I’ve started running again.
I know I keep saying on here that I need to get back to running, but I feel like finally, FINALLY, I might actually be doing it.
I swallowed my pride and started the ‘Couch to 5K‘ program. I didn’t want to. It felt ridiculous to go back to square one, especially when I’ve been cycling all summer so I already have a cardiovascular baseline of fitness.
My good friend brought me up short when I was complaining to her about having to start over from scratch by reminding me that although I might have a baseline of fitness, what I don’t have is running fitness. Cycling may be good exercise, but it doesn’t come close to putting the pressure on my joints that running would.
I couldn’t argue with that. One of my hallmarks of starting running after a long break before I had E. was having to spend the first few weeks icing my knees after every run to keep them from swelling. My knees have never quite been the same since I ran my first half-marathon in 2008 when I wasn’t properly prepared for it. It’s never been a big problem since once I build up a bit of running fitness my knees adjust and I can stop icing them.
But right now I don’t have time to sit around icing my knees every morning. So I decided that if my amazing friend could swallow her pride and start from scratch, so could I.
Except I cheated a little by starting at the second week rather than the first so I wouldn’t go completely insane.
Anyway. I’m into my second week of running now. And yes, it is ridiculous, and I drive myself crazy as I run along for 90 seconds and then walk, and I remember that I used to go out and run for HOURS with no ill effects.
And then I remind myself that I haven’t run in three years. I remind myself that I’m taking the long view on this one, that I’m building my running fitness back up for years, decades of running to come. And I swallow my pride again, and look down at my phone, and walk when I’m supposed to, and turn around when I’m supposed to, and stop when I’m supposed to.
I’ve been meaning to start this program for over a month now. But I can only rationalize running if I squeeze it in before my work day starts. I won’t cut my work day short to run, because then I’m running while Q. is looking after E. and can’t do his own work. I won’t run after work because that’s my time with E. And I won’t run after dinner because that just doesn’t work for my body. I learned that years ago.
So that left getting up early to go running. And right when I decided to do this, we had Q.’s Mum come to stay for two weeks, so E. was sleeping in our room, and while I really really wanted to run, I didn’t want to start if it meant I would wake up E., because then everyone suffered.
That’s only a partial excuse. Q.’s Mum, after all, flew back down under close to a month ago now.
I don’t really have a good excuse for why I didn’t start running in July except that I was miserable in July for a whole host of reasons, mainly doctorate related, and I got myself into a very unhealthy head space and I was struggling to get out of it. And the idea of doing something more was just too much.
So what changed?
Two weekends ago we went on a lengthy cycle trip to a little town that has a big cathedral. It’s something I’d wanted to do ever since I’d first realized there was now a route that would let us stay on national cycle networks (off-road or on very very very quiet roads, practically farm tracks) for the entire way. The Saturday before last we finally had a day with nice weather where we had no other obligations, and we went for it. Q. had E. in his bike seat (holding tight to Outside Bunny the entire way), and I had my panniers stuffed full of everything we might need (including rain jackets, but the threatened forecast never eventuated. I’m positive if I hadn’t packed our jackets it would have poured down).
We cycled 55 km. 45 km there, and then another 10 km home from the train station (we took the train back- E. loved being on the bike on the train). We had a perfect day, just what I had been hoping for.
And the next day I wasn’t sore. Not one little bit.
I realized that all the cycling I’d been doing over the spring and summer, 15 km daily at least five days a week if not more often, was having an impact. I realized I did have a baseline of fitness. I realized that my body, which I’d spent much of July loathing (because I always, always cope with stress in other parts of my life by targeting my physical appearance), was strong and capable.
And I realized that I desperately missed running.
I’ve come to two conclusions in the last month that helped me finally, FINALLY, get my shoes on and get out the door again.
The first is that my life is never going to get any less full. I’m never going to suddenly have magical free time where I can just slot running in. If I’m going to run, it’s going to have to come through sacrificing something else, and that something else is probably going to end up being sleep, both because I run best in the mornings, and because if Q. and E. are still sleeping, I’m not taking away from anyone else by running. The problem back home has always been if I wake up early our terrible floorboards wake E. up too. But he’s becoming a much better sleeper, and I’m willing to get up at 5 a.m. if that’s what it takes to get downstairs without disturbing him. I’ve said over and over again on here that I seem to need less sleep now that I’ve had E. Time to take advantage of that.
The second was that I NEED to run to control my anxiety. Cycling has been good, but it hasn’t been enough. Myfitnesspal helped for a while but then started to actually cause more problems. I don’t think it’s coincidence that my disordered eating patterns were at their least intrusive years ago when I was seriously running. I know how my body and my mind work and how they interact. I know that when I get stressed and worried and anxious about anything else in my life I turn my attention inwards and attack how I feel about my physical self. I know that I try to control how I feel about the things I can’t control by controlling my physical shape.
I know that it’s a very unhealthy pattern.
And I also know that when I’m running seriously I don’t obsess (much) over what I am or am not eating, I don’t re-enter binge/purge/shame/guilt spirals, I don’t spend all my time and energy thinking about food, because I’m running. I trust that I need to eat because I’m running. And I don’t displace all of my anxiety onto my eating habits because running works my anxieties out and gives me a different set of coping mechanisms.
As an added bonus, I really really love running. I love how fresh the world is when you’re out the door first thing in the morning. I love when a run is easy and you’re flying along in the zone. I love the rhythm of my footfalls and my breath.
I’ve tried to find substitutes. Boot camp didn’t work for me. Cycling’s been a good method of commuting, but it hasn’t given me the headspace to work through everything that’s on my mind.
Running is my sanity check.
I’ve finally realized that.
And I know, now, that I can’t afford NOT to make the time for it.
So here I am, putting my shoes on and getting out the door three days a week. And I’ll keep doing it once we’re home again, even if that means I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to be able to creep downstairs without waking E. up.
It’s too important not to make it a priority. My whole body, my whole health depends on it.