Learning to Run: Part Two

I left off at the point in my life when I was moving 1000 miles from my home state of New York to start my new job in the uncharted world that is Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati. I’d made a futile attempt to continue the Couch to 5K running program upon arriving in my new home-away-from-home… but that just didn’t happen.

When I moved, I got sucked into the wonderful world of making new friends, which meant three things: drinking, eating, and going out until the wee hours of the morning. It was a 3-month training program for work, but when you put 80 newly-graduated 20-somethings in a hotel together, exercise isn’t exactly at the forefront of anyone’s mind.

One of many buckets of beer, Labor Day 2008, in Kentucky.

Though I’d gone to the gym once in a while in the earlier days of my stay in KY, that did not last beyond the first 3 weeks or so. I hadn’t stepped on a scale and hadn’t run at all, except for the short time at the gym when I would hit the treadmill for 10-15 minute bursts (if I felt like it). Because this was summer camp for new college grads company-provided training, we were in reception and meeting halls all day nearly every day and were given catered breakfasts and lunches… and they were yummy! We ate so much of the food that we actually got a talking-to by our higher-ups telling us that we’re eating more than double what was expected, and that we need to stop going up for multiple helpings because it’s costing the company too much money.

I kid you not!

Then one fantastic day in mid-August, I found out I was to be rotated for 9 months to our facility in California, in the San Francisco Bay area. Needless to say, I was enthralled. No snow that winter, beaches and mountains in close proximity, a real city to visit and enjoy, and housing provided by my employer. I even told myself, now I can go outside and exercise more, too!

Well, thinking and doing are two different things.

Beer is health food, right? (October 2008, San Francisco)

From when I moved there in late September 2008 until mid-March 2009 I didn’t do an ounce of exercise, with the exception of the occasional hike in the mountains or walking around San Francisco, San Jose, or Palo Alto. To think I used to run 3 times per week when I weighed 170+ pounds and now weighing about 10 pounds less I couldn’t get the motivation to even walk for 10 minutes in sunny California!

My boyfriend and I (during a 3000-mile long distance relationship) took a vacation to Aruba in early 2009, and just like the Hawaii trip, the photos of the trip were a wake-up call.

Notice the not-so-subtle way of concealing my thighs with my towel and my stomach with my arms. Genius! (March 2009)

The week I returned from Aruba, I did something I definitely didn’t want to do at all: I bought a scale. I stepped on it and discovered I was only one pound heavier than I was when I stopped running in August – 161 pounds. Despite this, I was much, much flabbier – being a runner definitely tones you up and de-jiggles you! At this time, I also re-joined the same weight-loss and goal-setting site I was a member of the summer of 2008.

I joined a gym, but I didn’t like it. It was small, full of old people who insisted on walking around the locker room and sauna completely nude (there are just some things you cannot un-see), and the fitness classes were poorly taught. So, I temporarily regressed and just did some fitness videos once or twice a week. Sure, eating properly got me to lose an initial water-weight-laden couple of pounds at first, but plopping on the sofa after a 30-minute Jillian Michaels boot-camp style DVD didn’t tone my bod as much as I wanted/needed it to.

Well, one day I was flipping through the channels on the sofa after work. At the time, I worked 6am to 2:30pm and would be home by 3pm. It was another beautiful April day in California and as the setting sun began to creep through my windows, I was also struggling to find something to watch on TV. For some reason, I decided right then to get up and walk to the lake across the street and just… go for a walk.

My apartment was a whopping 1/4 mile from Lake Elizabeth, which is surrounded by a number of picnic areas and, most importantly, a 2-mile paved running/walking path. It had some of those fitness stops along the route (pull-up bars, sit-up benches, etc.) and also had 1/4 mile markers along the whole thing. Yes, I lived in California for just over 6 months (of my 9 month stay) and never set foot on such a convenient spot at which to exercise and pick up running again! So sad.

That day I walked the 1/4 mile there, the 2 mile walk around the lake, and the 1/4 mile back. In just walking, my heart rate monitor told me I’d burned over 400 Calories and did the walk in approximately 45 minutes, if memory serves me correct.

I made it a habit that every single day (!!) I’d come home, put on comfortable clothes, and go for a walk. Eventually I started adding bursts of running to the mix: I remember walking 1/4 mile there, walking 1/4 mile of the lake, running 1/4 mile, walking 1/2, running 1/4, then walking the rest of the way. The second 1/4 mile run was awful and I could barely make it; this definitely brought back memories of my C25K experience the year earlier, and not the good parts (at least not yet!).

Over the final 3 months of my time in California, I slowly built up my endurance. Though not the C25K program, it was good for me as all I did was listen to my body. If I felt like running 1/4 mile farther, I would; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t, and I’d save that goal for another time. I did have one big goal in mind during this time: run the entire 2.5 mile route from start to finish by the time I leave California.

This goal was reached, and then some. By doing the running and doing some little bits of strength-training at home (nothing more than resistance bands and a Bender Ball I found on sale in the “As Seen on TV” section of my local pharmacy) I ended up losing 13 pounds and went from a tight size 10 to a comfy size 8. I went from walking the route in 45 minutes and burning 400+ Calories to running the 2-mile loop around the lake in under 20 minutes and burning a mere 250-ish Calories! Lose weight and improve my running in 90 days? Yes, please!

What I referred to as my "pants saga" while I lived in CA.

I found out at the end of my time in California that I was to be re-re-located (hah!) to Cincinnati/Northern KY again. Another move brought with it another chance for losing motivation, which is where I will leave off Part Two of this series.

Here are five things I learned during my time in California, as I retaught myself that I could run.

  1. Just because you’ve stopped doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You’ve only failed if you never try again, and even then it’s not the end of the world. When I stopped running when living in KY, I thought myself a failure. Clothes fitting tighter, getting short of breath more easily than before… it was all so disheartening! I felt that all of the progress I made in my running before my move was gone because I chose to stop. But, by starting back up again meant I didn’t fail, even if it took me 6 months to get back to it! You may fall off the proverbial wagon (and it may even run you over a few times) but you can always get back on.
  2. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This quote by Lao-Tzu has been my mantra since starting a running regimen, and is applicable to pretty much anything from weight-loss to applying to college to daily chores and everything in between. All I did to get myself back on track was go for a walk one day. That one small step was a catalyst for everything to come and I always look back on that day with a smile!
  3. Running doesn’t have to be expensive. (Unless you do it for a living!) I wore my regular sneakers and bought a 3-pack of athletic socks from the local department store. I didn’t own a heart rate monitor until I re-joined the aforementioned weight-loss website and wanted to accurately log my Calorie-burning (I’ll talk more about HRMs in a future post) and when it came to strength-training equipment, I only spent a total of $20-ish on the equipment I used: my Bender Ball was on sale for $7.99 and my resistance bands totaled maybe $15, at most. I didn’t have an expensive gym membership, either, although my apartment complex had a small gym with 2 treadmills that I would reluctantly use on rainy days. But, as I’ll explain in a future post, when you start adding mileage to your running routine (i.e. beyond 5k/3.1mi) you should expect to spend more money on shoes, socks, and other necessities; but if you’re just starting out and/or don’t plan on ever running more than a 5k (and if you don’t have physical ailments) you can just stick with department store stuff!
  4. Run your own race (again). I mentioned this on my list in Part One, but it bears repeating. Running on a path that is specifically made for runners means *gasp* there will be other runners there! Unless you’re a professional runner, odds are there will be a few (or many, as in my case) runners that are running faster and having a seemingly easier time than you are. Around Lake Elizabeth, there was always this really super-fit guy lapping me constantly… pushing his 2-year-old in a stroller! Talk about being shown up! I had to remind myself all the time to just do my thing and forget about the marathoners who were running circles (literally!) around me.
  5. Walking does not show weakness! Once while doing a run-walk interval during my early days of my Lake Elizabeth runs, two women who were just casually walking (rather than walking with a fitness vengeance like me) were actually mocking me when I stopped running and began to speed-walk. It definitely hurt my feelings and made me a little embarrassed. But, believe it or not, the walk-run method is one of the best for improving your mile time and endurance! Just read this, this, and this, and you’ll see!
  6. Stay tuned for Part Three!

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One response

  1. Pingback: Learning to Run: Part Three « Flirting With Food

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