Holiday Weekend Question Thread: Run Anyway

Eight weeks ago I started a running program. By which I mean I started running, a half an hour a day, on a specific pre-set schedule, three days a week, in accordance withthis thing.I’ve never really done any kind of exercise program before. I had a gym membership and would go to the gym and lift weights and ride the stationary bikes and watch the huge-backed weightlifter guys grunt at each other and the aerobics girls prance by, but I wasn’t on any kind of program.

I just wanted hot arms.

After a few months the gym became easy to avoid on my way home from work and then easy to quit entirely, and since then though I walk and bike all over I haven’t really exercised at all. But. The doctor for The Crazy recommended I do something physically challenging, and I was starting to feel like a slug with winter coming on, and agood friend finished a FULL IRON MAN because she’s just that hardcore, plus I already owned running shoes and there’s a treadmill in the basement so no membership fees and no one staring at me while I huff and puff and flop around. I looked up the program on the Internet, and one morning I got up and went downstairs and started it.

I figured I’d drop out around the middle of week two, when the workouts went from “get off your ass, you pussy, and walk for a few minutes” to “actually try to run without killing yourself.” Surprisingly, that was also around the time I started noticing that I slept like a rock on days that I ran, was no longer out of breath when climbing stairs, was able to get up in the morning with a minimum of moaning and groaning, and was developing some serious calf muscles. Week two, I started to see why people did this to themselves.

Week four, I messed up my left hamstring and got a recurring side stitch and thought about dying every single second.

Week six, though? Week before last? I ran 25 minutes without stopping. I ran two miles without stopping once. I ran the farthest I have ever run. In my head was a movie that is a combination of every training montage in every sports movie I have ever seen, starting with Stevie Weeks skating the river inMystery, Alaska and ending with Jim Braddock knocking out Max Baer inCinderella Man, and there was an embarrassing amount of both Ke$ha and Journey on my iPod. The first mile of that run, I kept thinking about dying, about lying down on the mat on the basement floor and not getting up.

The second mile, I thought about running a third.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter you not only know this, but are longing for the end of this program, so you’ll stop seeing status updates about what workouts I’ve done, about my knees, my back, my ankles, my shoulders, my breathing, questions about what I should eat, what kind of shoes I should buy, how much exactly something is supposed to hurt before I should actually slow down or stop, requests for recommendation of a good sports bra, “is it normal for my shoulders to hurt even though I’m not, you know, running on my HANDS WTF,” things like that.

Because I can’t just run, of course. I have to start reading everything there is about running on the entire Internet (and there is a whole Running Internet, like an alternate universe out there, full of healthy slightly insane people who want to talk injuries and nutrition all the time) and talking about running to everyone I know. I’m browsing weird stuff I don’t need and can’t afford from running stores and having opinions about it, and thinking about races and how far I can go, like maybe when this 5K is done I’ll just keep going.

And I know I sound kind of full of myself about this meager accomplishment, when the aforementioned friend who did the triathlon is so insanely ripped right now it should be illegal and all you other badasses out there run two miles on your lunch breaks before doing 50 push-ups and swimming to Europe, but I’m not athletic. I don’t do this stuff. So this is new, and I’m in that annoying stage with a new lover where the relationship is all I can talk about. Did you hear I started running and it’s AMAZING?

Last Friday morning I woke up and could hardly move my left shoulder. How I messed it up so bad I have no idea, as the most strenuous thing I did on Thursday was correct page proofs for a book, but sitting up was agony and lying back down was worse. I sort of hunched there in bed, pondering if the ER would give me narcotics, and thought, “if it hurts no matter what I do, might as well run anyway.” I went downstairs and ran, and it hurt. It was nice, in way, because it kept my mind off the pain in my ankles, and I finished the workout.

I have athlete friends who say all things being equal physically, this stuff is 90 percent mental and I’d always thought, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” I know all the ways in which I’m lazy — sometimes the dishes sit for a while and I don’t answer all my e-mail and I never return phone calls — and all the ways in which I sabotage myself. I think this is why the doctor recommended this as treatment for my particular flavor of nuts, because it stops me psyching myself out and acquiescing to imaginary limits on what I can do. It’s what makes me most insane when other people do it, like, there’s so much you can’t control that limits you, why would you do it when you don’t have to? But I do it to myself all the time.

And that’s the thing I’m really excited about. I’m hurting sometimes as my body rearranges itself, I’m tired, I haven’t lost a single pound (running makes me RAVENOUS so I’m probably eating twice as much), it’s an investment of time that’s hard to justify, the Ke$ha gets old really fast, sometimes I want to punch Stevie Weeks in his stupid face and tell him skating the river is an idiotic thing to do, and sometimes running on a treadmill is boring.

But I’m running anyway.

What have you done, in your life, that you were once sure you could never do?


13 thoughts on “Holiday Weekend Question Thread: Run Anyway

  1. My academic record was spotty, mostly a lack of discipline (e.g., I had an academic scholarship that fully paid tuition, but lost it because of bad grades.)
    I eventually grew up, though, got my degree, and managed to do so without going into debt. Maybe not the grandest of accomplishments, but I’m proud of what I did.

  2. I guess my biggest physical triumph was crossing a river on a 3 wire bridge, installed for electrical linemen to use. I’m a bit afraid of heights, don’t swim at all, and it was in the dead of winter. The worst part was the return trip.
    But, about running, beware of plantar fasciitus! If your foot hurts, stop! That is one pain you should never try to run through.

  3. you want hot arms? i had awesome arms when i worked at schlitz. turn the 15 lb wood block with left arm hold a 3 lb soldering iron hours. 1lb of solder in left hand. move arms a lot. also more solding when doing bulit shade. holding small pieces of glass to grinding wheel. tape said pieces of glass. hundreds of them. carry the wood shelves with cut pieces around. eventually cut the glass. my arms are still pretty good.

  4. I never, ever thought I’d be a good mom. Never wanted kids, was terrified at the thought of pregnancy and childbirth, was too selfish to even consider giving up twenty years of my life.
    Turned out to be the greatest thing I ever did, and to my amazement I turned out to be a good mom. My kid thinks so, anyway, and that’s all I care about.

  5. Stay married for 45 years (as of yesterday) to the same woman I espied in seventh grade wearing a blue dress that magnified and enhanced, shall we say, her feminine attributes. She still has the letter I gave to her on the eve of our wedding predicting it would be difficult (we were only 19), but that we could make a go of it if we both wanted to badly enough. And here we are, me a retired newspaper editor and she a retired teacher and learning center director. I wasn’t at all sure we’d make it. But we did and I keep marveling to myself, “How about that?”

  6. When I was 18, I ran 1200m at a stretch.
    The original prognosis for me was that I would never walk.
    I no longer run because my doctor has forbidden it (due to my massive mechanical osteoarthritis at age 35, thank you cerebral palsy), and sometime in my 20s I got hips to the point where running is just agonising physical labour for me, but I do exercise a lot. Four days ago, I did 240 pounds on the back press machine.
    The doctor also told me I’d never be pain-free again after that rotator cuff injury I sustained about 3 years ago, but I proved her wrong!!

  7. I got sober at age 24 because I didn’t want to live to see 25. This past Friday, I celebrated 18 years of continuous sobriety, one day at a time.

  8. Well, I’ve done a lot of hard things and surprising things in my life but I just wanted to join in and cheer Athenae for the running thing. I began doing yoga a couple of weeks ago–I’ve had a whole three classes (!) going twice a week and I can already feel a difference in my mood, if not my body. Just doing something, anything, regularly that is for your body is an amazing transformation at this point.
    But I also want to caution Athenae about unexplained back pain–Mr. Aimai wound up in the frickin’ hospital for a week with an undiagnosable muscle spasm in his back. We are going to be paying 800 dollars for two (totally necessary) ambulance trips to the ER because he was immobilized with the pain and I couldn’t lift him off the floor or the bed to get him in our car to take him myself. Pay attention to the pain: your body is trying to tell you something.

  9. This is pretty inspiring coming from someone who sounds like me. Or was. I want to start at least walking everyday but I’m really hate exercise and I get bored quickly. I know…but, but, but. *sigh*
    I have to agree with RAM…I’ve been married for 32 years. Got married at 19 also, mainly to get away from my parents and my dreary little town. It’s taken work and it’s certainly hasn’t always been easy but I think it’s been worth it and, these days, it’s certainly an accomplishment.

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