Sunday, April 05, 2009

not a runner

If I could magically wake up with some new trait/characteristic/inclination/talent/whatever you want to call it, I would want to be a runner. And a morning person - because for some reason I think these two things go together. I mean, don't you feel like most of the runners you know are morning people? At least they somehow manage to convince themselves to get out of bed early in the morning and run! Just doing one of those things on their own is hard enough for me so the thought of getting up early and running is really overwhelming and generally leads to me pulling the covers over my head and hitting snooze incessantly.

I have always enjoyed playing sports, regardless of whether I was any good. I never really minded the running involved in those sports either. Probably because I was caught up in the competition of the actual sport and was distracted from the actually running portion of the game. Or maybe because the running was just around a gym to warm up and then more just a part of some other drill. It was never my favorite but I tolerated it.

Probably the primary reason I have never enjoyed or even liked running is because it hurts and I am terrible at it. My oldest friend - or I should say, the friend I have known the longest since she is actually younger than me - is one I met in 8th grade gym class. Our last names dictated that we stand in line next to each other during role call squished between the girls with their biker shorts and large t-shirts. She is a runner and a morning person! When we had to run around the field for gym class she would lead the pack and I would stagger along at the back, clutching my side when the inevitable side ache would start stabbing me from the inside. But when she lapped me, instead of breezing on by me and making me feeler worse, she would cheer me on. And we became friends. It wasn't like I was out of shape either. I played softball, basketball and soccer. I was just bad at the boring run around a field pointlessly for a couple of miles.

By my sophomore year in high school a knee doctor recommended I have surgery on one of my knees and gave me a note to get out of gym class. And since girl's gym was pretty much running around a boring track for an hour, I was happy to be out. For years I babied my knee and avoided sports that required a lot of running. At the gym I stuck with the eliptical or the bike and out of the gym I walked and hiked and rock climbed but never ran other than a short burst to catch a bus.

Then, about 5 or 6 years ago, some guys in my ward decided to form a co-ed indoor soccer team. And I thought it sounded like a lot of fun so I joined. My soccer skills were pretty much non-existent and I still had the aversion to running but once I was in a game adrenaline kicked in and my aggressive side took over and I had a blast pretty much just throwing myself in front of the soccer ball as much as possible which resulted in me constantly having soccer ball shaped welts and bruises on my legs I proudly bore as battle wounds. I loved playing on a competetive team despite the fact that we weren't very good and mostly lost. My knees were always a little sore but I felt I was taking care of them with ice and stretching and quad exercises.

But all good things must come to an end and in the midst of our second season my body decided to throw another wild card at me - suddenly, I couldn't breathe very well. I tried to blow it off as a cold or something but I would get winded after only a minute of play and my teammates were worried and my boyfriend at the time was really worried and convinced me to go to a doctor. Let me tell you, if you want to get into a doctor quickly, tell the appointment person you are having trouble breathing and they will whip a slot open out of thin air. I started out with an internist who was fantastic at working with me to find a diagnosis. Initially she thought I had exercise induced asthma. But we soon realized I was having asthma symptoms all the time - not just when I exercised. I just hadn't been paying attention and always blew things off as a cold or altitude issues or me being out of shape. Long story short, I went through a large number of tests that ultimately landed me with a pulminologist who diagnosed me with asthma at 28. Needless to say, the whole study and exam and experiment with solutions portion of my diagnosis threw a bit of a wrench into my soccer days. I was still playing and I was still going to the gym but I wasn't able to play at the same intensity.

Then my knee started swelling a lot and I realized it was probably time to have it checked out as well. Ultimately, that little inquiry led to the doctor advising two things: 1) no more soccer, ever and 2) knee surgery. No fun.

On the plus side, I took this as further advice not to run.

But the problem is, I have a secret and growing desire to run. Running is the easiest exercise in terms of equipment - you just need sneakers. And when I go for long walks along the Hudson River I am jealous of all people who are running. It is the best way to lose weight and it is a simple cardio workout.

So a couple of weeks ago, after my sister finished her first half-marathon, I decided to try this couch to 5k program just to see if I can turn myself into a runner - despite my knees. It started out great. In the first week, you simply alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. This seemed simple and I enjoyed it. The second week bumped it up a bit and alternates between 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking, again for 20 minutes (not including warm-up). Yesterday, after not having had any problems with these two weeks on the gym treadmill, I was lured outside with the bright sunshine. Afterall, the whole reason I want to start running is to be able to get a good workout outside instead of always being stuck in the gym.

It was terrible. I did it but I hated every second of the 90 seconds of jogging. Actually, the first 30 seconds was usually fine and then I kept watching the stop-clock on my watch willing it to get through those remaining 60 seconds faster. The first rotation of jogging was a killer - my knees hurt, my shins hurt, my ankles hurt. Why do people do this to themselves I screamed in my head. I tried to fall into a rhthym but realized I have no idea how to run. No idea whatsoever. Since this was the first sunny day in ages, the running/biking path along the river was full of people. I tried watching them for tips but had no idea how I looked myself. "Am I doing this wrong? How can I not know how to run?" I thought as I counted the seconds - always faster than my watch. Ultimately, I made it through and haven't had any swelling in my knees. I called my sister to complain and she gave me a great pep talk and convinced me that the first time outside is the worst. But I think I will stick with the treadmill for a bit longer to keep my confidence up. But any tips and tricks on how to turn oneself into a runner would be appreciated. My goal is to be able to participate in the corporate challenge with my firm in June - a 5k through Central Park. I don't need to be fast, I just want to be able to run it.


Jen said...

Man, can I relate! Last summer, I started out on the very same couch to 5K program, and ended up quitting when medical issues arose (knees and other things as well). I have friends all around me who have taken up running later in life, running marathons and the like. I even bought fancy shoes, thinking they would help, but no luck.

I don't know what my problem is, but I am just not a runner. I never have been. I can remember my family laughing at my running attempts when I was a little girl. I barely managed a passing grade running the mile in high school. I also tripped running the 50 yard dash and pulled my hamstring in another dramatic, embarrassing episode.

Maybe I should stick to the elliptical.

Tiffany said...

I can definitely relate. Running looks like the perfect release--good for body and mind. Although, the only running I can imagine working for me is running that involves me being chased by a deadly animal/ax murderer.

I'm rooting for you.

Annie said...

good music...that's all i got! i'm no runner either...a slow jogger maybe. but, music and a piece of gum to keep my mouth moist, and some chapstik to avoid dry lips, that's all. as for the actual running part, i wish you luck!

michele said...

yeah, good luck! i wish i was a runner too. I keep trying, but i'm still not good at it. I signed up for a "chi running" class at my rec center, so i'll let you know how that goes. I did most of the couch to 5K plan about a year ago, and there is a podcast that some guy did that tells you when to run and when to walk and stuff. his music wasn't my favorite, but it helped to not have to be looking at my watch all the time.

alison said...

Matt says you have to run for about 10 years before you decide whether you like it or not.... Unfortunately, I think that's true!

Alisa said...

Running on a treadmill is so different than outside-
I don't like running either, my knees hurt too, but I love the results.

Glad you liked the green beans. I am making them again this week- mmmm.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog often (I'm a former neighbor of Tiffany B's). I have always longed to be a runner. When I drive places and I see trim women in svelte black running pants and headbands banging out a steady rhythm on the concrete, I wish I was them. Don't get me wrong, I'm fairly trim myself, and work out often. But there is something on the runners faces that make me wish I had that determination. Then I do it, and I remember that I really hate running, I hate getting up early, I hate getting out of breath and not having water, and I hate how much my knee hurts after. Maybe I should just buy the black running outfit and check myself out in a mirror.

katie said...

Yep. i pretty much loathe running. Unless it is to play basketball. Sorry, i'm of no help at all. I do however wish you much luck.

hovergirl said...

I have been running ( some years more than others) for the past 20 years. And here is my advice: don't make any decisions based on your first mile. I always feel a little bit wretched the first little bit while my lungs and heart coordinate things, and mentally I click into the right gear. It gets better. You loosen up. And when you are in your running groove be your mind is just tranquil- it's the best thing in the world. But what do I know? I'm just a simple chicken farmer!

Suz said...

A year ago I wouldn't have said I was a runner either. My recommendation is to take it slow. Start out running just a half a mile a few times a week and then increase it to 3/4 of a mile the next week, etc. I still want to give up in the first few miles, but once you find your rhythm it is hard to stop. I also recommend visiting a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist to work out past injuries.

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