DIARY OF A RELUCTANT RUNNER
The First Week of My New Running Program
When I was in junior high I had a gym teacher that would make us run a mile through the woods behind the school. We had a nice trail that wound around the wooded acres surrounding the school, starting and ending at the track. He would sneak through the woods, popping out behind a tree to catch us walking, which I and my friends always were.
I hated running. Hated it. I was in great shape too, I was a dancer and jumping was my favorite part of class. But running always found me out of breath with a painful stitch in my side. Running one single mile in gym class was torture.
Mr. L also taught us Sex-ed, and his take on it was abstinence-only, and for us to spend the rest of the hour doing homework. It was the most useless hour of my entire young life. I had him two years in a row, and the lesson never changed. He seemed literally pained to have to even think about teaching us anything.
But, he was also really into rock climbing and taught us how to repel off the scaffolding in the gym. At the end of the year, he took us to a cliff face near the school, and it was really fun. I love that he took the time and effort to teach us how to climb. It wasn’t an easy thing to teach, and it was really novel.
He was an odd dude. We were happy to fulfill his stereotypes of women and make him uncomfortable with excuses of period cramps to get out of class, so it was a win-win I suppose. We were 13-year-old girls. He was an uncomfortable middle-aged mustachioed gym teacher. I think we all managed to get out unscathed.
So I never became a runner
The end result was that my knowledge of running began and ended there, in eighth-grade gym class. In the years following, I was in the marching band, crisscrossing the field in syncopated time, doing the requisite heel-toe walk that keeps the bounce out of your step and makes everyone glide along in perfect sync.
I was also a ballerina, I knew how to dance-run across the stage artfully, with feet pointed. I could leap, glide, sashay, spin, pony, even moonwalk, but I couldn’t run for more than a couple of minutes.
Starting several years ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to be a runner. I was in my late 30s, my dance career 15 years in the past, I’ll bop to the latest K-pop tune, but I’m not in amazing shape now. But I can’t shake the appeal of learning to run. There must be such freedom in putting on shoes and just going. To be able to run anywhere, anytime. For someone who can’t seem to justify the drive to a gym that it takes to exercise somewhere else, it sounds perfect.
“The CDC says that it’s safe for those who are vaccinated to go back to the gym. But what about the pre-existing condition of ‘not-wanting-to-go-to-the-gym?’”
During the pandemic, the option of going to a class of any sort was taken off the table. Before last year, I’d make it to a barre3 class or a yoga class most weeks. But now, my exercise program has narrowed to trying to get out for a walk most days, and in the deep winter, to almost nothing. Something needs to be done!
Starting a running program
A couple of weeks ago the world started to thaw. The foot of snow and ice on the ground melted and the sun reminded us of its existence. I could feel my seasonal depression slightly lift as my Sad Lamp sat unused for several days in a row on the corner of my desk.
I was going to do it, I was going to start that couch to 5k program. This is it. This year, I become a runner.
I looked up the different apps. I need one that will tell me what to do, but still let me listen to music. There are several free ones out there, here’s the one I’m using. I broke out my sad old sneakers that I don’t remember buying but that will have to do for the moment. No way am I buying expensive running shoes until I prove that I’m serious. To who? I guess myself.
But first, walking
Before I start, I decided to at least give myself one week of walking every day. I would shoot for between 8000–10k steps a day. I need to build up at least a little bit of activity.
For the whole month of February, I’ve become almost indistinguishable from the pile of blankets on my bed, to go from that to a jog would probably kill me.
So I did it, I walked every day, except one when I did a Pony Sweat class with a friend. Pony Sweat is an online class that makes you feel like a combination of Jane Fonda and Joann Jett, jumping around in your living room to a killer soundtrack and trying to keep up with the teacher as she grapevines and tosses her head around. I could barely understand what she was shouting, but it was ridiculous fun, and I will definitely be doing it again.
Here we go! Week 1
On Monday, I was ready for my first run. I have no actual running gear so I’m wearing sweatpants, an old t-shirt, and a sweatshirt and had to put my phone in a fanny pack. Peak pandemic fashion. The plan was a five-minute warm-up walk, followed by a 60-second run, and then alternating walking and running for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute cool-down walk.
The first 60-second run, brutal, but I got through it. The second one, starting to hurt. By the third one, my calves were seizing up. I had to stop and stretch them out. it felt like the muscles on the bottom of my leg had suddenly shrunk to half their size. After that, I was almost limping. I wasn’t out of breath, hadn’t even broken a sweat, but my calves had revolted. I finished it out walking and made it home.
I took my dogs for a short walk on Tuesday, then got back out there for my second jog on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it was even worse! I only did one-and-half of the eight jogging portions. I was really struggling. My calves are so ridiculously tight. When I got home I looked for some advice online. Two things; one, I need to roll them out with a foam roller and do some stretches, and two, I also need to do some squats and calf raises to build up strength.
Going to keep at it, but I might hold off until Saturday for my next jog to give my legs some extra recovery time. I bought a couple of running jackets yesterday at the thrift store that have zipper pockets. They’re perfect for carrying my phone. No more fanny pack!
On Saturday I did my third C25k — it’s still hurting, still really hard. Maybe a teensy bit easier than Wednesday? Definitely need to do some strength training. I’m thinking maybe I can alternate days, on running days do upper body, like push-ups and on off days, do lower body stuff? I’m glad that I’m still going even though it’s so hard and I don’t feel like I’ve seen any results at all.
But. I’ve only done three! I feel like this time is going to be different. I really do. I need a change. I feel great when I can actually get my heart pumping. That was the biggest issue on Wednesday, I couldn’t even get my heart rate up because my legs were cramping so bad. But I’m drinking tons and tons of water and I’ll start taking a multivitamin again.
The first week is done!
I’m going to continue to update my progress here on Medium, and you can follow along if you like. Honestly, I have no idea how long it will last, but if I can help one fellow potato, it will be worth it!