Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Run, Run, Run As Fast as You Can: Part 2

So where did we leave off? Oh yeah, I was depressing you all with my sick and twisted mind, while trying to find out how much exercise was enough. Oh yeah, there.. 

As we left off, the spring of my junior year I experienced a change in scenery. Instead of looking at this:

 I had the pleasure of looking at this:

Yes, I spent my vacation semester abroad in sunny Sydney, Australia. Any sane person would probably think that in a part of the world where I spent a majority of my time in a bathing suit, this would be the last place to ditch my body and exercise neurosis. But as I mentioned before, it was really an attitude change. I would say it was a life change, but I don't want to get too Dr. Phil on you..

When I packed my bags and FINALLY hit the airport on February 25th, saying I was ready for a change was an understatement. I was a hot mess. My boyfriend and I had broken up at the end of the fall semester, which I had plenty of time to think about over my two and a half months off before my departure. Almost three months of Christmas break, sounds great right? Notsomuch. Lets not forget that all of my friends (really...all of them), had left to go back to school early-mid January, and I couldn't even get a job to fill my time. I was in a parent-sandwich at home and literally the ONLY thing I had to do was babysit four days a week for 2 hours (although I now know the whole first season's storyline of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody...don't worry--you're not missing much). I was bored, I had no friends and I was boyfriendless. And if you can't tell, I was well on my way starting to feel bad for myself. I needed a change. Pronto.

Australia was amazing. Excuse me, ahhhhh-maaaaaazing. I made great friends. I traveled. I met some locals. I drank some beverages. And oh yeah, I went to school.  There was so much to see and do (not to mention I had 15 roommates to get to know), and I didn't want to miss out on one minute of it. During my school orientation, I realized that access to the gym on campus was not included as part of your tuition and to do so you would have to pay extra. Uh, what?! Hold the phones... I was not going to pay to dedicate hours of my time inside when I was in paradise. No effing way. So that's when I decided I'd just run outside. I'd become a runner. Kind of like, "I think I'll have cereal for breakfast..."

Manohmanohmanohman. But, I have to hand it to myself. I don't know if it was the bathing suit guilt or what, but I saw it through. And over the next few months, I ran. At a snails pace, but I ran. Because the heat was so sweltering during the daytime, I was forced to run either early in the morning (most of you know I don't function before 8am 10am) or late at night. So I'd run at 8 or 9pm. My neighborhood was extremely hilly, but I found a loop that was just challenging enough for a beginner--down my street, along the beach, back up a busy street (can't stop, don't want anyone to see me walking), downhill, and back home. And I was slow. I swear I saw a couple dog walkers passing me from time to time. But all the newness was distracting. Getting lost in the streets, running along the beach, feeling the ocean air. It was actually a relaxing environment, something I never equated with running. It kept me occupied and before I knew it I was back where I had started. Success!

The biggest change, however, was how relaxed I was. I tried to run maybe four times a week, but if something interfered with it, I'd try another day. I actually looked around and realized I wasn't going to be here forever, and this always won over my "I should be exercising" guilt. 

Within a month or so, I saw improvements. Each time I ran, the loop became easier. I felt accomplished. I wanted to push myself. Do one more, and one more. But for me. I was all alone out there, and it was the first time I was competing against myself. It was the first time it felt rewarding. By the end of my time in Sydney, I was up to five loops. 6.25 miles. Something I honestly thought my body was physically incapable of doing. I could not believe that these two feet had taken me that far, and as weird as it sounds it was kind of a high. I knew I could do anything at that point.

Upon returning to the States, I am happy to say that my attitude followed with me. I still had goals I wanted to keep, and I pushed myself. But that's the key word, i. Not the girl next to me, not my roommate. I pushed me. On the flip side, I tried to chill out. I felt the freedom to go out for a drink after a gruesome night class, leaving my gym clothes in my bag for that night. It wasn't going to kill me.  

I sometimes still have off days, but looking back at what I've been through I can definitely say that I am on the right track. On a healthy track.  And the added bonus is along the way I found something I really enjoy. 

And now that I know, I can finally tell you all why I run (spoiler alert: this is a 3 part series)...

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