We Got a Runner

A Little Backstory:

Up until a couple of years ago I had a pretty complicated relationship with exercise.  I was an active kid who played a variety of sports growing up.  I got fairly disillusioned with school athletic programs, and dreaded the Presidential Fitness Challenge we had to do every year.  But, I still played in a YMCA roller hockey league in high school and once I got to college recognized a love for walking.

Unfortunately, the movie Fight Club instilled some bad notions about fitness (“Self-improvement is masturbation”, anyone?). But somewhere deep down I knew that exercise was important.  I found it difficult to stick with workout plans, so I used my commute as an excuse for daily exercise.  Whether it was walking to class or biking to work, I knew if I had to do it every day in order to get where I was going then I could keep to regimen.

Then came COVID-19 and lockdown.  I no longer had a commute, so I replaced my commute with exercise.  At first in the form of VR games like Sprint Vector, Beat Saber and BoxVR but after getting a bit bored and realizing that blindly flailing my arms around was causing weird injuries, I decided to give proper workout videos a try.  I started with the free FitOn; which I still highly recommend if you’re looking to dip a toe in these waters.  I was pretty much hooked after that.

As I’ve gotten older a little more savvy to my own anxieties and triggers I’ve come to really enjoy the way exercise makes me feel, mentally.  A reliable source of my anxiety is typically centered around how I spend my time.  Am I maximizing my time efficiently, am I feeling guilty because I’m spending time on one thing at the expense of something else?  When I exercise I am usually confident there is no better use of my time.  It’s one activity that is beyond reproach.  I can almost always feel good about spending time working out.

Crunching Numbers:

After I started working from home full-time, I replaced my commute with daily workouts.  Everyday, instead of biking to work, I spend that hour doing some kind of workout.  I snagged an Apple Fitness+ subscription as a benefit of my new job and now have a weekly rotation of strength training, core training, HIIT, rowing and even the occasional dance workout.  Supplemented by the occasional long walk and mountain bike trail ride when the weather cooperates.  Everyday, there’s a little fitness calculus to determine which combination of workouts in that hour will help me hit my “Move Goal” by the end of the day.

So, it was that headspace one day back in January that led me to running.  I needed to return something to the library before starting work and didn’t have time to go for my usual full long walk.  I crunched the numbers and realized, minute for minute, a run might be the most efficient form of exercise out there in terms of the calories-burned to time-spent ratio.  

I jogged down to the library and back in 8 minutes.  It sucked, but … holy shit, I didn’t hate it.

We Got a Runner:

I started out just coldly calculating statistics like a cost/benefit analysis.  And the next time around it was another similar situation: a limited time slot to burn the maximum amount of calories.  Plug a run into the equation.  Each time I went out it was like an experiment and each time I got back I would take stock: “OK, my knees didn’t explode into powder like I thought they would.  My lungs aren’t as on-fire as they were last time.  I went 1.8 miles, I could probably do 2.  I went 2.2, I could probably do 2.5…”.

It was maybe my 3rd run when I actually found that fabled ‘Runner’s High’.  I was about a mile in, I hit my stride, my headphones started playing the perfect song and I couldn’t help but grin.  The euphoria only lasted a few more blocks before my grin turned back into a grimace, but I was hooked.

It’s important to understand that for years I thought I just wasn’t a runner.  I didn’t think I had the right body type, as an ex-asthmatic I didn’t think my lungs could take it and I didn’t think I could ever enjoy running.  Now, I’ve run a 5K on my own and am thinking about running one for real.  I’ve dipped into trail running and I want to do more.  I daydream about one day running half-marathons, marathons and ultra marathons!  I’m still feeling it out and trying to see how far I can go, so who knows!?

I guess the moral of the story is: whether it’s running or something else entirely, don’t psych yourself out into believing you just can’t do something without giving it a proper try!

Update: I ran a 5K!