Today, I ran three minutes in a row. A month ago I couldn't run down the block.
Let's back up. We have a friend who decided to see how far she could run. The next day she ran a little farther. And she kept doing it and going a little further, and making other changes to her eating and strengthening and emotional status. Now she runs for miles, and teaches spin classes, and by all accounts, is the happiest she's been in a long time.
It turns out I have quite a few inspiring friends like C.Lo, they're all over my facebook, running 10Ks and halfs and full marathons. They update their status with how much they hated that run, or how much they loved that run, or how the weather is interrupting their run. I have a friend who's had knee surgery, and she runs. I have a friend who continued running through, I dunno, six or seven months of her second pregnancy. (Though I did warn her to wait to run after delivery, to avoid prolapsing her uterus lol.) And I found, randomly, this guy, who started running when he weighed over 360 lbs. He ran a 5K race while still well over 300; I already weigh less than his goal weight, and he's completed two Ironman races. I sat and read his blog from start to finish on my lunches for a week. I found at least a half dozen or more other fitblrs (fitness/weight loss tumblrs) of women who've gone through ridiculous health transformations that center on healthy eating (obvs) and running. Just running.
All this to say, clearly, running works. If you want to get healthy, if you want to lose weight, this is a good way to do it. And it may be that the old excuses, about knee pain or shin pain or I'm-too-heavy or it'll-hurt-my-joints may not apply. (They very well may, on the other hand, it's not my place to say that. Papa Bean is not a good candidate for running, but he's freaking great at cycling.) So. I decided to try it.
I went with the Couch to 5K program, because it is tried and true. The first day, my knees hurt and got swollen and could barely move the next day. I iced and stretched diligently. The second day, my knees still hurt and were still swollen - stayed swollen, in fact, night and day, through work and caring for my kidlets, for almost a week. I iced and stretched diligently. It may be to my advantage that I am a health professional, so I know how to self-treat? By the third day, I'd sourced a decent knee brace. Less pain and swelling. Less icing, still stretching. I decided to stick with it. The first day of any week is kind of exciting, to see if I can do the new challenge. The second day sucks. The third day I congratulate myself for the whole first half that I'm actually bothering to continue, and then breath you're-almost-done repeatedly the second half until I am, in fact, done. And then it's a new week! Week 2 was stretched out by spring rain and a nasty stomach virus from hell. Then I did a week 2.5, with distances and rest times kind of halfway between the week 2 and 3 times. Now I've finished week 3. I can run three minutes in a row, twice. I think I'm gonna do a week 3.5, too. Week 4 says to run five minutes in a row; I'm gonna ease in by running four minutes for a week. I think it's gonna be good.
The truth is, running isn't necessarily fun while it's happening. I feel like my thigh fat vibrates with every step, and everyone is peering out their houses to watch it jiggle as I lope past. I feel bad calling what I do "running" because I'm pretty sure a normal adult could just walk comfortably next to me and go faster. But the difficulty of it is directly proportional to my pride at finishing it :) I drop out of the last run interval and smile victoriously (through my panting.) It's truly a sickness, and I think I'm infected... the other day I got a flat tire on my way home from work, and my first thought was, crap now I'll be too late to go for a run. And when I got home and settled around 10pm, I went anyway. And felt really proud of myself after.
I really appreciate this perspective from bendoeslife: "The DVDs will end, P90X will give way to something even more Exxxxtreme(!!!), WODs will be replaced by some even cooler acronym, and we will get tired of Jillian yelling at us and telling us we’re fat... So, yes, enroll in that crazy ZUMBA class. Have fun and do INSANITY from time to time. But have a foundation with some of the lower-case lifestyles. swim. bike. run. jog. walk. lift. stretch."
Part of this decision was how lower-case this is for my lifestyle, right now. It's not financially practical for us to have gym memberships, and it doesn't fit into our parenting, with our kids as young as they are, to have one of us popping out for workouts, diminishing the hours of "team parenting" (which are precious to me, truly. I love my teammate, he keeps me sane.) It doesn't require extra equipment, not terribly. I already had the runners and yoga pants and ipod timer thingy. I had to get a knee brace. I need to get a sports bra. I drool over garmins, but it's hardly a necessity. I don't have to take a tonne of time, I don't have to drive anywhere. I step outside my door. Later, I step back in and take a shower.
I have to say, it's hard to measure the benefits of cardio exercise like this. It's not like weight-training, which my body and psyche is more tuned for. I don't know how to describe it, but I don't feel like running lasts into the next day - it lasts until the sweat is washed away! But I've started to notice I don't get huffy walking up the stairs to Bean's bedroom, I'm not totally wiped out pushing the kids in the shopping cart up the ramp from the parkade (Yes, my supermarket has a parkade, it's awesome. We have winter here.) I guess I can see a muscle get bigger, or feel it get stronger. But I can't tell, day to day, that my heart and my lungs are healthier. I'm starting to see these aspects of my health in a different way. To be honest, I've been dragging around this extra weight with a tired ticker for so long, it became my normal. So.
Here's to a new normal. I'll let you know how it goes.