I feel like I have been leading a secret life for the past few weeks. Something very fundamental has changed in me. It is surprising news, and I might be the one who is most surprised by it. I decided to start running!
Why Start Running?
About 6 weeks ago, at the age of 45, I started a “couch to 5k” training program. Looking back, I’m not 100% sure why I started running. It partly had to do with some professional struggles I was dealing with (I’ll write more about that another day), generally wanting to improve my physical and emotional well being and finally acknowledging that I’m not as young as I think I am. Nor am I as fit as I like to pretend I am. I am someone who looks fit, but inside I know I am not. Or perhaps now I can say I was not. I have struggled with back pain for the past decade. I have had migraines and cluster headaches since the 1980s. These afflictions are well known to be improved with exercise. But I don’t. Or didn’t.
How to Start Running?
I’m usually the type of person to get all excited about something and tell everyone, only to ultimately decide that that exciting thing really wasn’t for me after all. So this time I didn’t tell anyone outside of my immediate family what I’m doing. I just started. And I felt great from day one! The program I use, Cool Running’s Couch to 5K program, advocates 3 workouts per week and starts with very little running. It says that this to make sure your muscles and bones (bones?) have time to build strength. Because I felt so good it was sometimes hard for me to stick to this, but I did. For the most part. Instead of 3 workouts per week I worked out on alternating days. This was a better rhythm for me and has got me though the program a little faster than anticipated. After all, I wasn’t exactly “couch” when I started the Couch to 5K. I live in Amsterdam so all routine errands are done on a bicycle, often with 60 pounds of kid or a week’s worth of groceries. So far I have remained healthy and strong.
It’s Easy to Start Running!
Running also appeals to my love of efficiency. It is flexible and convenient: I go when I want, wherever I want. And I get a complete workout in 30 minutes with minimal financial investment. The only gear I needed to get that I didn’t already have was a decent pair of shoes. I also splurged about $3.00 to buy Active’s Couch to 5K app, which has been really helpful. It tracks my workout and since training can vary each day, I don’t really have to think too much to remember what it is I’m meant to be doing.
I’m a Runner Now!
I think this running thing is going to stick, so this week I decided to go public. I am now on week 7 in the training program which is the first week of actual running for 22 minutes (plus) straight. I have not yet reached the 5k mark (3.1 miles) but at 2.98 miles I’m awfully close. And I’m proud of my 11 minute miles! A friend congratulated me saying she personally wouldn’t run if an axe murderer were chasing her. Funny, I felt exactly this way for a long, long time. When I was in high school I spent one miserable track season with shin splints (an injury I have sense learned is caused by doing too much too soon) before I realized that drama was more my thing. Since then I have looked at that as a symbolic choice about being true to myself and spending time on the things that are important to me. As a result I always looked negatively at running. But I have changed. My runs are not always easy but I enjoy them. I enjoy the time alone, the peace and quiet, challenging my body. I enjoy the improved sleeping and the idea that I have more energy to play with my kid. Most of all I feel proud that I’m finally taking good care of myself, not to mention meeting a new challenge.