"Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live."
American motivational speaker, 20th century
I didn't feel like running yesterday morning. Too many things to do before work and not enough sleep the night before. Skipping one day won't matter...
I ignored that voice. It's true my world doesn't stop turning if I skip one morning workout - there are some days I actually don't have time - and on those days I forgive myself and just get back to it the next day.
But yesterday, I knew I had time. So I agreed to a compromise: I could stop after two miles, and if I felt like walking a little, that was okay. But I had to go at least two miles. No negotiation on that point.
(I've learned the key is tricking myself - I knew once I started, I'd feel much better and keep going. I fall for it every time!)
Sure enough, within the first few seconds, I felt pretty good. Instead of increasing my speed every five minutes like I normally do, I revved it up a notch every four. And at the two mile mark, I didn't even consider stopping.
You've probably already guess that I run on a treadmill. Our road is caliche, a combination of big rocks and gravel. It only took one skinned knee and where-the-heck-did-that-rock-come-from-did-I-break-anything? incident to convince me to move indoors.
Anyway, yesterday morning I thought I couldn't run at all and ended up completing three miles in 31 minutes
You might not think that's great, especially you runners out there. But when I remember all the times I couldn't run because of my asthma - all the medicine I've taken, all the trips to the emergency room, that whole winter semester of tennis in 8th grade when Ms. Clark wouldn't even let me go outside with the rest of the class because she feared the cold would trigger an asthma attack and I had to practice volleying against the wall alone all period - well, I think running three miles in 31 minutes at 52 years old is pretty damn good.
I started running in high school. Not the kind you do as a kid, for fun, but the kind you don't really want to do but do anyway because you know it's good for you.
Or because, like me, you want to lose weight. (I had to take a lot of prednisone for my asthma - and if you've taken prednisone, you know it makes you crave cheesecake! And Doritos and Roadrunner steak sandwiches and Wendy's Frosties...)
My asthma flared at first , but before too long, I stopped needing my inhaler. As much, anyway.
I didn't actually run-run. I wasn't on the track team or anything. I just ran-jogged around my half-mile block every morning before school. Afterwards, I'd jump rope for a few minutes, and finish up with some sit-ups and stretches.
But then during my first semester in college, thinking of myself as a runner, I signed up for "Aerobics" (Dr. Cooper's version, not Dance.) We learned all about cardiovascular fitness and kept track of our "daily aerobic points", aiming at a minimum of 40 each day.(Cooper's book, Aerobics, assigned points for different activities, depending on their aerobic benefit.)
At intervals during the semester, we took timed 1 1/2 mile runs around the top of the University of Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion to measure our progress.
Despite all those half-mile morning jogs leading up to my first timed 1 1/2 mile circuit, I thought I would die before I finished. I couldn't even run the whole way, but had to stop and walk a few times! I finished in something like 15 minutes and 20 seconds.
How humbling and eye-opening.
Fast forward through a semester of night runs and jump rope sessions. I'm running my last 1 1/2 miles around the top of Hofheinz Pavilion. I'm kind of nervous, but this time I'm able to keep running, running, running the whole way, finishing in 12 minutes and 40 seconds.
I know from TG's high school cross-country meets that for an 18-year-old, this still isn't a great time, but it was almost three minutes faster than two months before! High-five!
Okay, and I know I'll never be able to run 1 1/2 miles in less than 13 minutes again, but I did finish it in 15 minutes and 45 seconds one morning recently... and then kept on running for another 1 1/2 miles. Another high-five!
“Fitness is a journey, not a destination. It must be continued for the rest of your life.”
- Dr. Kenneth Cooper
I continued running after that semester, working up to 3 miles. But one night I didn't have time to run 3 miles. I didn't want to run less, so I just didn't run at all. (How's that for logic??)
Before I knew it, weeks of no running had passed. I dropped out of school, started working shiftwork, got married, had babies.
Every once in awhile during those next few years, I'd lace up my shoes and try running again, or bicycling, or swimming. Then I'd reach a point I couldn't or wouldn't maintain, or something else in my life would take precedence.
Until four years ago, when I realized what a terrible friend I had been to someone who depended solely on me: My body.
I walked with the dogs in the mornings, but otherwise put my own health last on my priority list, behind the people I loved - ironically, the very ones who depended on me to take care of them, who needed me to be healthy, who I wanted to be healthy! And just look at the example I'd been giving them!
Instead of being selfish, I realized taking care of myself was actually a way to show my love to those who depended on me! And that's what keeps me going every morning now, even more than the desire to fit into my favorite jeans or be able to go out dancing or whatever else I want to do in the time I have left on this earth.
Although those are pretty good motivators, I admit.
Because there are so many dreams I'm still working on as time allows. My writing, my photography, my college degree ...even playing my drums, although I have no illusion of ever really being good. But I intend to keep playing them as long as I can hold those drumsticks.
I also run out of gratitude, with every step giving thanks for my legs, my lungs, my heart. Gifts we too often take for granted or even abuse, like spoiled children with expensive toys. I run for my friends and family who can't.
When I started running again, I cut myself some slack - I didn't want to hurt myself! But I was still firm and refused to let myself quit. I'm in it for the long run, literally. And that determination flows over into the other areas of my life.
I just wish I'd had this much determination and flexibility when I was 18 - this vision of the "long run," of ebb-and-flow-but-don't-stop. Time isn't gracious. Over the years, just as I found a rhythm, making progress on one dream or another, something would pop up and I'd have to set it on a shelf. I gave up way too fast. But at least I have it now, this bullheadedness. This tenacity.
As long as I'm breathing, my dreams won't stay long on the shelf.
And I'll keep lacing up my shoes.
"Anything is possible.
You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight."