Trophic Cascade

August 21, 2018

Have you seen the insanely wonderful video about what happened to Yellowstone when the wolves were reintroduced? (This DOES refer back to fitness eventually; promise!)

If you haven’t watched it, take five bliss-filled minutes and enjoy the dazzle. It will be worth it. Here’s the link to “How Wolves Change Rivers.:

Did you watch? Isn’t that cool?

My point is – you can make a relatively small change in an environment (or in a body) and create a trophic cascade that ripples throughout the entire system.

That’s what running has done for me… unfortunately, it hasn’t brought foxes and eagles back to my house, nor has it changed the course of my rivers. (If that doesn’t make sense, then you didn’t watch the video, did you?? Mother always knows.) My results are … different.

First, running has activated my glutes. Unbeknownst to me, my butt muscles have been coasting for 58 years, coming along for the ride but not doing their part. (I use my quads and low back, instead, which is at least part of why exercise has never been much fun for me. Quads and low backs aren’t designed to create all that power; they get fussy and fatigued and need to be taken out to dinner and told they’re marvelous.)

But now my glutes are beginning to wake up. New sources of power are pulling my feet straighter; I no longer walk like a duck. I’m a tad less splay-footed. Not a LOT less – but my toes are beginning to face forward. Like, all the time.

That means that the two strap muscles that run down your leg (the IT band in the thigh and the whatever in the calf) are suddenly being asked to stretch longer. For the first time EVER. It’s making them grumpy. They refuse to be taken out to dinner and be told they’re marvelous; they’re just sitting there bitching. And who’s getting it in the neck, metaphorically speaking?

This wee little muscle that attaches the IT band to the hip bone – the TFL. (Can’t remember what any of these initials stand for, but they’re both gorgeous and sound like villains in an ancient Greek tragedy.)

The TFL is one place where the IT band can find a little give as it’s resisting the stretch. And when the TFL is being tormented, it sends a quick jolt of electricity to the front of the hip, causing the driver to emit a startled yip and a dip of the hip. Zip.

So I’m walking funny. Sometimes it’s kinda painful. Sometimes I make little EEP noises when I first stand up.

I don’t like it.

Gwynn the astonishing therapeutic masseuse worked on my right leg yesterday; she used her cupping suction cups and leaned her entire body into my thigh muscles. (Gwynn, a ballet dancer, doesn’t have much mass; I’m equal to at least two of her, so when she digs in hard, I feel like an oil tanker being towed by a tug boat… but like with the oil tanker, that tug boat knows where it’s going and it gets the job done!)

I’m still yipping, but now I know better WHY – and I can turn my toes out (feels weird now) when it gets really bad.

The second effect running has on me is that I get hungry.

Not like “Yeah, I could eat.”

I’m talking fishing around in the grocery bags because I can’t wait to get home before consuming something. ANYTHING.

All right – not the grocery bag. The bucket of chicken from KFC. Don’t judge.

The third effect? I can’t stay awake through an entire afternoon. If I manage to stumble through a mile with Barbara in the morning, I’ll be napping a few hours later, while clients call to no avail and deadlines go ticking past.

I’d apologize for making a poor decision, but napping isn’t my idea. Word comes down from the cerebral cortex – we’re going on strike now.  Get to a horizontal surface because the system shut-down is happening in five… four… three…

Finally, on the days when I run, my thighs take on the gravity of a black hole. They’re strangely heavy. When I walk up stairs, I have to lean forward and haul up with my hands on the bannister. I feel like I should be singing a work chanty to make it to the top. That’s the SOUND of the MEN working on the CHAIN… GANG…

My point is – my trophic cascade isn’t exactly what I was expecting. I thought I’d be slim-hipped and vibrant. (Keep your KFC commentary to yourself, there; like you’re so perfect?!) I thought I’d have more energy. I thought I’d be the kind of person to trot briskly because walking was just too slow.

Instead I yip, I gorge, I nap, and I crawl up the stairs. Where is my re-drawn river system?!?

(Look – you know and I know that during ALL of this, my heart is beating more healthfully. My arteries are more open and smooth because good cholesterol is making its first-ever appearance on stage. My lungs are pink and healthy. My brain is more highly oxygenated. There are a million reasons to keep running; a million reasons to be proud I’m still working at my cardio fitness. But it’s so much easier to bitch!)

Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 9.47.07 PM

Now – go watch the wolf video. You can spare the five minutes, and it’s SO DAMNED COOL. 


3 thoughts on “Trophic Cascade

  1. I love that I actually HEAR your voice-your speaking voice- when I read your blog. Makes me miss you a little less even though it makes me feel a little guilty for not starting on that exercise program Amanda signed me up for!


    1. NO GUILT!! Every day is a new chance to start; every day is soon enough. You’re already doing everything you can; if you can’t fit in a formal exercise program, well, that’s just like life, isn’t it?? Onward, my darling Kat!


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