This year, Lifehacker’s senior health editor, Beth Skwarecki, opened up her regular “Lifehacker Fitness Challenge” to the entire staff. We could each pick a month, she said, and tackle a personal fitness goal, bringing our readers along on our journey to physical and mental improvement. In the brainstorming meeting we had on the topic, I said a thing I may live to regret: “I’ve always wanted to like to run.”
Running and I have had a fraught relationship since my junior high and high school days when gym teachers would make us all run a mile each year, as if our being able to do this meant they were somehow successful at their jobs. I was always among the last to finish, and I was always miserable and bright red in the face (thank you, fair skin) when I finally crossed the finish line.
As an older teen, I tried to get into a regular running practice, and I hated it. As a college student, I ran the track at our student recreation centre, and I still hated it.
The thing is — I like to exercise. Deposit me at the foot of a mountain and I will hike it. Hand me a tennis racket and a ball, and I’ll serve. I “run” on an elliptical or ride a bike several times a week. But to be able to simply pull on a pair of sneakers and hit the pavement seems like something that could be so freeing, if only I could get past whatever mental barrier seems to be in front of me.
I’ve heard of people who used to hate running, and now they love running, and I want to be one of those people. So I chose the month of May — not too cold, not too rainy, not too hot — to give myself the best shot at success, and here we are.
Beth asked me last week what my “plan” was for the month (I didn’t have one) and what, if any, obstacles did I foresee. I told her getting over my Fear of People Seeing Me Run was a big one, as I’m pretty sure I look weird when I run — to which she replied, “You probably do. Everybody looks weird when they run, running is weird, we are built to do it anyway.”
Then she sent me this training schedule for “novice runners,” which had a nice mix of 3 km runs, three-mile runs, and some walks. “I like that one,” I told her. “It seems super doable.” I planned to write this post about all my hopes and dreams for making the transition to big-time Runner Lady with a training schedule, but at the last minute, I decided I should go out for a short run, just to get a baseline for where I was at. So I pulled on my sneakers and left my home at approximately 1:04 p.m. By the time I returned at 1:17 p.m., I was in quite a state.
Here’s how those 13 minutes went down: I walked for a block or so (until I was pretty sure no one was around to see me), and then I started running. Or, rather, I tried to run but my ankles weren’t giving me the full range of motion necessary, so how I was moving could be more accurately described as “lumbering.” I lumbered for a block and a half before coming down to a slow, wheezing walk. I did this exactly two more times, attaining slightly better range of motion in my ankles and lumbering slightly farther each time before declaring the situation “utter hell” and arriving back home.
As I pondered why I didn’t pick a “fitness challenge” like Lifehacker’s senior technology editor, David Murphy, who chose to drink a bunch of water for a month, Beth talked me off the ledge. She told me this is not a failure but a win! She told me to put a sticker on my calendar today because I intended to run and then I did run. And she gave me a plan for next time: Walk a full five minutes, speeding up over time and flexing my ankles, and then run — slowly — until I start huffing and puffing. Then, walk for a bit. Rinse and repeat for 10-15 minutes. All of my intermittent walking also counts as “running” time, she said, which I was very happy to hear.
The good news is, it could not have gone much worse (short of injuring myself, which seemed like a distinct possibility at the beginning). And that means, it can only get better from here. I’ll let you know how it’s going next week — and if any of you were once as pathetic as me and managed to get over the hump, please drop your best advice for me in the comments.