Running Backwards — Part II

Welcome back to the world of the running!

I’m determined to stop having to start over every time I lace up my running shoes. So — just as any normal, sane, non-over analytical person would do — I’m looking back on my relationship with running to find out where we (me and running) got off track.

Disclaimer: This series of posts isn’t intended for any purpose other than to keep me from giving up, yet again. Because this serves as proof that through my running ups and downs, I am much less cranky when lace up on a regular basis.

Wondering what you’ve missed so far? Catch up on “Part I”!

I’m not sure what the bigger draw was for me — the actual running, or the fact that I COULD run and I WANTED to run. Almost more than I wanted to surf.

So as soon as I could comfortably knock out 5+ miles on the treadmill, I decided I was going to run outside. In public. On the boardwalk.

Half a mile later, I was toast.

Up until this point, all of my running had been done within the safety of the walls of my gym, on a softly humming contraption of plastic, rubber, and a digital display.

But I thought I was past the hard point. I was comfortably running 18+ miles each week at the gym. How could half a mile outside be so miserable?!

I didn’t get it.

My first summer of surfing

But what I did get was the joy and relief I felt at being in the water. After so many months of working my way back into running shape, I would be damned if I was going to have to start over just to run outside. Forget it. Instead I’d focus on my swimming, minimal surfing ability, heavy drinking talent, and soaking up every second of beach time as I could.

Circa 2007: Looks fun, right?!

Here we go again…

So I stopped running. For the first time.

It would take a few pounds and a fantastic gym buddy to get me to reconsider my abandonment of running.

But I did come around. Eventually.

And I started in a familiar spot. On a lone treadmill before heading into my kickboxing class.

Before long, I remembered how much I loved the soft hum of the treadmill and the rhythmic landing of my feet on the belt. I was coming back to life.

But no matter what my level of success was in the gym, the outdoor run still taunted me. So I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t want to lose my momentum again.

Gradually I completed my move from the city to the beach — with a brief stint in Brooklyn. Once living on the beach full-time, I realized maybe I could have it all. Surf whenever I wanted — or at least whenever I had the inclination to shove myself into a wetsuit. Swim whenever I wanted to get wet when there were no waves, and without having to haul my board down to the beach. Or run — or walk — whenever I wasn’t in the mood for either of the other options. But I had no treadmill to fall back on this time. I was on my own.

My new running path — who wouldn’t love this?!

And as could be expected, I lost my running mojo again. I would dabble in a run here and there. Mostly to beat away some random life annoyance. But it was nothing that would stick.

I’m not going to get my running legs back by sitting on the couch. Want to see where I’m at in my comeback? It’s all there on Dailymile.

Warning: it’s not pretty.

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Running Backwards — Part I

Welcome back to the world of the running!

Let me make one thing clear — I’m not a runner by nature, instead by influence and peer pressure (I’m looking at you Sara, Chanthana, Des, Heather, Shannon, Kate, Kevin, Sean, etc.). That being said, one of the best feelings I’ve ever known is stepping outside my door and taking off for a 3, 5, or even 8 mile run without any other thought, or care, in the world.

So why did I ever stop running? This is the question I’ve asked myself nonstop the last few months. And to get back to where I once was — and eventually move forward — I decided to take a look back at how I fell into running. Maybe then I can pinpoint where it — or I — fell apart.

And someday — when I get frustrated and miss a run or two — these posts will be here to remind me of exactly how far I’ve come and why I don’t really want to throw in the towel. Again.

Taking a look back…

Despite being on my high school’s track team — getting me to run any farther than 1 – 2 miles took the help of a higher power. Namely that of my throwing coach, Mr. Marchewka (aka “Chewk”) — who I swear stood 8 feet tall and at least 4 feet wide. Not the kind of guy you’d think to argue with — although that didn’t really stop me when it came time for our weekly team conditioning run. I’d rather spend my time running sprints, practicing jumps, working on my throws, in the weight room, even trying to nail down my hurdling — ANYTHING but a long run.

Loved my school — hated the workouts.
Photo: Crystal Lake-Cary Patch

And everything over 1 mile was something I considered a long run in those days.

Not surprisingly, my track days weren’t in my top 10 list of things I’d miss after I graduated. Heading off to a brand new fitness center at DePaul meant I could do whatever, whenever. Learn to play racquetball? Done. Start practicing yoga? Check. Kickboxing? Loved it. Club volleyball? But of course. Anything but lacing up my running shoes.

Fast forward a few years and a move to New York after my college graduation and I slowly got myself settled into a good routine — yoga, kickboxing, spin class, dance, circuit training. Nothing crazy — just consistent. But notice the one thing that doesn’t appear on that list? You got it. Running. I still wasn’t ready to go there.

And then one day it happened. See — the one thing I wanted more than anything was to surf. I’d been dreaming about surfing since I was a little girl growing up in the middle of a cornfield, as far removed from the ocean as you can be but with enough knowledge that it existed — somewhere — to make me want it. Bad. And here I was — finally, living on the coast with the ocean just a subway ride away.

All I ever wanted — at last.

And somehow — it was in my pursuit of living out my surfing dreams that I found my way back to running.

See — I had decided to restructure my regular training in order to best prepare for my upcoming summer on the beach and in the water. The biggest concern I had was my core. I even hired a personal trainer to get me through to Memorial Day weekend.

During our first session, my trainer asked me if there was anything I absolutely would not do. My response — “running”. No way, no how. She said okay and made a quick note on my evaluation forms.

But yet — just 3 short weeks later — I found myself on a treadmill going faster than 4 mph. Somehow, I had 15 minutes to warmup before my training session. There was more than one elliptical machine available, a couple of stairclimbers, as well as one or two stationary bikes open. But none of those seemed appealing. Instead, I walked over to the closest treadmill and started walking. A couple of minutes later, I decided I didn’t want to just walk and I turned up the speed. Just a light jog at first. And before I knew it, I was running full-out for at least 3 – 4 minutes before I noticed my trainer had arrived and was standing next to me. Laughing. I slowed myself down, stepped off the treadmill, and simply said “I don’t want to talk about it.” as we walked over to the mats.

A week later she asked me what changed, and I said I didn’t really know. I was bored and decided to give it a shot. And I enjoyed it.

Before long, I was heading out of work as fast as possible to snag a treadmill at the gym. And if I couldn’t, I’d rush home to claim one of the sad, outdated machines in my building’s “fitness center”. Anything to get my run in. Every mile I ran and every second I knocked off my any previous run made me feel just a little bit more alive.

And that was the start of my return to running. My first return to running, anyway.

Ready to run!

Sometimes You Just Need to Keep Going

I have had a lot of struggling runs lately, related to everything from the weather to leg pain to hangovers to no sleep to moving to St. Patricks Days (yes we’ve had at least 4 so far, with 1 more to go) and on and on and on. Tonight started out like one of those runs. It was colder than I had hoped and the wind was picking up with every step, and of course it switched directions every time I made a turn.

But then this funny thing happened. I passed this guy I’ve seen out almost every time I’ve gone out for a run. I must have passed him a hundred times in the past, given the obligatory nod but just moved on.

Tonight I was struggling so I was looking for someone else who was struggling as much, if not more, than I was. And there he was. Slowly chugging along at an excruciatingly slow jog. I smiled and continued down my warm-up path. I made it to the end of the boardwalk and turned around, absolutely dreading that little voice in my ear to pick up the pace for the next 5 minutes. And I’m miserable. Abso-friggin’-lutely miserable. As in I contemplated taking an alternate path home and cheating out of the rest of my run.

And then I turned the corner. And there he was chugging back along. Still going. In his Mets hat, Mets jacket, Mets shorts (yes apparently somebody did buy them) and his old Walkman that I’m sure was a hand-me-down from a grandkid with the ’86 World Series playing.

And the biggest smile on his face. He waved over to me and started cheering me on. Little Miss Doom and Gloom, who half a block earlier was ready to quit. And I started laughing.

And I spent the rest of my run thinking: Someday I want to be just like that guy (in Cubs or Bears gear of course). Mid-70s, a little softer around my middle than I am now, moving slower than I ever imagined was possible, but spending every step just happy to be there. Out in the fresh air, steps away from the ocean and alive.

And the only way I’m going to make it there is if I keep chugging along. Although hopefully at a better pace.

It’s Only 4 Minutes — How Bad Can It Really Be?!

Ha! HA! HAHAHAHA!

It’s called a "tabata" interval and it’s a royal bitch from hell. Yes that’s my official review. And I apologize to anyone I have offended.

However, it’s also effective.

Simple concept: 20 second sprint, 10 second recovery, repeated 8 times. You can use this with whatever exercise you want. Tonight I chose to use it as a warmup to my planned easy run.

I made it through 4 of the repetitions before I thought my chest was going to explode. I did however make it through the rest of my run and I have to be honest, I felt cleaner and stronger at the finish.

The next step will be to add 1 repetition each week until I get to the full 8.

Now excuse me while I finish coughing up a lung.

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