I met Ryan while working for the USDA the summer after graduating high school. I was seriously crushing on him and decided one way to keep his attention would be to show interest in his favorite hobby: running. I wasn’t being fake–I cared a lot about fitness. I was eating well, went to the gym a few times a week, and would run a mile every once a while in City Park. But for some reason (blinding love?) I wanted to take running a step further.
It turned out that my very first roommate in college was also a runner. She was the only person I’d encountered who was willing to get up before an 8am class and go for a run. I figured there must be something to this magical running experience, so I dove into the sport. For the next two years, I had a rather unhealthy relationship with running. It was all or nothing. In my “nothing” mode, I overate and didn’t move a muscle because–get this–I was angry with myself for not moving a muscle. In my “all” mode, I ran too many miles, at too few calories, lost too much weight, and developed tendinitis in my shins that bothered me all day long.
By my junior year in college, I’d managed to screw my head on straight and found a healthier relationship with running. (It also had a lot to do with support from Sarah and Ryan. 🙂 ) After being in a “nothing” mode all summer, I read a book published by Runner’s World called Run Your Butt Off. This book outlined a feasible, straightforward approach to running and how to gradually improve. It was a book for beginners who had never run before, but it was perfect for me because I could manage my re-introduction into the sport slowly. It never asked me to run more than 4 times a week. I also began reading fitness blogs and consuming all kinds of information on the benefits of strength training. I still ran on and off during my junior and senior year, but I was overall much healthier and found other exercise routines that didn’t involve hours of pounding the pavement.
I am not meant to be a runner. I very much enjoy some of my runs and I have trained well for a few of my races, but my body was not built for it. It was built to do a bunch of squats and planks, actually. I completed two half marathons two years in a row, and I described it to a friend as “the most fun you can have while being in that much pain.” I genuinely enjoyed the race. It’s really cool running through downtown, the French Quarter, and finishing up in City Park with a bunch of people cheering you on. But the training process? Not as enjoyable. I dreaded those 10-12 mile training runs, and when they were over I was worthless for the rest of the day. I am not meant to be a runner.
Like I mentioned in a previous post, I ignored an injury while training for my second half-marathon. The following year I decided to opt out of a third half-marathon because I was afraid training for it would cause me to re-injure myself. (Yes! Good life decisions.) At first, I was terrified of gaining weight because I wouldn’t have those unnaturally long fat-burning distance training runs. As it turns out, unless you consume 3000 calories a day, they are entirely unnecessary. Instead, I went to the gym regularly for pilates, boot camp classes, and a rope circuit class. I felt strong, and it was a pretty wonderful feeling. Once my ankle healed I rarely went for a run, and I never gave it much thought.
I used to read Runner’s World magazine and was inspired by the incredible feats long-distance runners could accomplish. On more than one occasion, I have tried to turn myself into “that” kind of runner. It’s quite boring. I have friends who genuinely love running, and that’s great. I have to remind myself I’m not them. Half of the time, I think running is awesome and I have a great time. The other half of the time, I wonder what I’m doing with my life.
If running, or some other form of cardio, is what helps you get through the day, that’s fantastic. If you haven’t figured out your “thing” yet, it’s time to get started. Humans are meant to be active throughout the day. It’s in everyone’s genetics. We all have the potential to love fitness; you just have to find what you love. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that because I love hiking, and New Orleans and Houston couldn’t be worse locations for hiking. ( I’m crossing my fingers we’ll be near a ton of hiking trails in Georgia!) I also really enjoy strength training and body-weight fitness, so that’s usually the focus of my workouts after a little
boring-ass indoor cardio.
Whenever I get bored with my exercise routine and begin to restrategize, I think about going back to running. In fact, this past month I’ve been in a running phase…that is, until my ankle decided it had better plans. So today I completed an exercise I hadn’t done in a while–I went for a walk. A really long walk. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Mark’s Daily Apple and listened to three of them while I walked along Buffalo Bayou. I loved it.
(The following paragraph is really just me projecting my issues onto anyone still reading. I should take my own advice.) We can get caught up in calories or the “cardio burn” and forget that simple activities like walking have many of the same benefits. We have to remember that we don’t need to be the same athlete (yes, we are all athletes!) as our friend or neighbor or spouse. Be healthy, be active, but do it your way. Sometimes that means you give it 100%; other times (like my weird run the other day) it means just getting outside and doing something.
Question: What exercise do you love??? And what about it makes you love it so much? (Scroll ALL the way down to comment!)
Ryan loves running. Today, he ran near the hospital before coming home from work, so he was still wearing scrubs. 🙂