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These days they're shocked when I put them on for something more active than a quick trip to the grocery store.

If you’re wondering how one can “sort of” run, just trust me, it’s very easy.  It goes something like this.

  • Wake up early one Saturday.
  • Notice that none of the kids are awake.
  • Notice that Autumn has arrived and she’s more beautiful than ever, so beautiful you might cry.  But you decide to run  instead.
  • Get into running gear in record time, as quietly as possible, before anyone can wake up and stop you.
  • Run. Run through a clear, crisp fall morning, past towering pines and know that you cannot stop this; you must run as often and as long as possible.  You must run several times a week!
  • Begin plans to shop for a double jogging stroller to accomodate kids too small to accompany you on bikes.
  • Run, still, filling your lungs with sweet, early morning air.
  • Decide that the 10-k race you saw advertised is just the goal you need to solidify your renewed commitment to regular running.  Ignore the fact that you haven’t run more than a mile without stopping in two years.  Ignore the fact that the 10-k is six weeks away.
  • Return home invigorated and determined.
  • Wake up early Monday morning rather sore and begin homeschool. 
  • Run with your kids during P.E. and wonder what happened to that Autumn-fresh feeling.
  • Manage to complete a mile before the kids are clamoring for the playground.
  • Experience relief that you didn’t fork over $300 for a jogging stroller.
  • Decide that you might enter a local 1-mile Fun Run/Walk with your kids.
  • Run when you can.

See, it’s easy! 

I have to admit, “sort of” is not the kind of running that I want to do.  “Sort of” lives in the same neighborhood as “mediocre” in my world.  But there are other things more important to me right now, other things that keep me from committing to three hours a week for running.  I know that one day these present commitments won’t be as pressing and my life will have room for bigger running goals. 

For now, I'll settle for what I can work in among greater priorities.

 In the meantime I enjoy what I have and run, sort of.

~K

PS:    Fall is just as dangerous as Spring to a sporadic runner–those transitional seasons are intoxicating!

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Running: Here We Go Again!

My running shoes. Running shoes that fit and support beautifully. Priceless!

Well, I did it.  I turned myself into a runner. 

Lest there be any misunderstanding about things like speed, endurance and frequency, let me explain:  I like to run

That’s it.  I’m not fast. I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like and I usually don’t run more than a couple of miles before I have to walk.  But I like it. 

I like the anticipation of a run, wondering if it will be a good one or not, wondering if I will run as well or as far as I plan.  I like fighting through the initial stiffness before reaching the point where it feels good, as if my body finally remembers that it was made to run.  And I especially like how I feel when I finish: muscles and skin heated, energy surging, my mind clear and sharp.

All of these reasons are why, after any forced hiatus from running (like pregnancy), I am always eager to start up again.  And those same reasons  help me persevere as I reacquaint my body with the joys of pounding suburban sidewalks.  Like my old attempts at running once a year, it rarely goes as I expect because my mind and body just aren’t in sync.

If I could converse with my body, our little back-to-running chat would go something like this:

Me: O.K. We’ll start with a leisurely walk and make it a brisk one here in a few minutes.  I think we’ll continue that for about ten minutes for a good warm up.

Body: Sounds good to me!  Ahhh…feels good to stretch and get some fresh air!

Me: (breathing deeply)  Oh, yeah, this is nice.

Body: Wait, brisk walk already? I thought you said a few minutes!

Me: C’mon, I’m feeling strong. Let’s go ahead and pick it up!

Body: (muttering) Don’t. Push. It.

Me: I think I’m ready for a light jog.  Let’s do a 2 minute jog/1 minute walk sequence.

Body: What?! I just gave you a baby seven weeks ago!  What do you want from me?

Me: Whew! This doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would!

Body: You’re killing me!  I can’t concentrate when I’m jiggling all over like this.  Can we stick to walking ?  I’m still carrying all those banana splits you ate for nine months!

Me:  I could definitely use an out-of-body experience right about now…

Fortunately,  I just need that one over-eager session to settle myself back into reality. Nine months away from running is a long time.   It’s like starting all over again, expect for one significant detail:  I know I can do it and I know roughly how long it will take.  It might be a struggle, but knowing that the struggle will end is an invaluable boost.  It takes the edge off  those beginner’s pains.  It keeps me moving.

If you’re new to running or just getting back into a running routine (that’s me) ease in slow and steady.  You’ll reach your goal safely and make yourself a runner for life!

~K

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“No other fact is so fundamental to running:  Done properly, running is fun.  Even when you do it improperly, running is still inherently, liberatingly fun.  If you doubt this, just spend a few minutes watching a child or a dog in any wide open space.  Their glee is instinctual and undeniable.”

-From A Few Rules to Run By, by Mark Remy; Runners World, January 2010

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woman_joggerbackTraining myself to run was one of the best things I ever did.  When I completed my ultimate goal of running thirty minutes without stopping, I established a significant reference point for the rest of my life. 

If I can make myself a runner, I would think, I can tackle that problem, survive this ordeal, figure that out, etc. 

I know, running nonstop for thirty minutes is hardly climbing Mt. Everest, but it was daunting enough that the sense of accomplishment seared itself into my memory.  It also taught me an invaluable lesson about breaking down an overwhelming task into manageable portions.

That’s exactly what my new running regimen did for me.   It was actually a run/walk program, a way of easing my body into the habit of running endurance. I had one thirty-minute workout every other day.  Every two weeks the amount of walking would decrease and the running would increase. 

For the first two weeks I ran one minute and walked four minutes for half an hour.  During weeks three and four, I ran two minutes then walked three.  (Each session was bookended by a few minutes of walking and stretching.)

I’ve just got to say it again:  it was so much better than simply deciding to be a runner one day and heading out the door for a “cold turkey” three mile run!

 I wish I could say that my new program made running a breeze. The truth is that it was still hard.  The training schedule made it easier, more manageable, but my body still had to endure the discipline necessary for me to become a runner.   At the end of my first few workouts, it was near-agony to run for sixty seconds.

But then, by the end of that first two weeks running for a minute  was no longer a challenge. My body and mind longed to be pushed a little harder, a longing I immediately regretted during the next training segment!  This cycle repeated itself each time I entered a new two-week phase.

I remember visiting my family once during the early part of the 3/2 phase.  My younger brother joined me for my daily run, playing drill sergeant when he thought I needed to pick up the pace and match the rate his six-foot, three-inch body managed.  It wasn’t bad actually.  I had never run with a partner before during my new training routine and it felt good to have the encouragement.

Then, in the very last week of training, during which I ran for the entire thirty minutes, something wonderful happened.  Shortly after the first mile, an incredible sense of energy and strength infused my body.  I felt as if I had been made to run.  I quit watching the time and simply ran until it didn’t feel good anymore, just a little over four miles. 

Finally, I understood “runner’s high.”  And I’m hooked for life.

Next time:  re-training or, wondering if the high is gone forever.

~K

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So, I finally decided to do it right.  Using a sensible, self-directed training plan, I was going to guide myself to running further than the distance to my mailbox. 

joggerrearview

This is not me. If anyone ever takes a photo of me from this perspective, I will never run again unless I'm wearing a burqa.

But first I needed two things:  real running clothes and a digital wrist watch.  I know, I’ve already argued that running doesn’t need special equipment.  However, my training program required breaking each session into timed increments and I just knew that I had a better chance of success if I were wearing the right clothes. 

I didn’t want this effort to be some pale imitation.  I wanted to join the fraternity of athletes for whom running was not a fitness activity but a regular part of their lives. Naturally this transformation could not start in the “sporting wear” section of the local bargain store.

It is likely that I held my breath when I walked in to this store, expecting the clerks to raise an eyebrow and suggest that I do my shopping at Target.  But nothing like that happened.  I was in.  And  I only knew two things:  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I didn’t want any of the super-short, underwear shorts.

More than one hour and less than a hundred dollars later, I walked out ready to run. 

By the way, I somehow ended up with a pair of the reviled shorty-shorts with the built in briefs.  I still don’t know how that happened.  Maybe it’s because they were purple.  Maybe I was afraid the staff wouldn’t let me check out without purchasing a pair.  I do know this:  I don’t  want to run in any other kind of shorts. Ever.

Here’s a list of what I purchased. These items are still the core of my running wardrobe.  They would be the core of my regular wardrobe as well, but I love my family and try not to express that by embarrassing them.

  • 1 pair of  running shorts with a built-in brief, something like this
  • 1 pair of  running tights, similar to these
  • 2 pairs of double-layered socks

The watch was much easier.  I just needed digits. Cheap digits, because I’m a thrifty lady, so for this purchase I passed through a bargain store and got what I needed for about ten bucks.   

I spent the weekend grousing over the instruction manual for my  simple watch until I finally figured out how to set the correct time, then laid out my new gear, eager to start on Monday.

Twelve weeks, the article had promised.  In twelve weeks I could train myself to run thirty minutes without stopping.  I was ready!

Next time:  enthusiasm gets broadsided by reality.

Run a mile for me,

~K

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Clearly I’m not a “natural runner”.  Whatever that is.  (I suspect one begins by being born in Kenya.) 

However, I was raised to appreciate the benefits of  exercise, so when I started college, I fished around for something to keep off the freshman fifteen.  For a couple of years I toyed with aerobics classes, free weights,  gym equipment and even a few fitness videos (they were still videos then) before I tried running. 

Well, why not?  All an able-bodied person needs is athletic shoes, comfortable clothes and a place to run, right?  It’s cheap and accessible. My kind of activity.

OutsideRunner

This is not me. My form is, shall we say, slightly different. But that's a topic for another time.

Also, I was influenced by the runners I saw every day on the way to school and work.  Sparsely clothed and seemingly oblivious to everything around them, they ran through the steaming heat of summer and the biting winter temperatures.  Runners struck me as strong, independent and focused.  I wanted to be all of those things. 

Besides, I couldn’t do it and that bugged me.  Sure, I could run across the parking lot to catch my shopping cart before it crashed into a jet-black Hummer.  But I couldn’t run, steadily, for any respectable distance.  It didn’t feel good. And the so-called runner’s high apparently kicks in sometime after one city block because it continued to elude me.

Help came one wintery day in the form of a fitness magazine, one of those publications that feature women on the cover who are not only thinner than you are but have much cuter workout clothes too.  Somewhere past the product endorsements and Five Exercises to a Fitter Fanny, I discovered an article about training to run a 5k.   This article outlined a plan that would allow any person, at any level of fitness to gradually increase their running stamina until they could run 3.1 miles without stopping.  Brilliant!  It seemed much more reasonable than heading out the door to run a few miles once a year when the weather was nice and one just felt like a runner.

I was ready to start.  But an undertaking like this required  running clothes.  Not “athletic wear” from the local discount store but the real thing.  (Maybe not those silly looking shorty shorts with the built-in underwear, but something from a store where only runners shop.)

So the next time I inflict a running-related post upon you, my gentle readers, I’ll take you with me into a running store.  And just so you don’t suffer too much anxiety between now and then:  I didn’t set off an imposter alarm when I walked through the door;  I found the items I needed; they were even kind of cute.

Wishing I still fit into those running clothes,

~K

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That’s what I used to think when, once a year, I laced up my shoes and hit the streets because I had decided that running was just the thing I needed in my fitness regime.  This usually occurred in the two-week balmy transition  between dreary winter and brutal summer.  (Also known as “spring” in Texas.) A sort of fitness-spring-fever hybrid, I suppose. 

 

TX_Bluebonnets

 

And a fever is probably the only explanation for my sudden desire to run.

Here’s what would happen:

  1. With care, I dress for the endeavor, eager to feel the cool-edged spring warmth.  I imagine myself striding through our neighborhood  like the model in a fitness magazine I had picked up the night before.
  2.  I warm up and step outside.    I’m ready for this.  I can feel that I’m a  runner.
  3. I begin, giddy  with thoughts of how far  and how well I will run.
  4.  My shoes slap against the unforgiving pavement. The impact jars my body to the top of my skull. 
  5. Can this really be healthy for me?  Isn’t something about this supposed to feel good?
  6.  I am wheezing, gasping,  emitting sounds that no one under the age of ninety-nine should produce.
  7.  Legs trembling,  I bend over and brace myself against whatever solid  object is closest to me. My face is hot. My skin seems to throb.  But I did it! I ran around the entire block.
  8.  I stumble home and into the shower, wondering what sadomasochistic goofball coined the term “runner’s high”. 
  9. I’m grateful not to be in the hospital.

Apparently, twelve months was the length of time it took  my body to believe that the previous years were aberrations, that this year, I really was a runner,  because I repeated this nonsense every year for several years.

So how did I get to the point of  enjoying running so much that I dream about the day when I can do it again?  I’ll save that for another post.  But I promise, I made it there without self-torture, hypnosis, or a lung transplant.

Eager to run again,

~K

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