I suppose this tale begins with my wonderful public health cohort-mate Adam:
Adam was the person who got me eating Paleo, even though we both sometimes suck at sticking to it. When I came to Bloomington and had regular access to a gym, one of my goals was to improve my cardio since I’d spent half of 2012 with chronic respiratory infections. Adam suggested I set some kind of fitness goal to go along with starting Paleo, so I decided to try Couch to 5K. I’ve always relied on the elliptical for my cardio needs, since I’m a 235# person with big boobs and bad feet, and running just kind of seemed like a bad idea. Nevertheless, I really loved running as a tween (before I got boobs), and was pretty good at it too. I also used to go jogging a lot in Japan, because it beat sitting alone in a bar/in front of a TV at home. Running has been a companion at times in my life when I’ve felt lonely or isolated, but I’ve never been one of those “RAWR LETS PUT ON NEON SPANDEX AND TRAIN FOR A MARATHON” types.
My sister from another mister Val (who is also a plus sized lady) had done C25K and succeeded at it. I figured if Val could do it, so could I. I’d give it a try, at least. I started week 7 of 9 yesterday, and ran for 25 minutes straight yesterday. 2 months ago running for 30 seconds straight felt hard. And I can TALK WHILE I RUN. And oh yeah, I ran a 5K last saturday. (Admittedly, I jumped the gun on that one, but it was an awesome”Color Run” where they throw colored powder on you, and it sounded like too much fun to miss.) I also got to give a shout out to my homies Sarah, Falyn, and Isaac who ran with me and made running uphill in the rain way more fun.
So anyway, Adam and I have a pretty great friendship (he took me to see male poledancers last week, and watched the debate with me after the boy I thought I’d be watching it with blew me off.) Adam is a super jock (a jock of all trades, if you will), and has encouraged me to keep up my running. I’ve also been teaching Adam about fathleticism, and the importance of fitness goals based in health and pleasure rather than weight loss, and he told me he used me as an example of health at all size fitness in a class he’s teaching. <3 So we’re teaching each other a lot of good things.
Anyway, Adam is president of the Triathlon club at IUB, and just registered to do an Iron Man Triathlon next summer, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of bicyling, and a 26.2 mile run. I personally thing these types of races are nuts, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to do something more intense than a 5K, mostly because I don’t want to injure myself. I’d like to improve my speed, but I have no desire to go on 26 mile runs any time soon. Anyway, I was like “Why would you want to do an Iron Man when you yourself admit that the human body wasn’t designed to do that kind of crazy shit?”
And then I realized- it’s for the exact same reason that I wanted to run a 5K. To prove to myself that I can do it.
My body is NOT designed for running. While I don’t think I’m destroying my joints by overdoing things (that’s part of the beauty of Couch 2 5K- it gives you a sane pace to work at), running is probably not the ideal form of exercise for an fat person with hypermobile joints. Adam is ten years younger than me and does have a runners body- so for him, doing crazy races are his way of pushing himself. For me, simply running is a way of pushing myself.
The weird thing is although I’ve historically viewed running as a solitary coping mechanism at times of my life when I felt socially isolated (hello, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner!), ironically running has become a fantastic social lubricant, especially for being able to talk to people I don’t have much in common with otherwise. It’s almost as if people get into running after college as a replacement for the partying life- it’s social, it’s intense, it gets you high, it gets you fit, it makes you feel ALIVE, and you can justify drinking a lot of beer afterwards. (Well, I don’t drink beer but other people seem to like to.) And I think Americans enjoy exercise that is painful and/or competitive, it makes us feel like we’re achieving something (god knows what). It’s good for me to have something to talk to people about other than feminism and queer theory, since that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
As a Public Health student, doing Couch 2 5K has been interesting from a theoretical as well as physical standpoint as well. C25K is in essence a Public Health intervention designed to promote fitness. And it’s really well designed- even though the jump to 20 minute+ runs felt really hard, it was doable, even for a person like me who is not the traditional runner type. Yes, you can be fat and be a runner. Having a set routine laid out for me made it a lot easier to stick to, as well.
In my 2 months of running, I’ve found the following things have really helped:
1. Investing in good shoes. Duh. I need to get a better sports bra too, but that’s challenging for the large busted, and I usually wind up layering 2 bras.
2. Running to 2Pac and Thrill Kill Kult.
3. Having awesome running nerd buddies.
4. Having a surface I like running on. I like the idea of running outside, except I’m nervous about running on concrete, and I’m allergic to a lot of plants and trees that jizz pollen during the warm seasons. I really like the Woodway treadmills at my gym, because you get to set the pace, unlike the electric treadmills.
5. Giving myself permission to run really fucking slow as I increase my endurance. It’s weird when I run slower than I walk, but when making those dramatic jumps from 8 minute intervals to 20 minutes straight (thanks, week five of C25K!) there’s no shame in this, and it’s pretty much the only thing that works.
Dear readers, what keeps you running? Or if you think running is dumb and overrated? Mouth off in the comments!