The other weekend, I put up shelves in our master closet for Sherry’s shoes. I had to measure, cut shelves, and then mount them in the closet. This required a lot of going back and forth, bending down, holding up a drill, and a lot of minor physical activity. When I was almost done, Sherry noted that I wasn’t sweating, out of breath, or needing to take breaks from holding the drill up. I hadn’t realized it, but this was the first time in as long as I could remember that I was able to do basic maintenance or construction without feeling like I was going to die afterward. What changed?
I hated running. I hated exercise. I hated anything that had to do with exerting myself to the point of sweating. The problem was that even getting a screwdriver out to put in a shelf or to fix something simple would cause me to sweat and get out of breath. Seriously, it was that bad. Something had to change.
I began running on September 1 of 2016. It was the one year anniversary of my healthy lifestyle, and by that point, I’d lost 110 lbs. I wasn’t running to lose more weight. Rather, I was interested in fitness. It was all well and good to be lighter by almost 1/2, but my heart needed to get stronger. So I set out doing it with the following plan:
Run day – off day – run day – off day – run day – off day – off day
That turned out to be a M-W-F run days with Sa-Su off. When life would get in the way (as it often can) and made me skip a run day, then that would become my “Weekend” and I would continue as if I’d just passed a weekend. So, it could turn into a M-Th-Sa run week, or a Tu-Thu-Sa run week, depending on how things went. Either way, I started with three runs a week.
My first run started with a 20-25 minute jog. I didn’t set out to run hard or fast, just to complete the run without stopping. I did it, and my first run was in the record books, as they say. My main goal was to finish. This had a much larger effect on me than I thought it would. It proved to me that I can set my mind to it and get through it. Was I uncomfortable? A little bit, but it wasn’t horrible. I wasn’t nearly as out of breath as I thought I would be, and the discomfort was trivial compared to what my mind had built it up to over the years.
I then set out to run a little further and a little faster with every run. I vowed to never cut one short unless I felt the bad pain. What I mean by that is that there is good pain and bad pain. Good pain is the muscle burn you get after exerting yourself. Bad pain is a pulled muscle or ligament. It’s pretty easy to tell between the two; one is just discomfort and the other indicates a serious problem.
With each run, I also would gauge how I felt (I still do this) and increase the distance if I felt good or cut it a little shorter at the turn-arounds if I was having a hard time with it. More often than not, I end up increasing the distance from what I set out to run. It’s funny; I always end up feeling better once I start than at the beginning of the run.
I also do push ups before every run. I started with 10 and I’m up to between 70 and 75 right now. It really gets my heart pumping and gets me ready for the run. I don’t do any stretching or warm-ups before my run as many studies have shown that most injuries in runners is caused by stretching before a run.
With this day on/day off schedule I run, I’ve been able to make steady progress and kept myself from over-exerting myself. I’m 49, and my muscles take a little longer to recover than they did when I was 19 or even 29. I know people my age and even older who exercise daily, but I just can’t do that. I’m not willing to live in constant muscle burn. I don’t work a different part of my body every day: I’m a runner who does push ups and very soon will add sit ups to the routine. I currently don’t feel the need for weight training although I am looking into some self defense training that is physically intense. No decisions have been made yet, but we’ll see. Surprise, Sherry!
My plan is simple and anyone can do it. If you do it the way I did it, you won’t have shin splints or excessive muscle pain after your runs. I actually look forward to my runs now, and I find that I do much better on my runs when I pump myself up psychologically beforehand. Remember, keep an open mind, get excited, and if you find you can’t get excited about a run, fake it. Seriously, just pretend you’re going to enjoy it. Something strange will happen: you actually might find yourself smiling during a run. It happens to me all the time now, and I never thought that was possible. Ever.