Monday, June 30, 2014

Strength Day

This morning, instead of running, I did some strength training.

I hate strength days! But I know that they are good for me. Strength training has had noticeable benefits in terms of my health and fitness. Since I started strength training a couple of times a week, I've become stronger and faster and have better endurance.

There are a whole bunch of benefits from strength training, whether you lift weights or do body weight exercises (push ups, for example), that go beyond just becoming physically stronger. Strength training has been shown to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, help you burn more body fat, reduce the risk of injury during other athletic activities (such as running), and a bunch of other things.

Every two months, I set a goal to work towards. Right now, I'm working on push ups. I want to be able to do 15 real push ups in a row. That may not sound like much, but it will be a huge achievement if I'm able to do it, considering that I couldn't do even one push up a year ago.

My arms are already burning from this morning's workout. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to lift my arms tomorrow morning, but I'm hoping to reach my goal by the end of July.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My First Run

I think one of the reasons that yesterday's race was so disappointing is because it felt as though I was running for the first time.

My first run was on April 15, 2013.

I know the exact date because it was such a monumental thing for me to do. I had never run before. I was not athletic. I was the kid who avoided all physical activity. I hated gym class, especially track days. But I had decided to run. I woke up that morning and said out loud, "I think I will run today."

I got home from work that evening and changed clothes. I had spent the entire day planning on going for a run. I was both excited and scared. I'm extremely self conscious, so I wasn't too sure about this whole running in public thing. I put on my two sports bras, my sweat pants, and my over sized t-shirt. I pulled on my gym socks and a pair of ill fitting gym shoes. It was kind of chilly that evening, so I also grabbed a sweat shirt. I grabbed my phone and my keys and I walked down the stairs of my building and out onto the side walk. Then, I started running.

It was amazing...for about 15 seconds.
Then the pain started. My legs were already hurting and my lungs burned.
Then I slowed down to a walk.
As soon as I had my breath back, I started running again. I could do this! I would do this!
Nope! Nope nope nope nope! I was wrong! Running was a terrible idea!

And so began a thirty minute cycle of running for 15 to 30 seconds and then walking for several minutes. I was convinced that everyone else out in the neighborhood was watching me and judging me.  I watched is exasperation as other runners, real runners, zipped past me. They made it look so easy!

My internal monologue went something like this: "Who am I kidding? I'm not a runner. I can't even run for a full minute! I'm a failure! Okay...I can do this. I'll run until I get to that mail box, then I can walk again. DAMN! THAT HURT! I just want to go back home and eat some ice cream. Mmm...ice cream. Okay. I can have ice cream if I finish this. If I finish this, then I can stop at Walgreens on the way home and buy a pint of ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream."

Yeah. It wasn't my proudest moment. By the time I made it home, about 35 minutes after starting, everything hurt. I hated the world. I hated myself. The next day, my legs felt like jelly and I swore that I would never run again.

But, for some unknown reason, I did run again. In fact, I ran again the very next day. And the next day. And the day after that. Slowly, very slowly, things began to be easier. I started running for longer periods of time and walking for shorter periods of time. I was still incredibly slow, but I knew I could run. I was incredibly proud the first time I got home from a run and realized that I had actually run the whole time with no walk breaks and didn't feel like I was dying.

I need to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. I'm still new to running, and I'm figuring out how to do things. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself when things don't go as planned, but it can be tricky. The important thing is to not give up. I'll continue lacing up my shoes and heading outside, even on days, like today, when I don't want to.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The 10k That Wasn't


Today was not a good day for me.

This morning was supposed to be my first 10k. I was nervous, but excited. Although I've never done a 10k race, I do occasionally run the 10k distance during my regular runs, so I wasn't too worried about finishing. I was mostly worried about whether or not I would have to walk part of the race, and whether or not I would be the last runner to cross the finish line. I think most runners, especially new runners like myself, worry about being last.

I woke up early, had breakfast, got dressed, pinned on my number and went to catch the bus.

The forecast called for hot, humid, and rainy weather. The weather people were wrong about the rain - it was sunny and beautiful. They did, however, get the hot and humid part right. I was already sweating and had the start of a headache when I lined up with the other 10k runners.

Before the race - happy and feeling ready.
Those running the 5k were stationed behind us, as they would be starting their race about 10 minutes after the 10k started. Both races would initially start on the same route, then there would be a split with the 10k runners heading to the right and the 5k runners heading to the left.

The race started, everyone moved forward, and we were running. As usual, I positioned myself at the back of the pack because I know I'm a slow runner. Things were great for about 5 minutes. Then everything turned terrible. By mile one, I was already out of breath and had a stitch in my side. By mile two, I had a splitting headache and felt incredibly nauseous. I was already walking, because running caused a sharp crack of pain in my head with every step.

Suddenly, I was at the split point. If I wanted to run the race I had signed up for, then I needed to turn to the right and follow the other 10k runners. A fresh wave of nausea hit, and I made a sudden and desperate decision and turned to the left to finish the 5k course. I made it across the finish line, having run a 5k instead of a 10k, and with my worst ever time for a 5k to really rub salt in my wounds.  I grabbed a bottle of water and quickly walked to a fairly empty area where I threw up.

Good times!

Not really. I felt terrible. Both physically and emotionally. I felt like a giant failure. I only ran half the distance I had planned to run, I felt sick, and I'm pretty sure that several folks recognized and ridiculed my failure.

After the race - disappointed and feeling sick.
But you know what? I'm still going to go for a run tomorrow. Now that I've had the rest of the day to think about it, I think I made the right decision to abandon the 10k and finish the 5k instead. I still view it as a failure on my part, but based on how ill I was after the 5k (it has seriously taken me almost the entire day to recover), I don't think I would have been able to finish the 10k. It may have been a giant blow to my ego to run the 5k instead of the 10k, but I'm happy that I didn't have to be taken to the hospital. And even though I didn't finish the full 10k, I'm glad I tried.

Not every race goes as planned. And not every run goes as planned.

Hopefully tomorrow's run will be better.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I am a Runner

Hello, everyone. So...here we are. My first post on this blog.

Hmmm...I don't really know what I should say, so this is probably going to be pretty awkward and embarrassing, which is pretty much the story of my life. In fact, I'll just apologize right now for how awkward things will be from time to time. I can't help it. It is who I am. I'm awkward and riddled with anxiety on my best days. So...yeah...there's that. Okay, now I'm panicking a little because this isn't a very auspicious way to start things. I don't think you are supposed to say you are awkward when you first meet people. I think that people are supposed to find that out naturally over time. Anyway, here we go:

Hello. My name is Rebecca, and I am a runner.

Me looking awkward and embarrassed at my first race.
No, I don't win races. No, I haven't run a marathon...yet. No, I'm not skinny, nor am I fast. But I am a runner.

I am a runner because I run. I run slowly. Sometimes incredibly slowly. But I still run.

I started running last year on April 15, 2013. How do I know the exact date? Because me going for a run was such a tremendous accomplishment that I actually wrote it down. At first, running was hard and terrible and painful. But the more I ran, the easier it became. Before too long, I was actually enjoying running, and I found myself looking forward to my morning runs. Running helped me lose over 20 lbs, lowered my blood pressure, and made me start to feel a little better about myself. Then, in November of that year, I ran my first race - the Grant Park Turkey Trot 5k. No, I didn't win any awards. But I ran the whole race. I finished it. And I felt great! I was officially hooked. I though, "I just ran a 5k! I'm totally a runner now! Running is awesome!" Then...well...then things went downhill. I took a break from running. In fact, I took a break from pretty much everything I enjoyed. I was not in a happy place.

Towards the end of February, I started running again in an effort to regain some control over my own life. Guess what? After only 3 months of no running, running had become hard and terrible and painful again. But I refused to give up. I knew that as long as I kept running on a regular basis, it would start to get easier. And I was right! It still isn't easy, but it is getting easier. It is a slow process, but one I hope to chronicle here in this blog. I've signed up for a number of races to help keep me motivated. Races aren't for everyone, and they fill me with anxiety because I don't do well with crowds. But they also motivate me to get out the door and go for a run because they give me a goal to works toward and a deadline for that goal.

My first race after starting running again - Ravenswood Run 5k. 
Before I started running, I didn't think I could run. I was convinced that running was something that only skinny people did. I had reconciled myself to being one of the first people to die during a zombie apocalypse.

You know what? I was wrong. I can run. I will run. Some days it is a struggle. Sometimes I fail miserably. But I refuse to give up. I am a runner.