Rumors of My Demise: Greatly Exaggerated

“We should go running again. Soon.”

By the sixth week of my new job, Girlfriend and I were saying this to each other three or four times a week. Usually with a vague plan to do it again tomorrow, or maybe the day after. Sometime before the week is out, we thought.

I started packing my running shoes in the giant blue IKEA bag I used to shuttle laundry between our houses. I found my Tunebelt running band, and packed everything neatly in a green drawstring backpack (which had been bought for last year’s Finn the Human costume, but definitely didn’t work).

Then with all of my equipment and supplies in hand, came two more weeks of not running.

You’d be surprised how many excuses there are. Or maybe you won’t, depending on where you fall on the discipline V  laziness scale. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of those excuses boiled down to ‘I just don’t feel like it.’

To backtrack slightly: When last we spoke, I was working three part-time retail jobs. I was spending two days a week at two of them, and three at the highest-paying. I was cobbling together rent from these checks, and struggling to make ends meet. I was also running regularly, until I added my third gig to the mix.

Things changed about two months ago now. I was offered a full-time job that a friend vacated. The check would cover most of my living expenses, and I could reduce my hours from 50+ scattered around 7 days a week, to 40 centrally clustered around 5 days. A no-brainer, non?

“Naturally, when I realized I had freedom and free time again, I picked right up where I left off with running, and am now training for a Marathon,” …said not me ever.

Naturally, when I had free time again, I used it to catch up with old friends. Catch up on reading. Catch up on comics. Catch up with some TV shows, and with some discarded hobbies. Catch up on video games. Catch up on sleep. Catch up with Girlfriend’s cat Peanut.

You know, exercise.

So, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, as we were making plans for a daring daytime raid on my house the following afternoon, for spices I’d need at her’s to make the recipe we’d planned for dinner, Girlfriend tossed out: “How about we go to the reservoir, run, shower at your house, get the stuff we need, and come back.”

“Yeah. We really do need to go running. And to stop talking about going running and actually do it.”

“Okay.”

By the next morning, plans were already more definite. After painting, but before the trip to the pharmacy, pet store and comic shop. We shall see what comes to pass.

Forgetting Everything I Know

It has been about two weeks since I was able to get a good run in.

Work took over a lot of my time, as did a few fun social obligations (obligation perhaps not the perfect word for it). But, after two weeks of working instead of running, Thursday, I was in my running shoes once more.

And I was feeling good. Time tracking has been off since switching between apps, but I know that for a 20 minute run, I got further than I had ever before. By a lot. Today, my app informed me I was at the halfway mark, as I passed a street I have sometimes turned and given up at. That’s three full Brookline blocks away from where it usually tells me this.

My conclusion was this: I had clearly forgotten everything I knew about what my body could do, and was simply letting muscle memory (whether I understand the concept correctly remains to be seen) take over.

Or something.

Either way, I was surprised. The hip pain I was experiencing from work–and a little as I made my warm up–disappeared. There was some mild stomach cramping at one point, which also disappeared. I had forgotten about the wall of breath, the point early on where my blood isn’t pumping quite fast enough and my breathing is starting to feel strained, but once I pushed through that, my only real obstacle were pedestrians.

I had chosen a slightly poor time to make the circuit around my block, and through one of the busiest intersections in the area, as T commuters coming home were flocking to and from public transit, and cars were poorly parked picking up directions, take-out, and people. However, I am not flummoxed by this particular obstacle, as we already know.

The run finished further from my house than most other runs I have completed. The cool-down walk home ended as I stepped under my awning. It was good to be back out, and good to be running again.

Hopefully, I can start making this at least a weekly occurrence again.

Overdressed at the Running Track

Saturday, I was on the track, shading my eyes as the sun beat down mercilessly into them. My shoes were stiff, solid, a little uncomfortable. I had long sleeves and pants on, as well as a vest. I was even wearing a tie. It was a good thing I wasn’t there to run.

I was there for a wedding. Two dear friends were tying the knot at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, across the street from the reservoir. I was among the wedding party, dressed in a tux, and out on the track for photos. For those concerned about my health, I was also only an hour away from dancing. More to the point, my girlfriend was an hour from dancing, while I was an hour from rhythmically flailing in hopes people would think I was dancing with her, and not simply in her proximity.

It was a cool, beautiful, and immensely fun wedding. I’d met both the bride and groom in college, where they also met. Lived with the groom, and learned much of what I know about running from the bride.

Unfortunately, the day got away from me, and running again fell by the wayside. With my schedule in hand, I made a date with myself to go out on my quiet Thursday, when I had a short shift at just one of the jobs.

The wedding also fell a day before the AIDS Action 5k I had planned to attend. However, the three jobs had not given me enough to cover my bills and the entrance fee for the 5k. Which meant Sunday was for sleeping in, and sleeping off a late night with no more than two drinks too many.

Link

23 Inevitabilities of Getting in Shape

23 Inevitabilities of Getting in Shape

I’m only at about half of this list.

Apologies, regular readers, for the relative radio silence. Unfortunately, working a third job into the mix has meant I haven’t had nearly enough time to actually go running of late. A lot on my plate means I’m running around a lot. Fortunately, the new job also has me on my feet constantly and running around like a crazy person, so it’s almost like exercise.

My hope is to get some more actual content up and running in the not too distant future. By which I mean, I hope to actually go running at some point in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, enjoy the TMI flavors of Buzzfeed’s interpretation of fitness.

Strong Armed in the School Yard

As I turned the corner onto Commonwealth Avenue, and passed the construction site that had occupied the already-scant visitor (2-hour, non-permit) parking spaces for the last few days, a memory bubbled to the surface. As I finished the warm-up walk and started my half-hour run around the reservoir, I couldn’t shake it.

I was perhaps nine. Standing at the corner of the street below the hill waiting for the bus to take me home. I was with a couple of friends, and we were bored and young. The schoolyard where we stood had a fence that was under construction, just an upright post with a bar for chicken wire.

I had recently seen Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood Men in Tights and found myself intrigued by a pose adopted by Little John, where he wraps both arms around a staff held across his shoulders. It seemed leisurely and badass, and I wanted to try it out for myself. So, I approached the upright bar, just at my shoulder height, and did so, wrapping both arms lithely around it. It was comfortable, and I held the position for a few seconds.

“Check out strong man over here,” came a gruff call from an approaching construction worker.

I was just old enough to recognize mockery, but not quite old enough to know how to react properly. Instead, I dropped my arms, stepped away from the fence, and hoped to all the deities new and elder that the bus would hurry up. I don’t recall whether it came with “Get away from there” instructions. But, I do recall feeling very small, very weak.

Back in my late twenties, as I crested one of the early hills in my run, something occurred to me. The difference between that moment, and me teasing my friends and family–and sometimes strangers–was subtle and key. In that moment, I was being mocked, and I knew it, because I was not part of the joke, I was the butt of it. He was calling to his friends, with a “Look at this freak!” circus barker air. Whereas sassiness and sarcasm, at least how I aim to do them, are inclusive of the subject of the joke. “Look at this silly thing you just did. Anyone could make the mistake, but let’s all take a moment to laugh at it,” instead.

I then started to feel a little larger about that moment, so many years now gone. The old adage about bullies needing to put other people down to feel good about themselves notwithstanding, my thought now was: some construction dude in his thirties or so straight up mocked a nine-year-old. I won’t judge his self-esteem, but it’s kind of a dick move.

In other words, if I could go back to that moment with my knowledge of my older self, I might have reacted more appropriately. Flipping him the bird, for example, or just calling him a douche.

As I paced on the spot at the red light coming back across Chestnut Hill Avenue, the main obstacle between me on the reservoir and Beacon Street, a large black pickup truck blew straight through the red light. I was glad I had not been too antsy to leave, and waited until all the cars stopped. However, I also felt justified (as, in my old age, my tolerance for douchebags has decreased significantly) in flipping him off as I jogged across the street.

 

When the Whistle Blows

The Fitbit step counter, disguised as a watch, was strapped to my wrist all day. I am not sure whether it fit the dress code for my new job, but no one seemed to remark on it, as it quietly counted up to, and far past, the 10,000 step mark. By the time I had finished pacing the small room, greeting families and taking their photos (which we would later try to sell back to them), the count read over 16,000.

And about 15 minutes past my shift, I was relieved of my post.

I recently got a job at a new midway attraction opening in the Boston area, working in the retail department. I spent my whole Saturday there, and was then too wiped out to go for a run.

Sunday filled up quickly with family, and rushing to be supportive after my girlfriend’s car broke down. Monday, work, and more helping with the car situation took over. Tuesday, I was back at the attraction, and again feeling pain in my legs.

In the past week, I also read an article indicating that running may not be useful for my weight loss, and that some professionals prefer a long walk or sprints for fitness. I haven’t been able to turn up the exact piece I read, but one on Active.com (which I found while searching for the other) gives a slightly more positive light on my particular program. The notion was a little discouraging, but also made me feel pretty good about being on my feet at my new job so much.

But, my hope is that on Thursday, I will get back out to the track for a run. It still seems to hold some sort of psychological draw.

Rain Date

Grey clouds hung heavily over the reservoir as my girlfriend and I went out for another run. Expecting a downpour, I set out for a 20-minute run, and she aimed to knock another week off the C25k program she’s doing.

“You went this way last time. I’m going this way today,” she said as we started walking down the track in the same direction.

I turned around and started off in my prescribed direction. A short walk, followed by a complete circuit (and a little extra) around the reservoir. We smiled and waved again as we passed, twice, before the last few minutes on our respective timers ran out.

Again, I put in a sub-11-minute mile. I made it around the track in 16 minutes–far faster than the 20 minutes it usually takes me. I was kind of impressed with myself.

As I finished the run, I started plotting setting my tracker to give me a 5k’s distance. Perhaps the next time I run a 5k, I’ll realize I’m doing it.

Control Group

Back at the reservoir, but running alone on a colder May Tuesday, I returned to my average time.

Perhaps I started off faster–I confess, I never looked at the statistics, in part because they bore me, and in part because I don’t know what they mean. But, at the end of the run, I heard my usual time in minutes-per-mile come through the headset as I completed essentially the same route I did last week with my girlfriend in tow.

The weather may have been a factor, and I was just as eager to go see her for dinner (we still had plans, and I briefly considered cutting my run short). But, I was on my own this time.

The other variable: my leg. I was starting to feel a growing pain in my right knee about halfway through the run, which eventually subsided–or perhaps numbed to a background ache. I thought of my friend Sam, who ran the marathon with cramps. He later told me that he only had running cramps twice: the two times he ran the Boston Marathon.

I dragged my way around the rest of the course, finishing at my usual time. I wandered through the trees again, back to my car before heading over to my girlfriend’s place for a shower and some dinner. The run somehow felt longer than last week’s did, likely a condition of being out on the nearly-deserted track by myself, but it still felt as good to be done.

Being done, in my view, is still the best part of the run.

Untapped Potential

Friday was an unexpected day off–a training for one job canceled, and an on-call shift for another was not used. So, instead, I caught up on TV like a good couch potato, and went running, like a bad one.

I found myself plotting the entry I had intended to write about my Wednesday run, and coming up with witty ways to explain that I went running with my girlfriend. But, as my trip around the reservoir came to an end, and I returned to the city streets I knew, I found myself reflecting on something I had only sort of thought about: My speed.

Wednesday had been my fastest run that I could recall, clocking in about 45 seconds faster per mile than I usually ran. I think it was something in the desire to get to the end of the run faster (despite, obviously, not being able to outrun time). I also thought about getting intoxicated by the energy of the crowd at the marathon. A friend also commented that actually running a 5k, with other people, will get you going faster because of the rush from competing with others.

A leisurely run on a quiet day in early May, I can do. But, what would I be capable of if I had the right crowd, the right competition, and the right company at the end? When this baby hits 88 miles an hour, what kinds of serious sh*t might I see?

I found myself a little excited to find out.

Unfortunately, cash flow problems made it a little tough to sign up for the AIDS Action 5k, but my hope is to get a little money and get my name down, so that I can do just that.

Which, is my way of saying: watch this space, and you too could contribute to helping out another Boston charity, as well as cheering me on for my first 5k (even from miles away!)

Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise

“No one else is wearing pants. They’re all going to judge me!”

I brought my girlfriend to the reservoir to run, it was her fist visit. She wore her sweatpants and black martial arts tee-shirt, as before. I was in shorts and a tee shirt. Wednesday was a bright, warm day, and the track was littered with people going in varying speeds in varying directions. We sat in the car, and I offered to take her elsewhere, and told her that when I started running, I had similar bouts of self-consciousness, but eventually realized no one cared.

After a few minutes, I spotted a couple both wearing pants and heading toward the track, and pointed them out to her. She seemed a little unconvinced, but came out to the “stretching area” with me. Said area is, in fact, an overlook with a bench set above the parking lot, but I have co-opted it before to pretend I know what I am doing.

After my stretching routine–and watching the girlfriend doing stretches that actually look like she knows what she’s doing–we headed up to the track. By my suggestion, we set off in opposite directions. My hope, and the reality, was that was passed each other a couple of times. We flashed each other smile, a wave, and a high-five. I found myself trying to spot her from across the water, eager to make that brief connection–which happened twice.

I also made my fastest time per lap, and was only maybe 5 minutes shy of completing a 5k. I kind of credit her with this, as our plans after the run were dinner, and I was eager to finish and get to that part of the evening.

She is in the second or third week of a C25k program, and I was aiming for however far I could get in 30 minutes. Her program ended a few minutes before mine did, and after my cool-down walk along a small, forested path, I found her practicing a partially-forgotten martial arts form in the stretching area.

(Note: At this point, as I am writing about a week out from my runs, I know that I ran last Monday as well, but I can’t remember whether anything significant happened. I believe it was a pretty straightforward half-hour run.)