Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Learning to run.

How to describe what it's like learning to run.

It's funny, because it's not like you actually have to *learn* to run. I mean, we all ran as kids, right? And I know running was fun. Running to your friend's house, running through the sprinkler, running along the beach to jump into a wave, all fun, easy, accompanied by laughter.

I ran when I was in elementary school. Sprints. Seem to remember I was pretty fast, but who knows how objective those memories are. I also remember feeling like I was flying when we would jump off a hill at the side of the elementary school. I went back a few years to visit the school and the huge hill? Was more of a mound. So maybe I was fast, maybe not, but I liked running when I was a kid.

I didn't run in high school. Puberty hit and my body changed and all of a sudden things jiggled and I felt heavy in my own body and running wasn't as free and fun anymore. I still ran, but as part of the sports I was involved in, and truth be told, I was usually a forward on most of the teams I was on so I didn't have to do as much running as some. (Hello, I can make three pointers, so I'll just hang out on this side of the court and you bring the ball to me, kay? Yeah, ask me how much my coach liked that attitude. Can you say benched my lazy butt?)

I've always stayed physically active, and up until a year and a half ago, the gym was a highly regular part of my week.

Then I was in a car accident and had to scale back. Significantly. Had to balance my want to be active with my body's need to recover. Had to deal with the frustration of losing strength and muscle and fitness with allowing myself to heal. Had to deal with a lot of pain. Had to re-learn how to be gentle with myself in so many ways. But through it all, I was determined to stay fit and active.

January saw me starting my daily exercise (with the "even if it's only a fifteen minute walk around the block" mantra helping me get out on those days when I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch after a tough day of spy work) and April had me walking my way through a 10k.

Then C-Dawg signed up for a learn to run clinic. "I want to get fit" she said. Knowing that C-Dawg had been hurt worse than I was in the accident and figuring if she was brave enough to try it I could too, I signed up.

And three weeks ago, I showed up at my first Beginners Run clinic.

I'd asked S if she'd go with me, because lord knows I'd never have shown up if I hadn't had someone going with me, and thank goodness she said yes because walking in that door the first night was so intimidating we both nearly turned around and walked back out.

There are a ton of different ways to start running, but the majority of them, if not all of them, have you starting out with a short "run" followed by a walk. (I put run in quotations because it's not like you have to go fast. You just go the speed you can, and our leader suggests we go at a speed that allows us to chat with the person we're next to, so for some of us coughmecough, it's actually slower to run than to walk. Go figure.)

You then repeat this run/walk series a certain number of times and then you stretch, celebrate your survival and go home. (Where I stretch some more, with my physio directed accident recovery stretches before jumping in the shower and feeling proud of myself for doing it.)

So how is it?

It's hard.

I think it's difficult for everyone, but talking with S and C-Dawg about their experiences with it, it's hard for them in different ways than it is for me.

For me, the first few times I hated how my body felt. Strangely enough, it made me feel like I was huge and heavy. Something about the thudding of my body over and over as my feet pounded the pavement and things jiggled and bounced made me feel fat. Which I know I'm not, but it still felt like it.

And the first week, things hurt. Muscles and tendons and whatnots all hurt and I wondered if maybe this was too much to ask my body to do.

They ask you to do two "homework" runs throughout the week before the next clinic and I wasn't sure I'd bother, but one of the ladies who'd done the clinic before told me it really really made a difference if you did them, so I did them that first week and weirdly enough? My body hurt less after the second run and less again after the third. (Epsom salts and careful stretching also played a part in that though.)

I went into the next week wondering how I'd make it through the increase in run time, but I did and I was super stoked. It feels amazing to do something physical that you didn't think you'd be able to do. Run for two minutes eight times with only a minute's break in between? No way I can do that. But it turns out I can.

And I can even run for three minutes in a row with only a minute's rest in between.

Is it easy? Getting easier?


Things don't hurt as much as they did that first time (knock on wood so as not to jinx anything) but man do I feel un-fit.

I'm huffing and puffing by the last repetition of run/walk and my feet are shuffling and honestly, it'd be faster, many times faster, if I'd just stop "running" and walk, and I hate it while I'm doing it. It's a constant feeling of "no way I'm going to be able to do this and how many more times?" But I stubborn my way through it. Sometimes it's pure willpower and sometimes it's "well, C-Dawg wouldn't give up if she were here" and sometimes it's just that I'd feel awful if I quit on it, but man it's hard. And it doesn't feel good. The running. Not at all.

I know a lot of people who run and love it. They love how it feels and how their body feels and how it's like flying.

For me it just feels bad and every time I'm doing it it feels bad. And I feel unfit.

But once I'm done? I feel great. Endorphin frigging heaven and then I stretch and shower and I'm the happiest person out there.

Happy and proud of myself which feels even better. Happy and proud of myself because damnit I did something I hate and it felt awful but I finished it and I'm so proud of myself for that.

But I don't look forward to it.

The clinic night are interesting because I look forward to seeing S and chatting with her makes things go faster but I still don't enjoy it. I don't know if I'd do a clinic again, because I feel like the loser of the group; everyone else is fitter than I am and it feels like everyone else has done the clinic before so they're not worried about next week, and oh crap now they're doubling back to pick me up because I'm that far behind the rest of them, I'm that slow. So the clinics are difficult in that they make me feel like I'm losing and the competitor in me hates that feeling. But there's something about having committed to and having paid for the group that makes it something I'd do again. And the leader is awesome. I kind of want to cry when I think about how encouraging she is and how she always seems to say the right thing when I'm struggling or scared or whatever it is.

She tells me I'm a runner.

She tells me I'm faster than all those people who're at home on their couches watching tv. And I have to remember that because on clinic night I always feel like I'm slower than everyone there. So I'll have to remind myself that I may be slower than the people who've come out to a beginner run clinic but I'm way faster than all the people who didn't.

I don't know if I can make it through this week's run. I may have to tell S to go on ahead without me. (In my head, I'll be picturing a dramatic scene from a movie where I tell her to go on ahead without me, knowing that once she leaves, I'll die from. . . the zombies or the freezing weather or the....typhoid or whatever it is, because in my head things are way more fun.) I may have to just suck it up and accept that I'm the slowest and the least fit and if they all glare at me and roll their eyes at me for being slow (except they wouldn't do that, that's also in my head. Sometimes it's fun in my head, sometimes it's crazy.) at least I'm doing it and only I know how frigging hard it is for me.

Nutshell? I don't enjoy the sensation or the show-me-how-unfit-I-am-ness of learning to run, or beginner running or run/walking or whatever you want to call it. I don't enjoy it while I'm doing it at all. Every time I'm doing it I think "man, I should totally blog about how much this sucks and how much I hate it and how awful I feel." But you guys? I'm so so proud of myself and so far, every week I've been blown away that I managed to do it again. That I've managed to add another minute on to the length of time I can run in a row. You guys, I can run for three minutes in a row. Three! It's frigging awesome. It makes me happy to know how far I've come and while my head tells me I may never make it through this week or next, I also know how good I feel after accomplishing each run/walk. Physically and emotionally.

So if you asked? I'd tell you it was worth it.

(Just don't ask me if it's worth it *while* I'm out there running.)


Blogger Just Sayin... said...

So very proud of you!

I did the Sun Run 10K a few years back and also did the running clinic. Best thing I could have ever done!

However there is one major "important"(In my opinion) thing they neglect to tell you.

SOCK! Proper running socks while training and on the day of the run. Otherwise you run risk of killing the nail on your baby toes or even your big toes and eventually they turn a narly colour and fall off. (Epic fail)

Ask ANYONE who has done any amount of running in the beginning.
Proper running socks are important and so worth the expense.....or and how to avoid shin splints. That one I never figured out.

Good luck! You can do this!
Give yourself a huge pat on the back!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 8:15:00 am  
Blogger Chantal_Wannabe said...

I have just picked up running too in the last few months... now I find my body needs it and I have to go every other day at least!

I have never thought of myself as a runner, but I survived the shin splints (they are GONE), I am getting a better cardio and nice muscles! Oh and my belly fat is melting away!!

At night I put on my new running shoes, strap both my knees (yeah.. bad knees... oh and herniated disc too in my lower back but I'm getting over that) and go for 8-12k.. un-freakin-believable. The first 10 minutes I'm out of breath and in a lot of pain and then it goes away... and I float.. and sweat... and SMILE while doing it.

Oh and I take breaks and walk when I need to :)

I never thought I could do it... keep going... it will surprise you.. you can only get better and stronger and lighter and faster... A big HOORAAAY for you!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 11:12:00 am  
Blogger Canadianbloggergirl said...

I'm glad that you are able to do more physically, since it was such a huge part of your life before your accident.

Keep it up, I'm routing for you!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010 1:00:00 pm  
Blogger Anna said...

So...I totally understand the love/hate relationship you have with running, but just let me encourage you to keep with it! I'm slower than a turtle dipped in molasses slow...but I run for myself and that focus helps me.

I've always been slow and will probably always be slow and the best advice I can give you is to remind yourself you are doing it for you. I don't look at other people running past me, I don't worry about them doubling back, I focus on myself and how I feel about doing it for myself...and it feels wonderful!

Personally, I'm envious. I developed foot problems post my first ever 15k (where I did cry as I ran across the finish line by the way) so I'm in the "listen to your body and take it easy mode" and going back to walking for a bit. But I'm with you in spirit!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 4:16:00 pm  
Blogger Single and Picky said...

That feeling of accomplishment is what I wish I could bottle for people who say it's not worth it. Sure it isn't when you are slogging it out - I will even say that. But the feeling of crossing that finish line be it 10K or 42K (a marathon distance) it is amazing.

PS She's right you are a runner and don't let anyone tell you otherwise - running is about the spirit of the act not how fast you go or how often you might walk in the journey.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:15:00 pm  
Blogger Victoria said...

Awww man. You guys are awesome. Seriously.

Thanks J.S. It's funny, but last week at the clinic they talked about clothing and the woman said the same thing about socks and all the run leaders were all Oh Yeah, Seriously! So... I guess socks are on my list. :) And a huge pat on the back ;)

Awesome Chantal! And thanks :D

Me too CBG, and thanks for cheering me along! :)

I think we're about the same speed Anna ;) And thanks for the advice to just run for me. Hope your recovery keeps on going well!

I know what you mean SnP, I think that feeling is what keeps me heading out even when I know I'm not going to enjoy it... Thanks. (I like your PS note muchly)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 8:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Dominic said...

Being somewhat over six foot and having a lifelong preference for walking over any other means of transport meant I never had a big problem when I started running a few years back.

The first couple of times were hell, though. I'd literally forgotten how to pace myself, how to move.. basically, how to run. I barely managed to get around the block, first time. It took a few days before I'd relearned all the basics and could actually go any decent distance.

And then suddenly it all clicked and it felt like I could go for miles. Have never had any real problems since, even when I've left off for a few months and then come back to it.

Three most important things I learned would have to be:

Start out slowly - if you don't feel like you're going ridiculously slow at a speed you could easily maintain all day, you're likely to burn out five minutes later.

Relax - Nothing makes running painful like rigid posture. Just a few weeks ago, I was wincing every time I started out and having to will myself through the pain. Then I realised what I was doing, and switched to a lower, more flowing gait, and overnight the pain & stiffness went away.

For footwear, think minimal - two reasons: Firstly, the more your shoes weigh, the harder every single step is - I know some hikers consider every ounce of footwear equivalent to a pound in their backpack. It adds up. And secondly: We evolved to walk and run on two legs. We didn't evolve to do it with thick rubber foam on our feet. Running or walking, I get more ankle, knee & shin pain wearing trainers than I do wearing plimsolls or going barefoot. You get so much more feedback with thinner soles that you learn to correct your posture almost instantly. There are a fair number of minimalist running shoes around, you might find them worth a try.

Word of warning, tho - they do make you work harder.

Good luck!

Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:00:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

I think I do need to figure out my posture and things Dominic, but I find that hard to do on clinic nights when I'm more concerned about staying with the group. I do hope that at some point it all "clicks" for me too. That'd be nice.

Thursday, September 30, 2010 5:35:00 pm  

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