I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving. I was busy preparing my apartment for guests, so I took a break from blogging last week. No sense in staring at a computer or phone screen when there’s conversation and homemade dressing to be had!
Just before the Thanksgiving break, I hit a milestone. I’ve mentioned my struggles with body image before, and that’s a monkey I continuously try to shrug off my back. I’ve been trying to focus on what my body can do more than how my body looks. I recently marveled at my body’s ability to run nonstop for one hour.
The photo below shows a running time that is actually five minutes off, because I walked five minutes at the beginning of my run and five minutes at the end, so 70 minutes total. Not until after I’d gotten off the treadmill at Planet Fitness did I realize that I hadn’t even glanced at the number at the far left: calories burned (which isn’t accurate anyway, as you’ll see in this article here). My excitement wasn’t tied to how many ounces lighter I might be tomorrow or how many chocolate-covered almonds I canceled out. What I couldn’t get over was how my legs, lungs, arms and stomach had held out.
Some of you may take this post one of two ways:
- “Big deal. So you ran about a 5K. You’re 25 years old. That’s not that hard.”
- “Go ahead and brag on yourself a little bit more, why don’t you.”
To address the first response, I never thought I would see the day that I could run for more than 15 minutes without wishing I would sustain a minor injury that I could use as an excuse to keep me from running for the rest of my life. As a high school soccer player, I always brought up the rear when we ran before every practice and every game. Two laps or two miles, it didn’t matter. I was last, choking in air like a fish preparing for its beheading in Chinatown. As the little sister of a track runner and a soccer player since I was 5, I was ashamed – yes, ashamed – of myself for not letting genes or experience advance my physicality. After the doctor prescribed me an inhaler for exercise-induced asthma at the end of my sophomore year, I made it my goal to one day run a mile without the assistance of that inhaler.
I spent the summer before my senior year slicing through the thick Kentucky air on daily runs, determined not to be an upperclassman trailing behind stick-thin lipglossed 14- and 15-year-olds. Success. I finished somewhere in the middle every run that season.
I stayed active during college, but rarely ran more than a mile at a time. I did, however, develop a love for weigh lifting – which I maintain is a self-esteem booster and great for overall health. And I did it without an inhaler. Another goal reached.
When I stopped exercising, ate crappy and copious amounts of food and gained 13 pounds during last holiday season, me running a mile again seemed like it should be an additional verse in Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” I often envisioned Denzel Washington beating the side of my football helmet, screaming, “How many feet are in a mile? FIVE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FEET!” And I cringed, usually squeezing out a couple tears that I was certain were butter-laced.
Seven months of pushing my Payless tennis shoes a few feet farther, a few seconds longer, ensnaring gravel in my shoe treads in the warmer months and silently watching episodes of Modern Family on the treadmill in the colder months, learning new recipes that use ingredients like egg whites or coconut oil, didn’t just pay off when I finally ran for an hour. It paid off every time I ran five minutes more, when I ran three miles for the fourth time in my life. It continues to pay off when I can jog and not assume I’m near death (unless I trip on the moving belt beneath me, then I’m sure it’s the end for me for about 1.2 seconds). This has been literally 20 years in the making.
To address the second response, I’m not trying to brag on myself. As I’ve said before, I’m in this with you. I hope my life fitness struggles story shows you that your own goals aren’t beyond hope, and that you don’t have to stop once one goal is met. Kind of like how you don’t decide never to read again just because you finish a good book. Or cancel your Netflix subscription just because you finally got caught up on Grey’s Anatomy. Why do you think they have a “Suggestions For You” section?
Running for an hour was a big deal for me. Running a triathlon might be a big deal for you. Or swimming two laps. Or riding your bike to the end of the road and back without wheezing. Or playing hide-and-seek with your grandkids without immediately needing a nap.
Do I still get frustrated when a number two pounds higher than last week flashes on my digital scale, announcing weight gain like I just won a brand new car? Yes. And I won’t say that my fitness goals throughout my life have been solely tied to my wonderment at the human body’s capabilities. Getting away from measuring my success by only the scale or the mirror isn’t just a struggle; it’s a war. But I can tell you that it’s not as brutal a fight when I remember that I’ve done something that I’ve never done before.
And I’m not done yet.