As I wrap up Week Three of trying to learn to like running — a thing I have hated most of my life — for my monthlong “Lifehacker Fitness Challenge,” I have to report a few hiccups and one incredible, practically unbelievable success.
First, the hiccups, of which there were several. I ran exactly once this past week, despite giving myself a goal of three runs last week:
My goals for next week include taking three runs, at least one of which is on a scenic trail. My longest run/walk this week was a little over 20 minutes, so if I can get that up to 25 minutes, that would feel like progress. And I’m hoping at least one run will clock in at or near a “two” on the mood chart.
There are legitimate reasons for that, namely that my parents and grandfather came into town last weekend for a visit. It was the first time I’d seen them in person in a year, so hanging out with them jumped ahead of “exercise in a way I don’t even enjoy” on the priority list. And then, because I told myself I was allowed to also exercise in ways I do enjoy, I opted for my elliptical on Monday.
On Tuesday, though, Lifehacker’s editor-in-chief Jordan Calhoun and I interviewed Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running for Lifehacker’s podcast, The Upgrade. (That episode is scheduled to release on Monday, at which point I’ll come back and drop the link here.) We were talking about this very topic — how does one get into running as an adult? — and Jason was very kind and encouraging toward me, even after Jordan told him how my ankles don’t bend correctly.
There were some important personal take-aways for me from that conversation. First, that in order to start to like running, you have to give it 30 days. (I stumbled upon the exact right amount of time!) Second, that you’ll probably hate it for the first two — maybe three — weeks. (I was exactly that amount of time in, and I still was not a fan!) And then there would be a turning point; my body would start to feel different. My legs would feel stronger and the whole thing would come a little more naturally, and I’d be on my way to enjoying it. I could tell he really believed this, I could see he wanted this for me, and I allowed myself to think it might actually be possible. After all, he’s the expert.
Newly motivated, I left the Zoom meeting, laced up my sneakers and went out for a run. I needed a change of scenery, so I headed to the neighbourhood next to mine — one that is beautifully lined with giant sycamore trees and is a little hilly but not quite as hilly as mine. I walked for a few minutes and then started jogging. I had the tight-ankle-lumbering thing happen again and was like, “oh hell, here we go again,” but then they loosened up and away I went.
After a few minutes, I pondered whether I should slow to a walk, as that was what my body normally insisted I do after a few minutes. And yet, I felt pretty good. I wasn’t especially out of breath or uncomfortable, so I just kept running. I didn’t time myself but my best estimate is that I ran for 12-13 minutes straight without stopping. And if I hadn’t had to turn to go uphill at that point, I think I could have kept going even longer. Tacking on a few minutes of walking at the beginning and at the end clocked me right in at 20 minutes and I arrived back home feeling rather pleased with myself.
Jason was right. My body felt different. My legs felt stronger. I felt less like I was pretending to run and more like I was actually running. And I kind of… liked… that feeling.
I gave myself a “two” on my Running Moods Scale of 1-5. (In case you don’t remember: Five is, “Fuck this shit straight to hell,” and one is, “Yay! Running is the best!”) A two had been another goal of mine for this week, and it’s the one I did not think I was going to accomplish.
Now, back to the hiccups (the figurative kind). As I said, this was the only run I did this week — although to be fair, it’s only Thursday as I write this. The main reason I didn’t run yesterday or today is because when I woke up yesterday, my right ankle was a bit sore. Not like full-on-injury type of sore but tight enough that I’m nervous to run on it. It’s my own fault; I didn’t warm up enough even though I know my ankles are not bendy. Jason also stressed that people try to do too much, too soon and can worsen injuries, so I’m going to give it another day or two before attempting a run.
Asinine ankle or not, I’m calling this week a win.