Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Baby, I was born to run...

Running. Ah, yes. That ever elusive activity with which I've enjoyed a lifelong love/hate relationship.

To illustrate, here's a bit of a timeline:

Early Childhood (age 0-5): LOVED to run. Ran everywhere, especially if I was in a dress and nice shoes and my mom had just told me NOT to get dirty or messy and there happened to be mud anywhere in a one-mile radius.

Middle Childhood (age 6-10): Saw running as a MEANS TO AN END - nothing more, nothing less. Games with friends, recess on the playground, gym class, etc. No longer LOVED it, but didn't yet HATE it.

Adolescence/Teenage Years (age 11-18): HATED running. Considered gym class to be a form of torture, especially when we had to run the mile. Would gasp for breath after 30 seconds of running, and that even when running v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. I believe my best time in the mile was 9 minutes and 32 seconds, which was nothing short of a miracle, after which I darn near barfed up a lung and had a beet-red face for the entire day. Only ran when absolutely necessary (i.e., gym class and when being chased).

Adulthood (age 19 to 34 years 3 months): AVOID running. At all costs. Is painful, embarrassing and simply not in our physical repertoire.

UNTIL NOW...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Last night, I had a long overdue appointment with my long-lost trainer at the gym, a delightful, lanky and attractive man from Down Under with a fabulous accent named Steve. I love Steve.

Really. I think I have a little crush on him. Not an "I'm-going-to-cheat-on-Super-Man" sort of crush, but a "wow, this guy is SO heavy-handed when it comes to kicking my sorry ass into shape and making me sweat, and I DIG that, not to mention the cute accent" kind of crush.

So, yeah, I happened to run into Steve - who works afternoons and evenings at the gym - while walking out after Super Boy's swim class last Thursday afternoon. When I first saw him, I nearly jumped out of my skin because I've been subconsciously avoiding him (okay, it hasn't really been subconscious; it's been quite intentional, actually - but cut me a break here) since I bailed out on my good gym attendance last fall after meeting with Steve a few times. Anyway, he said in his very appealing accent, "SUPER WOMAN! Fancy seeing YOU here! Where've you been?" And even though I explained to him that I've been working out like a VERY good girl since January 1, only in the MORNINGS when he's not there, he gave me a little guilt trip, which ended with me nervously agreeing to set up another appointment with him for 5:30 last night.

Being the diligent athlete that I am, I showed up to our appointment on time and ready to sweat. Steve was still with his earlier client, so I stretched and did a brisk five-minute walk on the treadmill while I waited. He came over and immediately said he wanted to measure my body fat to see how much work I'd been doing since we last saw each other in, oh, early September. I was a little nervous, only because I know Steve thinks I could be in really kick-ass shape if only I'd quit being such a wimp. But I also felt confident that I've lost at least SOME of the putrid percentages of body fat I had the last time we went through this humiliating little exercise.

We went into one of the offices, Steve whipped out his instrument of torture - the dreaded calipers - and he set about pinching areas of my body I'd rather not have a strange man's hands touch. Quite frankly, I don't even like having Super Man's hands pinching those particular areas, but I digress.

I won't share with you the end result; I'll just say that it was definitely BETTER than the results of 9 months ago, to my huge relief. And to Steve's, no doubt - I'm sure he'd have stabbed himself in the heart with the pencil if he'd gone through all of that only to find that I was even fatter than the last time we did this, despite my claims of working out really religiously this year.

Anyhoo, once we'd established that I actually was telling the truth, Steve said he was very pleased with my progress and that he could see and feel the difference while measuring the specific sites. He actually said, "You look fantastic. Everything seems much firmer, which is great. See, I KNEW you could do it if you would just commit!" Mmm... love Steve...

With that behind us, Steve asked what I wanted to get from my workouts at this point. I told him that I want to continue to blast my little post-pregnancy pooch of belly fat, I want to continue to firm and tone, and... I really want to learn how to run.

Steve looked at me like I had sprouted a second head. "What do you mean you want to 'learn' how to run?"

Hmm... how to explain this to a man who actually finds running "fun" and "easy" and "enjoyable?"

"Well," I mumbled, "I don't really know how to run, but I want to learn."

(Sounds of crickets chirping in the background.) "I still don't get it," Steve said.

"I have never in my teenaged or adult life known how to get the whole running thing down, where it came naturally, you know? I had to run the mile in middle school and high school gym classes, and I HATED it. With a passion. Because I could never find a good rhythm, either for my pace or my breathing, and it always hurt. As in, I wanted to vomit afterwards and my head ached with pressure and my lungs felt like they had been flipped inside out. I just don't get it. But I DREAM of running. Seriously - I dream of being a runner."

I could see the lightbulb come on in Steve's head as he realized what I was saying. "Well, let's go do something about that then!"

Steve proceeded to tell me that he thinks I need to start out by walking at a 4 MPH pace and then running at a 6 MPH pace for 30-60 seconds, then walking again for 30-60 seconds, etc., gradually increasing the time spent running as each segment of time became a little easier, and decreasing the rest time spent walking in between running. Since he's well aware that I'm not the world's most graceful creature and would no doubt fall on my face if I had to keep manually raising and lowering the speed while walking or running, he then showed me a neat little feature on the treadmill whereby I could toggle with the touch of one button between pre-set walking and running paces. And then he set it up and had me give it a go.

The sweat started pouring the moment he said, "Go." I'm sure it was a nervous response on my part. I simply don't run. For anyone. Ever. It's not pretty, people. I really do get beet-red in the face, I huff & puff and gasp for air, and my body feels like it weighs 500 lbs. as it flails and stumbles in some semblance of running. To have Super Trainer Steve standing there observing all of that at close range was downright horrifying.

When I toggled to the running speed, I nervously laughed and gasped out, "Well, am I doing it right? Are my arms and legs moving the way they should be, and is my form good? I feel like a total ass!"

Steve pointed out that my shoulders and arms seem very high and tense when I run, but try as I might to push them down and keep them more relaxed, they really wouldn't do anything different, so it might just be me. He said my legs were moving the way they should, but said that I need to keep my stride from getting too long and I need to try to stay light on my feet. I'm sorry, but I feel anything BUT light on my feet when I'm running. I don't know if it's because running still feels so foreign to me right now or because my internal organs turn to lead the second I pick up my pace beyond a brisk walk; I guess time will tell on that one.

Anyway, I managed to get through five minutes alternating walking and running, and I even ran for 90 seconds the last time, so I felt good. Steve was proud, I was relieved, and life was good. I asked him how quickly one could reasonably expect to be able to run a 5K from not being a runner at all, and he said that if I stuck with it and diligently increased my time spent running, I could conceivably run a 5K within a month. This was good news, because there's actually a 5K coming up in July that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Steve left me with some encouragement to keep at it for another 15-20 minutes. I thought about bailing with the excuse of having to go get Super Boy from the childcare room, but I hung in there and alternated walking and running for another 20 minutes. My legs were SO sore by the time I was done and I was literally drenched in sweat, but it felt really good and empowering to know that I'd done it - I had taken the first steps (literally) towards running, and I hadn't died in the process.

And I went back again today and did it for 25 minutes. I even ran for 90 seconds a few times in there this time, and my goal on Friday is to do at least three two-minute stretches of running, to push myself a little bit further.

Although we'll have to see how my legs feel by then - my inner thighs and quads are positively screaming in protest tonight, and I planned to do Pilates tomorrow morning, which certainly won't help matters any. But, boy, does it feel good to know I'm making progress.

Baby, I was born to run...

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