Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Running Reflections

Summer is traditionally the season of the year that I am serious about my physical fitness.  Growing up, summer was the season of Swim Team.  My hometown didn't have a natatorium, so we only practiced and competed for 6-8 weeks of the year.  

I would start the season a bit flabby and end it really fit.  I'd be able to swim a mile continuously, and practice sessions by the end of the season were frequently close to 2 miles if you tallied all the laps and exercises together from a single session.  I loved it.  Which was important, as I had very few other athletic inclinations.  I liked to ride my bike, and when I reached high school, I adored marching band as well.  Since leaving my hometown, being on a swim team again has not been feasible (in fact, finding one that even accepts anyone over the age of 18 seems to be a challenge in SA).  In college I was a swim instructor and lifeguard for awhile.  My favorite part of that job was the weekly inservice workout required by state law.  I got paid to swim laps - what wasn't there for me to love about that?  After I stopped lifeguarding, I once again fell into a slump of not exercising enough.  I did yoga for a bit.  I still love yoga, and it does wonders for my flexibility and balance and sense of peaceful well-being...but it isn't enough to keep me trim and fit.  Maybe I just haven't been doing the right kind for that.  Not all that long ago I found hooping (or hoopdance), and I love that too.  

But lately I've just gotten in a rut, and as a result I stopped doing it as much.  My fitness goals stalled when I stopped hooping enough.  Maybe I just needed to learn some new tricks to mix things up, but I needed a break from that, I think.

So running.  In my life, I've had a bit of a bumpy relationship with running.  As a child, I hated it, but I had a good reason.  In elementary school my toes turned in just enough to trip me when I ran, so I equated running with falling on my face, scraping my nose, scraping my palms, and scraping my knees.  So I developed this terrible fear and loathing of running.  Between these feelings about running, and my lack of ability to consistently catch, kick, or throw a ball of any sort can see why Swim Team was so important to me.  Pretty much every other sport was right out, and they didn't interest me that much anyway.

Fast forward to me at 18 years old.  I met my ex that year, and one of his passions was running cross country.  To his credit, he was very positive, patient, and encouraging when trying to get me to try running.  After all, my toes didn't point inward anymore, so there was really no reason why I couldn't do it except for my irrational fear.  I went to visit his family in WV that summer before starting college, and it turns out that he's not the only one in his family with a passion for running up and down country roads for great distances.  Both of his sisters are into it also.  They went on daily runs together.  It comes out that I somehow managed to escape running a mile consecutively for any sort of gym class for my entire life.  I could swim a mile consecutively, but had never run one.  I had already been invited to run with them, and now they kindly insisted that I accompany them at least part of the way.  And really, I could not have asked for kinder, better coaches for that experience.  After my week in WV with them, I returned to my hometown for the rest of summer and I kept running.  I had gained enough progress that I didn't want to lose it, and at the time I was also trying to understand a family I wanted to be close to.  By the end of that summer, I could run over a mile consecutively...if I remember correctly I actually got closer to 2 miles.  When I arrived at college, I did not keep up with it.  I had accomplished my goals, which were to stop hating running on principle and to be able to run over a mile without stopping or slowing to a walk.  I turned my attention to other endeavors.  My ex and I did run together a bit while I was in college, but it was an off and on thing.

For most of the last decade, my attitude towards running has been indifferent.  I no longer hate it, but running has definitely not been my first choice for exercise and fitness either.

To the present...

Even though I haven't been on a swim team in 10 years, I still choose summer as my time to get in shape.  Last year I did yoga every single day of summer vacation.  One year when I had a gym membership I did swim laps regularly.  Another year it was racquetball.  Last week I finally reached the conclusion that running was the way to go for this summer.  I'm feeling a bit burned out on yoga and hooping, which are my favorites still, and my other favorite options all require a gym membership to have access to special facilities like lap pools and racquetball courts.  I don't want to pay money to get in shape, and I don't like having to drive somewhere to get exercise.  I like being at the gym once I'm there, but my motivational trouble with gyms is actually driving to the gym.  Sometimes when I feel like getting exercise, I want to be able to do so at the spur of the moment...before I have time for that motivation to wane.  If I have to drive, then I might end up at a bakery instead because that fleeting moment of motivation flittered off on my way there.  There are miles of trails in a mostly undeveloped park right behind my house.  I can throw on a sports bra, a t-shirt, some yoga capris, socks, my trusty yellow Chuck Taylors (an old gift from my ex's little sister, interestingly enough), and a pedometer...and go.  No further equipment, no further expense.  So running.

I started on Monday.  So far it's more walking than running, but I'll get better.

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