March 20, 2007

Couch to 5K

I've always been a lousy runner. Not only do I find it physically painful (my lungs start to burn quickly and make me feel like I'm going to vomit), but I find it dull too. If I'm walking, it's easier to let my mind wander and not concentrate on distance, speed, etc., but running, for me, is one long, painful mental monologue: "This hurts. How long have I been doing this? Am I almost done? Will I be disappointed in myself if I just stop NOW?" Repeat for thirty minutes.

I have, at some points in my life, been a better runner. When I was in middle school, my mom and I would run three miles several mornings a week. Then, in high school P.E. we had to run a mile and a half every Friday in fifteen minutes. But, after that, I've never really run again. I have no interest in running with other people because I'm embarassed by how wimpy I am. The real problem is that it's not simply laziness on my part. If I was to go out with a friend and try to run, I swear that I would not make it more than a few blocks because I would hurt SO much that I literally couldn't breathe (I've tried this once, with my roommate Sherry, and it's an occasion we have never spoken of again, because it was so humiliating for me).

Unfortunately, it became pretty obvious to me as I started going regularly to the gym that walking simply wasn't going to cut it. I didn't have enough time to invest to make it worthwhile. Plus, I would LIKE to be a runner. I'd love to be able to hop on the treadmill or open my front door and run a few miles without nearly killing myself. In January, I found a website that had a plan for how to work your way up from a non-runner to a 5K runner. It's a nine week program with three workouts per week. After the first three weeks, I've gone to doing each week twice, because I just am not ready to move up that fast. So far it's been pretty good. Each week begins as a really difficult run for me, but by the end of the second week, it's relatively doable. Tonight, I start Week 5, and I'm actually looking forward to it.

To make it less tedious, I've started getting books on tape from the library, as I mentioned, and even if it doesn't completely distract me from the fact that I'm running, it does help pass the time better than simply staring at myself in the mirror or watching the clock move at half-speed or slower.

I think of myself as decently athletic. I enjoy tennis, racquetball, basketball, gymnastics, etc. It bothers me that running is such an issue to me, and I'm thrilled to finally be doing something about it. I'm excited for the day in a few months when I'll actually be able to run 3 miles at a stretch and feel okay. And, I'm particularly excited that, if I can keep it up, I'll always be able to stay in good shape, even as I get older.


  1. When I was in second grade my throat would constrict whenever I ran. I would start to breathe like I was going to die soon.

    My second grade teacher just had me keep on running.

    I think that half of the difficulty of running (and definitely swimming) is mental. Boredom can be pretty bad and if you have nothing else to think about why not think about every little pain and magnify it?

    So I think that tapes are a great idea. Or someone to talk to while running works nicely if Bart wants to wait up.

  2. "Run fer fun? What the [heck] kind of fun is that?" -- from Back to the Future III

    I'm a big fan of running because it's the one exercise I can do almost anywhere at anytime, it's directly applicable to life (in case I need to run from robbers and stuff), and it makes me tired in a way that somehow energizes me at the same time - much more than when we don't end up going.


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