An Affair to Remember
Yesterday did turn out to be an amazing day! I slept in a bit with Dan then made my way to the gym where I ran 3 miles. I even stretched afterward and did crunches (I’m notorious for not stretching. You wouldn’t see a lion or a gazelle stretching would you? However, neither animal has my hamstrings, so…). I haven’t run a full 3 miles without walking since the half marathon in July. Perhaps I needed time to recover…mentally? I don’t know what it was but since I have plenty of other self imposed pressures I didn’t force myself to run and everytime I had a cardio workout scheduled and I opted to run/walk, do elliptical or even just walk I let myself with minimal self flagellation.
Yesterday I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. I just popped in my head phones and started up. Before I knew it a mile was gone, then two, then 2.5. I tried to watch the last half mile tick by on the monitor, to be aware of how I was feeling that last .5. At 3 miles I happily jumped off to get water and contemplated pounding out another 2 miles as I felt like I’d just gotten started. And 5 miles used to be my “long runs”. I haven’t run that in a long time. But I knew I had a full day of errands and packing and I kind of liked the feeling of wanting to run more then I had time for. So I made myself stretch and do some crunches then I packed up and left. I can’t even believe I ran a half marathon a month ago, I don’t recall how I did or what it felt like.
“Training” for me, or rather any kind of physical experience for me has always been about improving my physical appearance. Yes, I just admitted to being completely shallow when it comes to exercise. If I was a naturally skinny person I’d probably be unhealthy because I’d have no motivation to work out. I’d just strut around feeling amazing. I think. Who actually knows, I went on my first diet and exercise program when I was 9 at the urging of my gymnastics coach and my physical life has kind of revolved around being smaller ever since. Wow, now that I write that I realize that has been the case for a whopping 20 years. Even with yoga, which I kind of fooled myself into thinking I started for purely spiritual reasons, I would only take classes that made me work hard enough to count as my workout for the day and I was looking for specific physical changes from the classes; more flexibility as I’d lost so much while aerial training, but mostly I wanted to look leaner.
Running is, at the end of the day, something I chose specifically to change my body, physically, as well. I’ve never lied to myself or pretended that I started for the joy of running. I don’t feel joy when I’m running, which kind of makes me feel like a failure. I started running with comittment when one of my best friends, and roommate at the time (read, he had to listen to me complain about being bulky. and even threw in his own two cents about me looking more like a swimmer then a woman) suggested that running long distances is the only way he knew to lose bulky muscle. It wasn’t really at the front of my mind that I had had poor endurance my whole active life and training to run distance might help that. I’ve always been great at sprints and jumps/leaps, bursts of energy. But endurance, energy in general has always been a battle.
To be bluntly honest running hasn’t really changed my body shape AT ALL. Even during the two months when I trained for the half marathon and the one month 30x where I ran 101 miles and did all those push ups and sit-ups my weight didn’t move even an ounce. The day after the half marathon I weighed exactly the same as my first day of training for it and my legs were the same circumference (I measure my legs. don’t hate). I worked hard, mostly at having the patience and dedication to lace up my shoes and spend the time without walking and yet I was exactly the same size as when I started.
You want to know something ironic, it’s been a little over a month since I ran the half. My workouts – cardio and resistance- have been weak sauce AND I went on vacation and consumed my weight in Thai food and alcohol. I lost 2kg which is just under 5lbs. Epic for me and clearly it’s not from a candy embargo as I have personally consumed large bags of Candylicious since returning from Thailand (but not for the last several days as Dan is serious about his new Candy Warden position) I really have no idea how it happened but I can guess. I’m sleeping more, I’ve stopped stressing about things…. more on that later.
So, why run then, you may be asking. I think, subconciously, I’ve been asking myself that since the day I finished the half and found myself cranky, unfufilled and not even a little bit skinnier. I’m sure that’s why I haven’t found the urge to run.
I have a few answers:
1. While I don’t really miss running, per se, I really miss identifying with runners. I felt like I belonged for a short period of time. I get exhilerated by stories of other runners highs and devastated by their lows. While I wasn’t running I was still reading running blogs and magazines
2. Without running I have very few things requiring steadfast dedication other then my relationship. Work will constantly be in flux, begging of me to find a way to be comfortable with changing expectations and situations, rolling with the punches. Fake it till you make it is our credo 🙂 P90X is short and predictable and I don’t have to train for it, I just have to do it and I get it done. Dancing, well I’m not dancing much right now am I? Running asks me something entirely opposite. I can’t fake it. I can’t show up with my smile and dressed like a pro and convince you all that my interpretation of this is what you’re looking for. Running (actually, like dance in this way) requires you to fall back on your training, your consistency, your endurance. However much you prepared is the extent you can expect yourself to do well. It’s something I love and hate about it. The fact that I took a month off after the half forced me start over as if I’ve never run before is infuriating. And also exhilerating. I have to keep running and training if I want to keep getting better, faster, more efficient. I want to continue to run races and build my endurance. But the only way for me to do that is to keep running. Even though it doesn’t make me skinny. Oh snap, a physical activity I want to do NOT because it makes me smaller? That would be a first. And that fact makes me want to nurture and protect it, I feel like this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…
3. Running allows space for my creativity to emerge. I forgot. I have my best writing and career ideas when I’m running, or walking actually, or swimming. I have been much more frenetic this month. My run yesterday had me generating all kinds of ideas – not just for writing but career strategy and things to attempt, ways to show Dan I love him, even how best to organizing my packing, my banking tasks, cards I have to write. When the time and space is there my mind is free to wander and then come across creative solutions or ideas.
4. Again I find that running is a good parallel to the life I strive to live in general and the elements it forces me to work on every time I run are the elements that need to be cultivated every day of life – patience, consistency, time management, energy management, how to deal with frustration, caring for yourself, dealing with silence, dealing with plataue’s, expectations. How to feel joy. When will I feel joy? When will I feel pride in my accomplishments? I find that the questions I ask myself about running are really the questions I have about myself in life. Here I am 29 years old and I realized while asking, when will I feel joy in my running I was really wondering “when will I feel joy in my career? when will I feel pride in my life accomplishments”. I find that the way I treat myself in running is, how I treat myself, and other people in general. So basically I’m a hard to please, judgmental but determined, sweaty bitch. Enjoy 🙂
At the end of the day, even just one of these points is enough to convince me that running is very valuable to me, even though it didn’t make me “skinnier”. Running makes me better. Running gives me an outlet for creativity. Running allows me to get out my frustrations with myself and then continue on with my day. And hopefully, one day, running will allow me to feel pride in my accomplishments (er, am I sure I want to run a marathon before 30?). Running, even though I don’t run with anyone, makes me feel more connected to other people.
Can you believe I started simply to be “thin”??