You guys – I went running last week.
That’s not huge news. I used to be in a winter running club and track for one season in high school. I’ve started Couch-To-5K a few times (heck – even made it to Week 5 one time!) It’s just that I’ve never been very good at running. I’ve always been overweight, and I carry a fat girl’s baggage around when I run – yes, literally and figuratively. I’ve always been acutely aware of the extra jiggles, the way my boobs bounce, the pressure I’m putting on my knees.
But I do like the accomplishment of running, and I feel a special kind of awesome when I run. Of course running isn’t healthy for everyone, but rest assured: I’ve spoken with a doctor about me and running and I practice safer running.
I’ve started visiting the gym at my workplace over my lunch hour. I have a very simple goal: Be on the treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes. That’s how I started it – 30 minutes, I don’t even care if I do a 30-minute mile; as long as I show up, I consider that a win. That was three months ago. I’ve only missed the gym on weekends, the occasional sick day, and for a couple of work days from hell.
I also started watching my steps and reaching for the 10,000 steps/day recommendation, which is a very tough goal! I work a job that has me on my feet approximately 40% of the time. If I clinic escort in the morning AND spend the day in the lab AND go to the gym, I can get up to the 10,0000. Most days I average about 6-7000. Lazy weekend days range from about 3000-5000.
I feel like this being mobile and active thing is only going to keep getting harder. I’m 34 years old and starting to feel the ol’ metabolism slowing down (which I really didn’t think was possible). My knees are starting to get a little crackly, and the bumps, bruises and pulls that I’ve acquired from falling on the ice this year have stuck around a few days longer than I remember from previous winters. I gotta be active now, so I can have the choice of being active later.
Back to last Wednesday.
I went to the gym as usual, but I was running late. I had a 1pm meeting and I didn’t get into the gym until 12:30pm. I knew I only had 20 minutes (planning for 10 minutes to clean up, change, get back to the office) and thought, “I want to do a mile today.” Hmmm… a mile in 20 minutes would be a nice walking pace, work up the heartbeat. But I’d have more time if I…wait…what I managed to jog the whole thing? Like without stopping? Woah.
You have to realize, I haven’t run an entire mile consecutively in YEARS. I do a lot of walking, and I’d been throwing in five minutes of jogging here and there on my treadmill days, but when that lung-burning sensation starts I usually move back into a brisk walk. I hate the lung-burning.
But the clock was ticking. 18 minutes, what to do? Should I go for the mile?
Let’s go for the mile.
I started the treadmill and walked at a 20-minute mile pace for about 30 seconds and then increased the speed until I reached a 15-minute mile. For perspective, a 15-minute mile is a brisk walk or a pretty laid back jog. But if I was going to try this, I wasn’t going to set myself up for failure by going faster than I could handle.
The first quarter mile was surprisingly easy, but near the end of it, I started to feel myself over-stretching my lungs – pulling air harder and longer than necessary; it made exhaling difficult and was screwing up my breathing pattern. Ack – the lung-burning! I grasped for a trick that my high school coach taught me – breathe in through my nose and slowly out from my mouth. I finally found my rhythm, and the added bonus was all that concentrating burned up the entire next quarter mile!
Third quarter was rough; the temptation to slow to a walk, to catch my breath and bring my heart rate down was with me for almost every step. It was so seductive I actually faltered a few times – if the fear of stumbling off of the moving treadmill belt hadn’t been there, I might have stopped.
The start of the fourth quarter sucked, but I knew I had it in the bag. There was no way I had pushed through the first 11 minutes and 0.75 miles to stop now. But then I started playing tricks on myself – was I landing on my feet correctly? Shouldn’t I be stepping more on the outside of my foot? Or landing more towards the front with each step? What if I couldn’t make it? The first long stretch of the “track” was taking FOREVER. I started to panic a little – I was so close! And then I started breathing wrong again. Ack! And then Pandora switched from a beat-heavy electronic song to a Walgreens commercial, which threw me off so badly that I almost threw in the towel. BAD TIMING PANDORA. But the funniest thought saved the day: “Just run five laps. You’re not almost done – you’ve got another lap after this, so you might as well calm the fuck down and settle in.”
And it worked. I calmed the fuck down and crossed the finish line. I didn’t, incidentally, run the fifth lap. I was just tricking myself into calming down by psyching myself out. And I knew it at the time and it still worked. Weird brain.
It did however, take all of my willpower to not jump of the treadmill, pump my fists in the air, shout WOO-HOO! at the top of my lungs, and start running Rocky style around the gym. But if I had I’m sure all of my fellow gym-mates would have been like: