So now you know why I’m not the most athletic person (see my previous post.)
But today, I’m getting up early, ON PURPOSE, to run a race.
By my own free will. No threats, no guns.
Getting up early.
On a SATURDAY.
So how did I get here, after a lifetime of being convinced that I was just not athletically inclined?
After high school was over and behind me, I only had to get through some minimal physical education credits in college before mandatory movement was FINALLY BEHIND ME FOREVER. First, I took aerobics, which graded on attendance – and hey, I can tell time, so I passed! Of course, I couldn’t follow a lot of the moves, but that didn’t matter – as long as you kept moving, marching in place or some such, you got credit for being there. March in place? Heck, I was in the marching band for YEARS – I can march the shiz out of anything.
Next, I signed up for racquetball. After a few classes, the instructor gently took me aside and said that, given my abilities, if I preferred to just run the track upstairs instead of hitting the ball around the court, he’d give me a C and we’d call it good. (Apparently, there’s a level of “horrifically terrible” that eclipses your own performance; once you’re so pathetically bad that you’re a hazard to others, it’s a whole new box of goats.)
After that debacle, I generally shied away from voluntary activity. Oh, occasionally I’d dip a toe into the fitness pool – not because it was good for my heart, not for stress reduction – oh, no – but only because it burned calories. My distaste for physical activity was trumped only by my need to be thin. But eventually, laziness, time, boredom, and the fact that I was MUCH better at starvation than I was at exercise led me to abandon the effort.
Then, a few years ago, I tried again. Years of a poor-quality diet had left me feeling…well, gross. Sluggish and flabby and…kinda greasy. At this point I had been having mysterious stomach issues, and had begun trying a number of things in an attempt to feel better. I was cooking – actually COOKING – things with vegetables in them. I was cutting back on processed (albeit yummy) packaged food. And it seemed to helping, just a little bit. And I figured “well, everyone says exercise is healthy – so maybe that’ll help just a little bit, too.”
We live in the Midwest, and the winters can be brutally cold – so exercise had to be something that could be done indoors, or it just wouldn’t happen between November and April. (Even the heartiest of athletes tends to balk at outdoor workouts when the temperature is 10-20F below zero. Don’t ask about the wind chill – you don’t want to know.)
The hubs had an old skiing contraption in the basement – a manual-action, dusty, rusty metal thing. (He had acquired it at a garage sale years ago; how he managed to sneak it into the house without me noticing is a mystery to me.) It was…kind of big and foreboding. But, with a little WD-40, it was serviceable. It was something I could do for a half hour while listening to the radio. I turned on the local morning talk show and moved my arms and legs back and forth for thirty minutes.
It was something. It was a start.
I kept that up for nearly two years.
Then, I convinced the hubs to start taking walks with me. We mapped out a two-mile route and started walking several mornings a week before work. It wasn’t hard (well, except getting out of bed – that’s always a struggle.) It gave us a chance to talk; it got me outside in the fresh air.
It didn’t FEEL like exercise. It was easy. And I found it quieted my head – just a little bit.
After walking for a couple of years (alternating with the skiing device when the temperature dipped below 15, of course) I thought maybe we should step up our game and try running. You see, I’d heard that running “burns the fat right off ya” – that was the ONLY thing that was appealing, but for a woman with food and body issues, that was all the motivation I needed.
We didn’t follow any formal program. (I’ve heard wonderful things about Couch to 5K, and know many people who learned to run through this program, but I hate following directions, and tend to rebel when there’s a process in front of me. I’m not the instruction-manual type.) This wasn’t a fancy effort. We’d walk for a while to warm up, then we’d run until we couldn’t run any more. Then we’d walk until we were ready to run again.
Learning to run was an interesting and challenging process. Sometimes, I’d feel like I could run FOREVER, but just wasn’t able to get enough oxygen. Other times, my breathing was fine, but my legs just could NOT run another step.
(And one day, I found seven dollars! SCORE! Ok, not a life-changer, but I was disproportionately thrilled about finding it.) 🙂
Gradually, over time, my legs and my lungs caught up with each other, and I was running more and walking less.
And I kept doing it.
Did my body change? A little bit, sure. It wasn’t the promised magic pill to physical perfection – I still struggle with the lumps and bumps; I still frown at the flab, the pooch, and the back fat.
And I don’t look forward to running. I don’t blast out of bed in the morning like Mary Freaking Poppins, singing a happy song about what a glorious day it is now that I get to go run. (The day THAT happens is the day you need to lock me up but good.)
But I run.
And when I’m consistent with it…it actually helps. It clears my mind – just a bit. It burns off some the cortisol that anxiety and stress have built up in my system. And when I finish my run, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Something I was told I could never do.
Who can run three miles without stopping? Who can run each mile in under ten minutes? This girl. The girl who barely passed high school gym class. The girl who got kicked out of racquetball. The fat fifth-grade physical-fitness flunkie.
Who’s a runner? THIS GIRL.
I am a runner.
I’m running a race this morning. And I already know I’ve won.