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?