The Race

Running encouragement

I’ve helping a friend teach a class on the Art of the Blog for the last few weeks and another 2 weeks to go, and it’s kind of exciting for a number of reasons. One is, even though I do tech support on a daily basis, it’s kind of fun to come up with tech tips for something new and for an appreciative audience rather than a frazzled customer. The other exciting and slightly scary element was the fact that, aside from helping two kids navigate the rigors of potty training, I’ve never taught anybody anything.

I felt like I discovered myself as a writer when I attended my first serious workshop, and, even though I knew we were all different, a part of me always worried that everyone else would be a better writer. Ultimately they were better – better at writing authentically for them. The great thing about workshop last year and the blog class and Open Groups is they’re just like being in a 5K. Unless you’re in the running for the big cash prize at the end of the route, you won the moment you started the race. It’s not about the prize – it’s about going the distance. The only person you’re competing with is yourself, and encouraging the woman next to you doesn’t just help her, it helps you.

 

In the Beginning

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Everyday is a beginning, and in the beginning, it’s always murky – sometimes even dark.  Beginnings still take determination and fight – whether it’s a new run or another day toward a new life.  It’s not until the first bead of sweat breaks that the rhythm of the trail or the day takes over.  It’s self-sustaining until the exhaustion that must come does, but when it passes, what is left behind is the fight and determination to begin again tomorrow.

Back on the Horse

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Last weekend I fell of the wagon and fell hard.

Knowing there was a party at the end of the day, I decided to take a day off from fitness and counting calories and label reading. I’ve been pretty good for most of the last month, and even though I told myself not to say never-ever to treats, ever was supposed to be limited to three bites. Saturday I took three huge bites.

The first bite was the veggie breakfast burrito which could only be considered healthy because of the word vegetable in it. The second was a hiatus from any exercise. And the third was an evening devoted to eating local corn dogs and fries at the dairy bar and then from the freezer case at the local country store.

My three non-regulation sized bites left me with a whopping hangover, making me all too-aware of the fact that ice cream would not be a performance enhancing drug for my morning workout. But I knew I had to workout. My sister has already signed us up for a 5K in Connecticut at the end of the summer, and, even though I’m doing the 3 miles regularly now, I know I need to keep doing those three miles if I want to not come in second to last (it has happened).

Getting back on the diet wagon always seems harder than getting back on the fitness wagon. I’ve been doing South Beach and then found my way to the Forks Over Knives plant-based way of eating, and the recipes on both have been phenomenal. I can’t really say my taste buds been deprived the last few months, but empty calories can be so darned delicious, and my new morning meal, usually so satisfying, didn’t have quite the same appeal on Sunday morning.

By about the middle of my strength training, however, I had found my way back onto the fitness wagon, and there’s a reason for this. There’s something about running and lifting weights that gives you instant satisfaction in a way that eating less simply can’t. The farther you run or swim or climb, the harder you push, the more your body becomes a temple, and the better you want to treat it. Right now, mine still looks a lot like a temple to a paunchy goddess of vice, but it gets a little more solid every day, but it isn’t the penance at the scale that keeps me going.

Off the Couch

 

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I’ve coveted a lot this summer:  a smaller pair of jeans, a stronger body, a more active lifestyle, and that really cool running tank to wear for my first 5K in three years. I checked most of the things off my wish list by getting fit enough to finish the afore-mentioned 5K.  However, while getting able to complete those 3.1 miles did indeed let me squeeze into a smaller jean size and a more active lifestyle, it didn’t shrink my body small enough to access the work of fitness high fashion.

As I was reminded during my search for the perfect tank top, an XL at the discount store is not an XL in fitness (or designer) wear.  I could have worn one of my old t-shirts, but the race was a family tradition that was being revived.  I wanted something special.

I traipsed through online and offline offerings, rarely finding anything above an L or XL that didn’t fit or look more like and M.  I was losing hope.  I’d sweated all summer.  Surely something in either of my sizes – old or new – wasn’t too much to ask.  There’s every other option for active women, right down to a plunging, push-up sports-bra (still scratching my head trying to find the competitive advantage of THAT feature), but there was little for larger women who want to get off the couch (as we’re always told to do) and into activity.

So this year I did what I once did when I was too broke for store bought.  I made my own.  I’ve been finding my own groove this year.  It’s off the couch, and dancing to that beat has done a lot more than just make me smaller.  It’s made me stronger and happier and even more productive.  So I made a shirt to celebrate this new life off the couch.  It’s a change you should be able to celebrate at any size.

I’m putting my designs where my mouth is CafePress.com.  You can find T-shirts and a few other items in sizes to fit most from 0-5X.

The Pack

 

At the beginning of the summer, I could barely walk up the hill of our 900 hundred foot driveway without stopping to get more air. For most of the spring, I rationalized my 'performance' with the excuse that I had started the year with pneumonia. Knowing that not moving was worsening my lung condition didn't get me off the couch until late night chest pains sent me to the hospital for stress tests.

The long-tern lung infection was to blame for the chest pain, but I knew my deep and gorgeous hunger (as Cary Grant might describe it) and less gorgeous physical sloth were not helping my lungs get any better. So, as I sat in the doctor's office, watching him tap a place on my chart where I had been about 50 pounds lighter, I got to my tipping point.

A few years ago, I had another similar moment of Zen that led to a summer of good nutrition and walking. I let myself get stymied at the end (something I've already moved to prevent this year) by shortening days and a bad attitude, but I remembered that the biggest changes began when I started running. This time around, I decided to start the running with the eating plan, and taking the two roads together has made all the difference, and in a way I never would have expected.

I started very slowly using a plan that had worked three summers earlier (C25K from Runner's World – try it, it works). The plan starts you with 30 second runs followed by 90 second walks and repeats until you've been run/walking for 30-35 minutes. I am not proud to say that at the beginning of the summer, I had trouble making it once around our house or even trotting for 30 seconds. Yesterday (a few days before Labor Day), I ran 3.68 miles with hills and no stopping. Part of me wishes I could say I did it all by myself, but along the way I discovered something even more valuable than my little app. I discovered encouragement.

My first runs were always on our sloping driveway and around our bumpy yard. I was embarrassed to have anyone see how slowly I ran. Then I mentioned my new plan to my sister who's currently getting ready for a 20K. She didn't ask my times. She didn't ask if I thought I could do it. She just gave me a verbal pat on the back and said, “Keep going. I'll get us signed up for the Labor Day 5K.”

We've run the the 5K together before, and, to her credit, she ran with me the first time – giving encouragement the whole way. Then, I was very conscious of the faster runners that seemed to flow around us like gazelles cutting swaths around a slow-moving elephant. Now, I barely notice it.

In the last few months, I've begun to notice more runners on the road. I've seen them in all shapes and sizes. I see slower ones and faster ones. When I'm running, we wave at each other. When I'm driving, sometimes I'll honk or yell, “Go for it!” at them whether the windows are up or down.

They're all doing it, and when I talk with other people I know who've been running or even just started, we never compare times. We talk about going the distance. We talk about how far we've come. The women who've traveled farther share their acquired wisdom with those of us who are at the beginning of the journey. The times matter, but I never feel like I'm competing with someone else – I'm only competing with my old time.

So, if you're running (or walking) on the road, and a strange lady passes you, shouting at you to keep up the good work, she is nuts. But I've decided that if you've started your journey – no matter where you are on it – you are doing good work. And that deserves encouragement, so I'm passing it on.