I don’t write much about my struggle with exercise and physical fitness. I can tell you that it’s *been* a struggle pretty much my entire life. Even in grade school, I was slow and not very good at things like kickball or running back and forth senselessly like they always made us do in PE. Oh, I wanted to be athletic. I just wasn’t.
I did try out for a few teams in my junior high years, albeit pretty unsuccessfully. Basketball and tennis, no matter how much I loved them, didn’t love me back. The only athletic thing I did with any skill was play softball. I could hit both right and left-handed, and right-handed, could strike a mean line drive.
I still couldn’t run very fast, though.
I started riding road bikes in high school and was fairly competent at that, but road biking is an expensive sport, and even though I trained (we had an after-school club in which I was the only girl), I never went anywhere with that, either. I loved it; I just never raced or continued to train after I graduated.
Mental activity has always been my forte, and reading has always been my favorite mental exercise.
Alas, that isn’t going to keep the body in shape.
Fast forward thirty years and here I am in middle age, fighting an ever-increasing weight and headed down some health paths that I really would rather avoid.
Yoga hasn’t stuck as a daily habit, even though I’ve been a trained instructor for 8+ years. Going to the gym hasn’t stuck (though we still pay that membership). Water aerobics worked for us for a while, but then the holidays hit and the spouse got sick and his work schedule got crazy and I got crazy and decided to upend my entire work scene by moving offices.
What to do? Fitness was the LAST thing on my mind, as usual.
But health never is the last thing on my mind. I just realized that “eating well” and sleeping enough and hoping food and sleep will save me aren’t going to stave off the scary health concerns.
I have a hard time with “intermittent” habits. Meaning — it’s tough for me to do them. “They” say you “should” exercise 3-5 times a week for a total of 150 minutes. However, I am an odd duck, and just having a day or more a week that I am NOT doing something makes it way too easy for me NOT TO DO IT EVER AGAIN.
Enter the running challenge I decided to join in December.
You read that right. Running. I hadn’t run since I “trained” for a 5k in November of 2017. I ended up with TERRIBLE shin splints after that ordeal (walking the entire actual race) and had to stop all walking and running for exercise for MONTHS afterwards. I wanted to love running. I really did. But it didn’t love me at that time.
December’s thing wasn’t a formal challenge. In fact, I think I was the only person who actually got on the treadmill every day. One of our favorite authors had stated in a group that he moderates on Facebook that he wanted to run a 5k every day in December. A few of us decided — hey, that’s just OUR kind of crazy!
So, in December, I got on the treadmill every day.
EVERY. STINKIN. DAY.
At first, I was jogging and walking, very very VERY slowly, and it felt like it would kill me. But I had joined Strava, and joined the author’s group there, and I started posting each “run” every day and well… I felt like unless I got seriously sick or seriously injured, I was gonna see this thing through.
Guess what. I saw it through.
With all the encouragement I got on Strava (from like three other people in the group) and my tendency NOT to want to break streaks when I start them (thus my meditation “streak” on Insight timer of over 1700 days in a row — apps and community make a difference!), I was able to get on that treadmill, a half hour every day, close the damn Exercise ring on my Apple Watch, get some nice feedback from my Strava peeps, and… start to get healthier.
Incrementally, but surely.
I haven’t lost a pound. That isn’t why I am doing this.
But I have gained noticeable cardiac health. That is what I was going for. That, and the streak, and the other things that exercise seems to be doing for me — helping stave off depression, making me feel stronger and healthier, sleeping better, and noticeably better running as I progress (better ventilation, better stamina, better heart rate, etc.).
I’ve continued “running” in January, though there was one day I walked three miles outside instead of running. I hit a turning point after that day; for some reason, since then, I can do a continuous jog at a higher miles per hour than when I started (2.6 mph was my max rate then; 3.2 is a good rate now) and keep my heart rate from exploding.
I am seeing progress, and I am doing this EVERY DAY, and I have no plans to stop. I do not care what “they” say — a little run or run/walk every day is turning out to be the right thing for ME to do. I haven’t been injured. I am not “overtraining”. I don’t push myself beyond what is reasonable for me to do. Every day I make a tiny little bit of progress, even if it’s a terrible day and all I can do is walk for 30 minutes. Just completing my time every day is progress.
I remain short, fat, and slow, but I am HAPPY with this experiment, this setting time to do this for myself every day.
Sooner or later I’ll go back to the doctor and see if this experiment has affected my numbers. I don’t really care about weight, though it would be nice to turn some of this fat into muscle. Running isn’t what does that, though. I do care about the other numbers that we get all up in arms about when we are middle aged. I hope to see those numbers improve.
I may be “running” at everyone else’s walking speed, but it’s working for me. Someday, I’ll look back at all my numbers on Strava and be able to see this long, upward curve toward speed and distance that’s just a dream right now. (I am agog at the idea that 5 mph is a normal “slow/beginning” running speed. I looked it up, of course. I couldn’t hit 5 mph on the treadmill without falling flat on my face. It’s just too fast for me right now!)
30 minutes a day, every day. That’s what I am doing. I hope I haven’t jinxed it by writing about it here. I wasn’t able to do yoga every day for the January YoMo challenge. But an hour a day of two things I am liking doing — meditation and running — seems like just enough goodness for now. Yoga will always be there, and someday, maybe an hour and a HALF or two hours of this kind of self-care that includes yoga maybe won’t seem so unreasonable.
Short, fat, and slow kicks ass! My husband and I are thinking of starting a real-life running/walking group by that name. Gotta call it like we see it. 🙂