Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Run, Run, Run As Fast as You Can: Part 1

I have a confession to make. This Monday, I officially start training for my very first half marathon. This may come as a surprise for some of you, because until recently I've had a rocky relationship with my own two feet. As I exuberantly dragged myself to the gym tonight at 7:00pm (post work, post night class, with little but dinner on the brain) I spent 55 long minutes staring out into the street (seriously, what kind of gym doesn't have TVs) wondering how on earth I got here? In the last handful of years I have not only struggled to develop this running habit, but, like most people at one point or another, I also found my relationship with exercise and weight a struggle. So while pounding the pavement (well, indoor pavement), I took myself back to my difficult start...

Oh, hey. It's me in a perfect world!
To really understand any of this long road to running (because yes, it feels just as long as all the miles under my belt), its important to understand where it all started. Enter, routine exercise. My relationship with exercise wasn't really routine until I headed to college. I was a one sport athlete throughout high school, which coupled with my high metabolism was pretty much enough to keep me in decent shape. Of course there were still plenty of things I could complain about, but my body was not bad. I was tall and lean. Upon entering college and hearing (and seeing for that matter) horror stories about freshman packing on the pounds, I knew that exercise would need to become a more regular part of my life. And this was fine with me. I glided into a routine that included roughly 30 minutes of cardio maybe 4 times a week. Eliptical, bike, stair climber, but rarely running. If I did it was a big deal. If you'd glanced over to me upon the completion of my 12:00 10:00 minute mile, you would have just thought I was the first Kenyan to cross the finish line at the NYC marathon. Proud. Exhausted. Spent. 

And just as fast as my routine became..well routine, it started playing with my head (wasn't that quick?). I can't exactly pinpoint when it happened, but my attitude towards exercise took a nasty turn. As my routine increased I felt a sense of competition. From my "gym buddies", who were still going at it when I thought my 45 minute workout was done. From the girl next to me, sweating it out almost double the time I had. I thought I was doing enough? 

So I started increasing. Suddenly 30 minutes wasn't enough, add 10 minutes on the treadmill..or better yet, add 20. Before I knew it I was up to a pretty regular 50-60 minutes of cardio each time I visited the gym. And why? The answer should be because it made me feel good. Because it was an accomplishment, and I was proud that I could stick it out. But it wasn't. It was because other girls were 10 pounds lighter than me, and they were sweating it out that long. Because suddenly if I wasn't committing 90 minutes to the gym, it wasn't a workout. At one point I honestly thought if I could only pop into the gym for a quick 30-40 minute workout it just wasn't worth it. Also, four days a week became a disappointment. Five was the new norm. Six was even better.

But looking back, I was setting myself up for failure. Because, as you may assume, trying to balance this crazy schedule on top of five classes, homework, tests, and work was a lot. Especially when you don't love it--when you're not doing it for the right reasons. It was disappointment and a guilt trip waiting to happen. Which is usually what it turned into. I couldn't be proud of what I'd accomplished because I immediately looked to what else I could have done. What someone else had found the time to do.... I couldn't accept that a little bit was better than nothing. It was physically and mentally exhausting, and reflecting on it now, probably not the healthiest lifestyle.

I'm not knocking a steady exercise routine. Or competition for that matter. But I had a lot to learn. And thankfully, a change in scenery the spring of my junior year prompted a  much needed change in attitude. A healthy change...

1 comment:

  1. Okay I think I know where part 2 is going... your time abroad... and I love that it's what sparked your healthier attitude. The same thing happened with me when I spent a semester in London. My values and sense of appreciation shifted to things that actually mattered and made me happy. Exercising was less about feeling like I was the best (competing with those fake tan, skinny girls on the treadmill) and more about feeling good.

    Can't wait to read part 2!