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A Sprinter In Love, Learning to Pace Myself in Dating

08/20/2014 06:11 pm ET | Updated Oct 20, 2014

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I was a sprinter in high school. After my years of playing football and lifting weights I was a bit of a jock. And when I joined the swim team, I quickly learned that all those muscles were great for going fast, but not so great for going the distance. I swam the 50 and 100 yard races of all strokes. I did OK, but I didn't set any records. But I hated swim practice where we would swim swim swim for an hour or so... UG. I often felt like I was going to drown.

In my adult life I have become less of a sprinter in my physical exercise, taking a more measured approach to my fitness and life way. Here's what I mean. People either run or they walk, for the most part. I walk. When I run, the sprinter brain kicks in and I start running faster. Trying to catch the runner in front of me. Trying to beat the runner ahead as we head up the long hill. When I run a tend to get anaerobic, and drive myself too hard. Sort of the way I did when I was swimming. If I swam at my natural sprint-like pace, I'd never make it through a half hour of swim practice. I learned to dial it back, to breathe a lot more and to go the distance.

In walking versus running, I've also learned a similar pattern for myself. I CAN run. And when I do I notice more pain, more exhaustion and my recovery time the next day is much higher. So if I go out and run two miles vs. walk 3.5 miles I might get the benefit of the higher cardio workout, but I'm going to be hard pressed to get back up and run again the next day. If I walk, I can walk day after day without any real recovery days, unless it's really hot, like it was last week. (Texas summer heat is mean business.)

So, for my life and my style of fitness and my age, I walk. And I walk happily. And I'll walk every day if I can. If I ran, I'd probably work up to daily runs or at least every other day, but what's the point if my joints start aching and if I am damaging my long-term ability to play tennis, or even walk? There's no point in it.

I know there's a time thing for most people. And running takes a lot less time and can give you higher benefits. But that's just fine with me. I'll walk, thanks.

In my relationships I tend to approach things like a sprinter (or runner). And I'm tired of the long recovery periods. I've learned that going fast may feel exhilarating, but it might be a flaw in my strategy. If I walked more, in my dating process, perhaps I would become less focused on one woman and be more comfortable casually dating a few at a time. (I'm personally not talking about sex, but that's okay if *you* are. I'm just talking about "getting to know you" dating.)

Here's what I've learned just in the last week as a serious dating relationship collapsed under the weight of our collective mismatch. I had put all of my eggs in her basket, and that tended to make me more focused on her than perhaps I should've been. I wanted her badly, and our courtship turned to passion in a few weeks. And that wasn't the problem.

I was the problem. I wanted to run, jump, swim into "what's next" with her. I learned, in the course of dating her, to taper my sprint a bit. Only a bit. I was always hungry for her. I wanted to devour and praise and massage her all the time. Of course, as single parents that wasn't really an option. So we travelled along together side by side, her running and me walking on the trail, but in the cadence of the relationship I kept sprinting ahead.

Time after time I would write a love poem and think, "Man this is a good one, I should share it." And inevitably this would lead to a freak out. Okay, back to walking. And then I would get a second wind and sprint back to the front of the pack and send another mis-timed missive. Damn. I didn't learn very quickly that this was a running woman, but she wasn't ready to run with me into a "R" relationship.

Now I know. And I have more time alone again to reflect on my pattern. Walk, walk, walk, sprint. It's the sprint thing that I can do without. At least in terms of dating. In my physical exercise I am happy to get some running in on the tennis court, THAT is worth it to me. But on the trail or on a treadmill? Forget about it.

So I know in my fitness walking and walking frequently is the key to my happiness. It may be a longer haul to get as fit as I'd like to be, but I have very little pain and almost no need for recovery days. (Tennis in the Texas heat is a bit of a different story, but I try to play early in the morning when possible.)

Besides, if I ran I wouldn't have so much time to enjoy and study the music in my earbuds.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: photo taken today along my walk, john mcelhenney 8-5-2104 CC