Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Running

I have never been athletic; actually, I have never really been active.  When I was a child, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma but never experienced serious difficulty breathing because I rarely asked enough of my lungs to challenge them.  My weight fluctuations over the past decade have always been due to changes in my eating habits and, even when I lost a significant amount of weight in high school, the time and/or energy I spent exercising didn't seem to affect the number on my scale.

Current scientific and medical research concludes that exercise doesn't universally instigate weight loss.  (Read about it here, here, here, and here.)  In other words, not everyone will be able to shed unwanted pounds by clocking up miles on the elliptical.  I didn't need studies to tell me this: I knew it from personal experience.  I didn't see the point in sweating through hours of pain at the gym because I wasn't seeing results at the end, and so my occasional trips to the gym during college became less and less frequent.

However, I decided a couple of months ago that I was tired of being sedentary.  I was disappointed by my shortness of breath when chasing a bus, I was frustrated by my unwillingness to walk up the escalator on the Underground, and I was, frankly, embarrassed that my default reaction whenever Jon's mother suggested a brisk walk during our weekends in the country was dismay.  So I decided to start - and finish - the Couch to 5k program.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with C25k, let me explain: it's a program that aims to get you off the couch and running a 5k in nine weeks.  I downloaded my program from the NHS, and the lovely Laura talks me through each session every time I pop my headphones on and set out for a run.  (She's great, by the way; she says things like, "Now, you've completed this distance before, so you know you can do it again," and she gives tips on technique.  I couldn't do it without her.)  The program includes three sessions of running a week and is constructed to build on what you've achieved already by starting with short intervals of running and increasing to longer periods of running and then to sustained running.  I'm almost finished with week 7, which means that I start off with a five-minute warm-up walk and then run for 25 minutes straight.

Now, 25 minutes of running may not sound like a lot - but let me tell you that it's 25 minutes I could not have completed two months ago.  90 seconds of running was difficult for me when I started the program, and every time I think about flagging on these non-interval runs I remember that I would not have been able to even imagine sustaining a run for any real length of time when I was on week 1.

I've signed up for a 5k race (along with AT, Ashley, and Melissa) in Regents Park on 11 March, two weeks after I will have finished the program because I felt that I needed motivation to ensure that I would see it through.  I don't have a time goal - I just want to run the whole thing without walking - but I am proud that my pace improves with each session I complete.

The most exciting thing, though, is this: regardless of how many weeks I've been running or how many miles I've logged, regardless of my technique or my knowledge, and regardless of how long it will take me to finish that 5k, I know that I will finish it.  I know this because when I feel tired at minute 17 of my session, I tell myself that can see it through and I do.  I know this because when Laura tells me that I'm done for the day, I wonder when I can get out on the street again.  And I know this because when I feel cold air on my face first thing while on an early run, I smile and think, "This is how I should wake up every morning."

I'm not always good at sticking to my schedule.  I can't consistently convince myself that running will be a better use of time than watching another episode of The Good Wife.  I don't generally conquer boredom by crossing another session off the list.  Basically, I'm not perfect, and I'm not an expert.

But every time I lace up my sneakers and set off, I know that I'm a runner - and it feels great.

all images via pinterest


  1. Congratulations Betsy - well done on taking that scary first step towards self-improvement. I hope that you continue to enjoy that feeling of bliss when you run, through the blisters and aches and surprise downpours, and keep on hitting the road. The world is just opening up to you! Xx

  2. Good luck on the 5k race coming up, I think that program your doing sounds great. Keep up the good work !

  3. Okay, I've probably said this before, but THIS is my favorite of your blog posts. Very inspirational, and well-written. I started the C25K challenge myself last week because of your blog. Go, Betsy!


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