Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota. I say this with an enthusiasm not previously felt in past years because the idea of actually being out and active in the Springtime was not exactly on my daily list of things to do back in the day. Let's just say I admired Spring from behind screened windows.
But becoming a runner changed all that.
I started running in January of 2010. It started out very slowly. I'd walk four minutes, run one, and then repeat, all at approximately 3.2 miles per hour on my basement treadmill. By April of 2010, I'd built my endurance up to being able to run 30 minutes without stopping. This in and of itself? A veritable revelation for a formerly inert adult whose idea of exercise had been doing laundry and pressing buttons on the remote control.
Once I'd hit that 30-minute mark in April, I decided it was time to step out the front door and give running outside a whirl.
First, you have to understand a few things about me.
1. I used to be moderately afraid of nature. Oh sure, I'd take an occasional walk on a gorgeous 65-degree day, but usually as soon as the bugs and heat came on, you wouldn't see me outside again unless I was on a grocery run, or the leaves were falling off the trees in October.
2. I like Kleenex and water within my reach at all times. When I'm working out, I get really thirsty and my nose runs like a faucet. When you're on a treadmill, you have everything you need right at your fingertips. The idea of toting all that stuff for outdoor runs? Well that just seemed like far more work than its worth.
3. I like routines. Knowing I would get up 4 days a week, get on the treadmill and make it worth the price I paid was something I liked. I liked the predictability of knowing exactly where and how I would be running.
But that day last April when I stepped out to run the roughly 4-mile route from my front door, around the lake and back, I was feeling strangely bold and adventurous. I thought, "What's stopping me from acting like a real runner?" So for shits and giggles, I headed out on a gorgeous 45-degree morning and ran the route.
Later that day, I could barely walk due to my screaming quads, and my sore calves. I was all, "Really? Really? I workout for 4 months, building up my endurance for this?" I could not believe that running on the pavement could be that much different than running on the 'mill. But apparently, my body thought otherwise.
So I decided right there and then. No thanks. I'll stay in my basement.
I'm not sure what happened during the following weeks, but my inner athlete kept whispering in my ear to get back outside and give it another go. It said things like, "Wasn't it gorgeous outside?" and "Didn't it make you feel just a little more connected to the natural world?" and "You didn't buy all these cute running clothes just for your basement, now did you?"
So I went out again and found the second run didn't take nearly as much out of me as that first one did, though I was still a little shaky on the idea. I mean, I had to stuff tons of tissue into my sports bra to whip out at a moment's notice for the old nose blow, and I hadn't made the connection that you can take water with you on a any given run. Still, those were simply small obstacles getting in the way of the fact that I could actually get outside and run.
Once I hit May, my feet only saw the treadmill when the snow fell hard, fast and deep the following November.
The only thing that kept me from running in the ice and snow of a Minnesota Winter was the ice and snow of a Minnesota Winter. I'm no fool to know I have zero balance on ice and I decided that I didn't want to risk an injury from slipping and wipe out all the training and endurance I'd built up over the previous year.
So I ran in my basement all Winter long.
Now I know there are runners who absolutely cringe at the thought of being tied to a treadmill for any amount of time. I'm not one of those runners. Once I made the transition inside, I checked my check list to see if what I was hoping to achieve with running was still happening. 1. Sweating? Check. 2. Breathing hard and bringing my heart rate up? Check. 3. Getting a workout done and feeling really good that it's off my list? Check. 4. Contributing to my efforts to Move More? Check.
I had good tunes playing on my iPod, water and Kleenex aplenty. I settled in for a long Winter.
But there was still a longing to get back outside. A pining for just a few more degrees so I wouldn't have to run just to stay warm. A wish for the ice to finally melt so I could hit that lake route that literally transformed my athletic life last year.
When it finally hit 40 degrees, I got back outside and much to my surprise, the first few runs I've completed have literally kicked my ass. My muscles have ached in places I haven't felt since last summer. My pace is slower than it's been in months. And the worst part? My confidence as a runner has come down a few pegs on the pole as I'm wondering, "Where is the Cathy from last summer? The one who almost felt like each run had the potential to become a religious experience?"
My point for today's post is that exercise seems to have an ebb and flow. It's not always easy or automatic, and sometimes, you have to adjust your expectations, as I'm finding I'm having to adjust mine right now. I'm not a Speedy Gonzales. My muscles don't always want to respond the way I'd like them to. But I'm not giving up. I may go a little slower, or I may decide to hit the pool an extra day and drop one of the runs, but I'm not giving up on Moving More.
I might even reach a point where running no longer works the way I'd like it to, and if this happens, then I'll try a new class, or dust off my bike, or anything to make sure I'm honoring my commitment to my body to give it a little effort and keep it in the best working condition that I can.
If you're out there, Moving More, just remember: things do ebb and flow. Just like food and weight, sometimes the Moving part does too. I'm right there with you, scratching my head and wondering when my lake runs will feel glorious again.
For now, I'll keep plugging away.
What about you?