getting buff

Monday, May 08, 2006

Run buffgirl Run! See buffgirl Run!

I think you either instinctively understand running as a leisure activity or you don't. I have always liked it, but I am the only one in my family that feels that way. I don't know why. It seems like the last thing most sane people would be interested in doing. And it is the sort of exercise that always makes me want to kill myself whilst I am doing it. If it doesn't, then generally I feel like I am slacking off and I trot away to do some hill sprints until my head is about to explode.

When I was seven or eight I used to jog around our circular driveway and up and down the hill to the road with those self-satisfied little puffs of controlled breathing that runners do. I kept it up intermittently but was involved in a bunch of different sports for most of my teenaged years and it was a passing flirtation.

When I was in year twelve I saw an ad for the Sussan Women's classic, a 10K race they used to have here in Melbourne (I think it has morphed into the Mothers' Day Classic now). A friend and I kind of said "Djawanna?" and, after receiving a note from our PE teacher to say that we were fit enough not to keel over at the starting line, we were off. I ran that race in about 53 minutes, a time which remains my PB for a 10K.

From there my race running career started and continued off and on for the next four or five years. I amassed several t-shirts and became used to people saying things like "Did you really run 10K this morning? You don't even look puffed!!" But I knew that I wasn't really all that fast and felt stupid when I turned in crappy times, even though I still enjoyed it. I never trained properly for races or even with any sort of direction and it never occurred to me to do so. But in the pantheon of people who weren't serious runners, I was pretty good. One year two of my sisters and I went in a 10K together and I beat both of them comfortably (they didn't actually even like running or do it that often, but I still felt heaps superior to them).

Even when I couldn't be arsed getting up on Sunday mornings to run a formal event, I still used to go jogging as my exercise. We lived near a park with walking trails which meant I could easily run a loop of between 3K and 6K depending on how I was feeling. Sometimes I would go more often than others, but generally I kept it up and maintained my fitness with jogging for the 5 and a half years that I was at University. My fitness and skinniness would change depending on how committed I was being to exercise but I spent my university years comfortably within the healthy weight range for my height and often quite a bit fitter than that.

Then I started work. I went from juggling part time job, university classes and other commitments to sitting at a desk from 8:30am to 6pm five days per week. And while it certainly simplified my life, it also meant that I had lost the ability to easily find a spare three quarters of an hour in my day to go for a run. Previously I could find a time after classes or before work and manage it in such a way that it didn't intrude on the time that I had with Hub. Suddenly my only time was in the evenings, and spending time exercising by myself would happen at the expense of spending time with him.

It didn't take long before I was no longer fit enough to run and I put on weight at an alarming rate. Between the end of university and the end of my first year at work, I had increased two dress sizes. That included the couple of months in between finishing university and starting work, which, in honour of the fact that I would soon be joining the professional masses, were devoted to sitting on my arse and eating crap. The weight gain slowed down but continued, interrupted only by a few bursts of activity which righted the ship for a couple of months at a time.

And (except for my abortive experiment with Fitne$$ Fir$t) the couple of occasions when I tried to get into regular exercise again, the thing that I wanted to do was start running. Walking to me doesn't feel like exercise, and power walking would require me to wear pink and have a ponytail that you can flip from side to side (or alternatively to become John Howard). So jogging was the go. The problem is that I am now crap at it.

When I first started running properly in high school, it wasn't easy but it certainly wasn't difficult. I was fit and healthy enough that I could turn to a friend and say "Let's do a 10K run next month!" and I could actually do it. Now a good 30kg heavier and the owner of a pretty sedentary lifestyle, when I went out and tried to work my way up to going for a decent jog, I was humiliatingly bad. I found it harder because I used to be able to do this reasonably well. Suddenly (okay, over the space of 5 years, but it seemed sudden) I had gone from being a regular jogger to being someone who couldn’t hold it together for more than a minute at a time.

Hopefully this time I will do better. I still feel humiliated. I am up to week three on the Couch to 5K program and am finding it hard. Yesterday I did the week 3 program for the first time and I felt dreadful. I was checking my watch to see whether my allotted time for jog had passed. I would check, convinced that I was very close to the end of the jog, but finding that I actually was only half way through. I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end of the session. Why? Because I twice ran for 3 minutes without stopping (even though I desperately wanted to).

So now instead of continuing to feel proud of myself and congratulating myself on being able to run for 3 minutes instead of the 90 seconds that I could manage last week, I can't get past the fact that I am still only running for a maximum of three minutes at a time. And that, even though my session yesterday was 30 minutes during which time Chuck says that I had an average heart rate of 154, I only jogged for a grand total of 9 minutes.

I suck but I am still pretty proud of myself. And, if I keep going, next week I should be able to jog for a grand total of 16 minutes. And the week after that I am scheduled to do my first 20 minute non-stop jog. And another four weeks after that I will be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping three times per week. And maybe sometime between now and then I might start to think of myself as a runner rather than someone who is trying to become one.


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