bulk of my anxiety. Or, I wondered, still wonder now, if the shift in breathing while running wouldn’t simply trigger further panic attacks. I don’t know.
I went for my first run of 2021 about a week ago. It went as well as I had expected: slow, slow, slow. But I did it. It felt good. It was an escape. I ran one other time last week, lifted weights another, and then didn’t do another thing until today. This building of routines and habits is not an easy thing. My body seems to forget everything it learns each time I go back to the pavement or go back to my mat. Silently I berate my body for its poor memory, though I suppose it’s doing its best.