Fitness, physical activity and the body which we inhabit are all tied together...naturally. "A sound mind in a sound body," is a statement attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal and the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Thales. Even the maker of my running shoe has a name which is an acronym from the Latin (Gee, I thought my employer was the only organization who had a passion for turning acronyms into words...) tying soul to body.
So how then, is it that when we are faced with an illness, or those close to us (and, even us) become ill we discuss it in terms of combat, or struggle? As much as we like to think we're war-like and dominant it's a very small population (especially in our society) who have the emotional or mental state to truly grapple with or fight another being. We avoid (direct) conflict at all cost; we hide behind avatars and screen names, then block the comments or the persons with whom we disagree.
In the year since my father passed (cancer of the adrenal gland, detected late) I've begun to see parallels and contradictions, both in the way we look at life, illness and fitness. Especially when we talk about cancer.
There are scientists who can probably describe more profoundly than I what a cancer is; I've heard it on at least one occasion to be caused by a variance, albeit small, from the planned cycle of cellular development, down at the DNA level. At first, the rapidly-multiplying cells don't appear to have any effect. Eventually it reveals itself (or quite a large amount of itself) as something which at the least is "not normal," either by affecting normal function or a "something's not quite right" feeling. Ignore it for too long and it might become harmful, in some cases, enough to threaten life as we know it.
So we talk about someone who "struggles" with a cancer. The word connotes forceful or violent effort to get free of the condition. When I think of weight training the word "struggle" makes much more sense. However, when it comes to our sport I cannot rightly say I've ever desired one of my athletes (or myself, for that matter) to physically bludgeon themselves back to health, much less to improve their performance. A person who's dealing with a cancer is definitely not beating themselves up on a daily basis; not even certain former triathletes-turned-professional cyclists-turned triathletes were beating themselves...there's a profound difference between performance-enhancing and cytotoxic drugs, amigos.
An organism which is able to exert itself and remain active over a period of time, and to eventually resist, withstand, and recover from trauma is said to have endurance. Endurance is much more peaceful, more simple, and less "look at me." I tip my running cap to the persons who on a daily basis, as the old song goes, "keep on keeping on." They're not flying high on Monday and shot down the next day.
My hope this week is that if you know someone who has been diagnosed with a cancer and you are of the praying sort, that you wish for them to have endurance. Think of the treatment phase as more of an endurance event. And if you're healthy and working on speed, fitness or any of the other desired attributes which come as a result of, yes, endurance training, well...keep on keeping on. Enjoy your mornings or afternoons in the sun and the breeze and know there are friends who (temporarily) live vicariously through you.