I still get a little melancholy when I see people jogging. It’s a reminder that I haven’t worked out in three months and that I’ve been battling Epstein-Barr Virus since mid-April. To put it in perspective, I didn’t go more than three days without exercising from the summer of 2011 through April 2016, nearly five years.
Only twice in those five years did I go more than three or four days without running, both
due to injury. In 2012, I ran into shin splints. More specifically, I didn’t stop running when I felt a burning sensation in my shins. I could barely walk the next day and didn’t run for nearly three weeks (I fed my exercise addition on the elliptical machine and on free weights).
Last summer, I went a few weeks without running after my only fall since the fitness makeover began in 2010. That fall, due to running in a construction zone at night, produced an ankle sprain and a quarter-sized gash on my knee cap. I survived the running drought with a heavy dose (sometimes twice a day) of weight lifting.
I’ve written about the impact my exercise addiction had on my health, from providing me with an excuse (an extremely poor one) for a bad diet full of soda, cheese and junk food, to feeding a virus that was hiding and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
That opportunity came a few weeks after a glaring warning signal from my body in the form of three days of a sore throat, extreme fatigue and throbbing headache. As soon as I felt mildly better, I went back to working out (with the clearance of a nurse practitioner).
I did back off a routine that included working out twice a day for two to three hours, exercising only once a day for a week. Within two weeks of that warning sign, I was back to old habits, eating poorly and working out far too much. It didn’t matter that I still felt sluggish.
My body finally raised the white flag on the weekend of April 30. On that morning, my stepson and I drove to Coyote Canyon in Topeka to attend a fundraiser for my nephew’s baseball team. I gorged on a breakfast buffet loaded with dairy and meat, figuring I would run later on to “work it off.”
After several hours of researching the Brenda Keller murder case for a graduate school project at the library, the breakfast bonanza still hadn’t settled. I felt terrible when we got home and slept for several hours.
True to form, I woke up early in the evening, put on my running gear and told my wife I was going to run. She said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I know you’re going to do it anyway.”
She was right on both counts. I felt terrible as the run began, struggling to breathe as fatigue gripped my body. I turned toward a stretch of hills thinking I should just stop and call it a day. As always, I pressed on, gutting out several hills until I hit the two-mile mark and stopped to walk for about a quarter mile.
“I’m going to pay for this” kept running through my mind. My stomach hurt. My head was
throbbing. My throat was soar. My breathing was shallow. My resolve, however, was not. I started running again, obsessed with hitting four miles (a relatively short run compared to most during the past few years).
After managing to finish, I downed a large glass of cold water, went upstairs and lay on the floor for 30 minutes. All I could think was, “I’m going to pay for this.”
I didn’t feel well the next day. I was tired. I also didn’t like what the scale said after Saturday’s breakfast barrage. That meant one thing: I had to work out. Instead of running, I lifted for more than an hour, finishing, as always, drenched in sweat and even more tired than the previous night.
Those were my last hardcore workouts. I tried to run the next morning, but my body wouldn’t have it. It’d had enough. I spent a few minutes on the elliptical and walked for about a week before a competent doctor confirmed that I had EBV.
Tomorrow marks 100 days since the last time I ran. I haven’t lifted a weight in 99 days. But I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Listen to your body … and to your doctor when he tells you it isn’t healthy to work out 15 hours a week.