When I was little, running was FUN … running around the house, running up and downstairs, running over to visit friends, racing with parents, friends, whoever would agree to a race….
Unfortunately the Fitness Testing and forced-running regime of school PE from 5th grade onward quashed whatever fun could be gained from it. I am sure I would not have survived high school fitness if not for the companionship and co-lamentations of one of my closest friends, who luckily happened to run (most of the time) at the same slow pace as me, with whom I spent five years running in tiny circles while singing, talking, laughing. One of the PE teachers referred to us as the slow girls, which is OK. We deserved it.
Once released from the misery of enforced running, I didn’t look back for a very long time, and thought I never would. Running was boring and painful, especially without a companion. But the specter of poor health and weight gain has loomed larger as we get older. Neither is an immediate threat, but a couple of years ago I could easily I imagine that if I kept up my same non-exercising, ice-cream-loving lifestyle for decades, both would be – and John had similar thoughts and concerns. At the time, we were both grad students and on slim grad student incomes, and could think of nothing cheaper than buying running shoes and heading out the door. I impressed myself: I kept up an every-other-day running regimen for several months, until the busy-ness of the fall semester and the boringness of it kicked in, and holiday travel disrupted our schedules, and that was an end of it.
Since then, we’ve been eating more healthfully, which is at least something; but John’s kept up his workouts better than I have, and while I am not completely sedentary (Max and I walk a couple of miles most days) I can feel my arms getting jiggly and easily imagine weight piling on and on, my blood pressure rising, and my arteries clogging. My running shoes (sadly) are still in pretty good condition, so one day a couple of weeks ago, I rummaged through three boxes, pulled them out, and set out on a new workout scheme.
The result was NOT what I expected. The first day, I set for myself what I thought would be a tough but achievable distance goal – flew to the end of the route with ease – and felt so not-miserable that I even went a little further. I came home feeling great, like I was in good shape and maybe I might even be able to turn into someone who enjoyed running again.
Unfortunately, my calves caught up with me. One of the worst aspects of running before was the pain in my knees, and when I started up 2 years ago, I read a lot about barefoot running and how humans’ natural gait is landing on the forefoot and using the ankle as extra shock absorption. I wasn’t ready to go all the way barefoot or almost-barefoot, but I did change my gait from a heel-strike to a forefoot-strike (while wearing normal running shoes) and while it was awkward and weird-feeling initially, I adjusted quickly enough, and it has made a HUGE difference for my knees. I never have knee pain any more. However, the forefoot-strike requires extra strength in the calf, and when starting from scratch, WOW. The calves are definitely where you feel it.
So two days later, I was somewhat sore, but undeterred, and headed out again excited after my previous success … and achieved the same distance I had the first day, but with much more effort. My throat burned and my lungs ached and my legs were definitely sore and sluggish. I arrived back home a little discouraged, but thinking that I could probably push through.
The third time I went out, I struggled and struggled and all the miserableness of high school running rushed back to me. I didn’t make it even as far as my first day’s goal had been. And then – with calves so tight and painful that John had to live with a backdrop of moaning for another 4 or 5 days, and the memory of running misery fresh in my mind – that was it. I haven’t ventured out again in about 2 weeks, and won’t be going this week either. I don’t know what the problem was, really. Was I too ambitious? Did I start too fast or too long? Do I just hate running? Either way, hopefully I will be able to find it out and eradicate it, or find a different, enjoyable, non-expensive form of exercise.
Maxwell says: don’t be lazy!