By Cheryl Hansen
My brother was a track star in high school who went on to run marathons—completing several in less than three hours. My dad, who maybe took my brother’s training a little too seriously, took up running himself at age 50 (that seemed so old when I was a kid). As a result, I was “encouraged” (read: forced) to run in races, and later felt self-inflicted pressure to run. After years of trying—and failing—to be a “real” runner (whatever that is), I gave up running a couple years ago. I just dreaded going out to do it. The thing is, I didn’t hate it once I got started. Well, I did sometimes, but in the best way possible. I always compared running to writing—it’s so hard to get started, but once you do—it’s totally worth it.
So, in my quest to incorporate healthier habits into my life, I’ve revisited the idea of running—this time, without the pressure. I started a running program recently—it’s one of those Couch to 5K dealios, only there’s no big rush to get to the 5K. I finally figured out that it’s the rush to achieve some specific distance that tends to derail me. So, I’m taking it one minute at a time—literally. And, it turns out, there’s an app for that. I’ve been using “Map My Run” for a while now to track my weekly walking mileage, but I recently upgraded to the paid version that allows me to program my runs. A friendly voice cues me when it’s time to run, walk and cool down. I can still listen to music, and I don’t have to watch a timer to track each interval. And every time I finish a run, she tells me with very believable enthusiasm, “I like what you did there!” Aw… thanks!
I’m taking it slow, too, starting with 30-second running intervals (I’m up to 1:15 now). The idea is to do it till it feels easy, then tweak the intervals to make the running segments longer and/or the walking segments shorter. And eventually—3, 4, maybe 5 months from now, I’m in no hurry—I hope to be running a cool 5K without hating it. I am at my best when I am building my own program and pushing myself in the kindest, gentlest way possible with no time limits and no preconceived expectations—other than to keep doing what I’m doing.
It occurred to me recently, that it’s the kind of logic I need to apply to the rest of my journey—for real this time, because I’ve talked about baby steps before. I was telling my friend about this grand effort I’m taking and how it’s so much harder than I thought it would be to get “there.” I explained how I get so discouraged that I haven’t lost more weight or achieved that magic “me” yet—which ultimately triggers me to retreat to old habits because it doesn’t feel like it’s working. My friend kindly reminded me that every healthy choice—every batch of roasted veges, every yoga class, every step I take—makes me stronger, healthier. I need to lose the idea of “here” and “there” because it’s what’s in between that really counts. I’m not sure if there’s an app for it, but I just need to commit to doing a little each day until it feels easy, then tweak it a little. And that friendly voice that sends me those cues along the way probably needs to be my own. “I like what I did there!”