Clement wins

I fancy myself a runner. Or a jogger, as the case may be.  As a general rule, I save my miles for clement weather. Put simply, I do not run in the cold. Pish posh on the mildness of Georgia winters; you can let your chest wheeze for an after inhaling frigid air. There are exceptions to my no winter running rule, but more often than not, I hang up my running shoes in November, and pull them out again around March.

I spend the intervening months exercising with a DVD program. When I travel, I take it along. Unless I forget, which is the case at present. En route to the airport yesterday, I realized I packed everything I needed to do PiYo except the PiYo DVDs. Massive side eye to me.

There was no turning back at that point in the journey, and with my destination’s forecast promising sunshine and nice temps, I wondered if I might not run after all.

I’ll skip the part about why I didn’t run this morning, and jump right to the good news: I ran today! And it was challenging, and I had to stop often because of runner’s itch, which sucks. A lot. And blah blah blah, eventually, I hit my 2-mile goal! On a treadmill, no less.

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I’m already sore, which is not happy-making. But I am very pleased, which is! The first of spring remains my official target to resume a running regimen, but it’s nice to have unexpected wins.

A Runner Begins

He invited me to the Navy Ball. Originally, he had a date, but for reasons, he decided she was a bad idea. So he nixed that plan and asked drama-free me T-minus eight days away from the event. I shrugged and agreed. No biggie. We weren’t dating, I wasn’t busy, and I already had something to wear.

Hanging in my closet was a tea-length champagne dress I had worn to the Vanity Fair party at the Cannes Film Festival a year or two earlier. Something urged me to confirm the short, backless, halter would indeed be appropriate attire.

Nicole & Halle @ Vanity Fair in Cannes (2006)
Nicole & Halle @ Vanity Fair in Cannes (2006)

To my horror, no. Attendees would be in conservative, floor length gowns. It was a ball after all, not a party.

With a week to go, I reconsidered my quick, uninformed yes. How many graduate students do you know with extra money for ball gowns lying around? Before I panicked, I searched my closet and found a dress that would work. Floor-length black gown, with a (less dramatic) halter top and a deep fuchsia splash down the back. Little fuchsia beads adorned the halter. I wore it years ago in a faculty fashion show. It was muted and elegant.

There was one problem. It no longer fit.

I could sort of wear it. Sort of means I could get into the the dress, but I couldn’t zip it all the way up. I’d only gained a couple of inches and a few pounds, but too many of each to wear that dress in a week.

I’m not big on magazines, but for reasons I can no longer recall, I remembered reading that celebrities lost “those last few inches” for the red carpet through strange diets and/or super intense workouts. A couple of them said running was their magic slimfast. I wondered if it could be mine, too.

Because of previous bouts with runner’s itch, I wasn’t sure it would work. I’d try it, prepared to opt for a new dress if pounds and inches were more stubborn than I was. I had no plans to make any dramatic shifts with food. I would increase my water intake, but I wasn’t planning to go hungry or mix any olive oil cocktails.

Sunday afternoon, I headed to the stuffy little room known as my apartment’s fitness center and mounted the treadmill. I decided I’d jog – slowly – until I got tired. I had no idea how long that would take or how far I would go. I called it quits at the 3-mile mark and no one was more surprised than I was. I thought I’d be done by mile one. I felt pretty good, all things considered, and decided to return the next day.

Monday was another slow jog, another 3 miles. I drank a little coffee before the run and I got a nice burst of energy near the end.

Tuesday, same deal, same results. Nine miles in three days. No runner’s itch, no overly tired muscles. And in fact, I felt even more energized this time. After Tuesday’s workout, I tried the dress. The zipper damn near made it closed!

Another day, another three miles on Wednesday.

One last day to run – Thursday. The ball was Saturday. Would I have to shop after all or could I make this work? Friday’s test was zipping and breathing.

So five days and fifteen miles later, victory! The zipper went up with no hesitation. Breathing? No problem! Sitting posed a bit of challenge unless I employed perfect posture and tightened abs. Given the fact that dinner was also part of the proceedings, I’d have to suck it up, literally. But there I was, in that dress.

Me, two months after the ball, now running outdoors.
Me, two months after the ball, now running outdoors.

Who could’ve known that I, a former high school sprinter, would  enjoy running short distances? And who would’ve believed I’d lose enough inches/weight to wear a dress on Saturday that I couldn’t zip up the weekend before?

Because of a slow jog on a treadmill?

I was sold.

And thus began my foray into the world of running.

Today I Ran

Today I ran.

Mostly, I jogged, if you want to get technical. I wasn’t out there sprinting or going particularly fast. But I was out there. And it was great. Tough, yes, but really nice to be outside again.

My last run was a PR!
My last run was a PR!

It was my first run since my milestone of November 2013. Five months to the day. I didn’t realize that when I decided today had to be the day. I just knew it wasn’t too cold and the sun was beckoning.

I decided to just go out a mile and back. I hit my target pace of 10 min/mile. I had some difficulty breathing on a few stretches and some histamine reactions in my muscles. Both of these were to be expected.

The breathing will take care of itself as my lungs remember the work. The histamine reaction is a new/old problem I’ll have to solve, so I’ll be keeping the mileage low while I sort that out.

I’m not yet ready to set my monthly mileage goals, and I don’t know when my next run will be. For now I’m celebrating today’s return to the pavement as I look forward to many more!

Make it non-negotiable

Today is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. People who have met me via social media and in real life, know I make #templebuilding a priority. The days I get up and exercise in the morning are the days I’m off to a fabulous start. But there was a time when that wasn’t the case.

I’m a self-described athlete. I ran and biked like most kids in my neighborhood growing up. I was a gymnast in elementary school.  A cheerleader in middle school. I danced (band auxiliary) and sprinted (varsity track) in high school.

I engaged in fewer structured activities in college, although I danced (partied) several hours a week which definitely counts for something. After college I had an on again, off again love affair with local gyms.  I stocked up on exercise DVDs for the off again moments. Even as an elementary school teacher, I woke up early enough to exercise, chant, drive 30 minutes and still get to work by 7 a.m. I prioritized prayer, sleep, laughter, water and movement. They kept me in good spirits and good health.

When I became a full time doctoral student in 2007, things changed. I found myself a recluse when class wasn’t in session. All the time I read and wrote papers, thought about theory, drank coffee and ate McDonald’s. Seriously. All the time.

Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.
Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.

A few months in, the side effects from that “food” and the disgust from Super Size Me, spurred me to choose healthier meals.

(Sidebar: I didn’t eat fast food for a year after that, and with the exception of two iced coffees in 2007, I’ve never consumed McDonald’s again). I was no longer exercising, because who had the time? But I knew my body was ready to move again.

Despite my desire to exercise, it was a struggle at first.  I had to force myself to stop reading or writing to go for a walk or a short run. I argued with myself – one more page, or one more paragraph. Then another. I’d panic as I watched the setting sun, realizing it was now or never.  I’d throw on some fitness gear and get moving.

That happened many times, until:

  • I realized I always felt better after exercise, and
  • I scheduled it. I made it non-negotiable.

The very first time I put an exercise appointment on my calendar, my dissertation advisor wanted a meeting. I had to break it to her, “No, I’m not available at that time. I’m exercising then.” She, a woman very much into self-care, supported me and offered several other times even with her busy schedule. I understood then, to the degree I was serious about taking care of myself, I could figure out the rest.

And so I set my exercise schedule daily. I incorporated strength training, swim lessons, and running, all depending on my class and homework schedule. I treated exercise like any other important appointment. I was definitely going to attend, so I had to plan the rest of my day around it.

Over time it has become less of an appointment and more of a way of life. Sometimes this means running on treadmills when I’d rather be outside. Sometimes it means a 15-minute high intensity interval workout instead an hour of strength or cardio. Sometimes it means evening workouts although I definitely prefer sunrise exercise.

The point is, I’ve made it a part of my regular routine. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Happy temple building!