I’ve been running away lately. Not for long, and I do come home. I’m only good for about twenty minutes before some discomfort somewhere screams at me to stop. Earlier this spring, cold wind in my lungs brought me quickly to walking speed. This month, sweat dripping from places I didn’t know sweat stopped me by the twenty-minute marker. Despite the discomforts, I’m making slow but definite progress.
I have never enjoyed running. It’s too jarring/hot/cold/uncomfortable for my taste. I’m quickly bored and soon after distracted by my discomfort and ragged breathing. But this time, I’ve been running with friends, one who kindly slows her pace and lowers her expectations when running with the two of us novices. Friends and conversation make the matter a bit more bearable, and not just because I don’t want to be the one to start walking first. (See upcoming post on pride for more on that issue.) Running with a buddy distracts me from the sweat and all, at least to some extent.
Last Monday, I tried it on my own with a podcast on my iPod. That seemed fairly effective, and not being able to hear my ragged breathing was a big plus. But I still wouldn’t say I enjoyed it.
I wish I enjoyed it. Runners wax poetically about the way their minds clear when they run and the rush of endorphins during and after the event. I’m not experiencing any of that running nirvana. I do feel pleased afterwards, pleased that I’m done and a bit proud that I made it back alive and glad the whole thing is over. I don’t think that’s the endorphins talking.
I doubt I’d be bothering if not for two factors: an upcoming black belt test which requires a level of endurance I don’t yet have and my ever-advancing age. Gravity is taking its toll. A recent trip to REI for some shorts (longer ones, closer to my knees, thank you very much) revealed a bit more of me than my head-shot bathroom mirror. Ew. Blame it on their lighting (please), but the image in the full-length mirror lit by fluorescent lighting was, well, encouraging. Encouraging me to get moving, that is.
I’m not averse to aging, but I still feel and move young. I’m in the best shape of my life, actually, not that that’s saying much. I’ve had spurts of exercise previously, but nothing close to the consistency of Tang Soo Do, my martial art of choice for the past four years. I’ve increased my balance, upper body strength, and sense of my body in space. Good stuff, but not always aerobic. And not markedly increasing my stamina. I still run up the stairs, wrestle and sword fight with my kids, and treat yard and house work as a work out. It’s just how I’m wired. I don’t sit still well, and I move quickly. So far, it’s served me well.
But that’s not enough exercise to get me through that upcoming Black Belt test next spring. Running seems to be the easiest route to improved endurance, since I can do it from home with minimal gear. I’m not a fan of the gym and less of a fan of treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical trainers. Call it a lousy attention span, but I just get bored. Running outside is a bit better.
So I’m trying to get out there on my own with a podcast in my ears at a volume that allows me to hear the traffic. Once my mind is engaged (thanks, UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute for your fine podcasts), my running improves. I know that’s not the mind-clearing way running is often perceived, but it’s working for me. And, a week after starting this post, I’ve been out there on my own a few more times. Each start is rough, but a block or two in, I find my stride. I might even be starting to enjoy it.