People often ask me how I started running. I am happy to share this story because it shows that anyone can run. I went from extremely inactive to running half-marathons. It was a very gradual progression. And, I went from hating physical activity to loving running (on the best days).
I am certainly not a speed demon but I can hold my own on the course. I have gradually learned to appreciate what my body is capable of. I eat healthy most of the time but also love my treats. Running allows me to keep all this is perspective.
After university, I started to realize I needed to make a change in my inactive lifestyle. I had spent the past few years studying full-time, working part-time at a tech firm and putting in many late nights at my student newspaper. There was a lot of pizza, beer, coffee and donuts consumed. And very few trips to the gym.
When I started my master’s degree in 2007, I fully intended on making use of the gym at Western University. But since I was balancing my school workload with a part-time job, I couldn’t find the time. The numbers on the scale continued to creep up. I don’t really know how high, because I really didn’t want to know.
It wasn’t until I got my first day job that I didn’t have to worry about filling my hours with school and work, and made fitness a priority. I joined a pilates class that included a cardio component. On nice summer days, our instructor would take us out for a run/walk before the pilates movements. I realized a couple things: that my five-year-old sneakers needed to be replaced, and that – gasp – I could run. Even if it was only for a minute or two at a time, I could do it.
Our instructor would say, “Let’s go to that fire hydrant just ahead.” And we did it. I started to think that this was something I could do on my own time, without having a gym membership.
Money wasn’t flush so I went online and found a learn-to-run guide. I printed it out and posted it on my fridge.
It was very basic, offering the same method as the popular couch-to-5K programs. Week one would be walking for 30 minutes, three or four times a week. Week two would be walking for five minutes, walking for one minute, and repeating five times. Every week the periods of running would increase. The goal was to run 15 minutes without stopping, walk one minute, and repeat twice.
After every run, I would cross off the corresponding run on my fridge. The visual reinforcement worked, and I felt the urge to finish what I started.
It wasn’t easy. Some of those periods of five and six minutes of running made me feel nauseous. And hills? Forget it. I would make bargains with myself, like, “If you can run to the top of this knoll, you’ll get hired by the Ottawa Citizen.” As I neared the top and my lungs were on fire, I would tell myself. “You’re good enough! You’ve got this! You are going to be a big-time journalist!”
By the end of that summer of 2008, I bought myself my first real iPod as a reward. I still use it to this day.
That winter, my goal was simply to keep up with what I had worked so hard to achieve: running for eight minutes, follows by two minutes of walking. Since I was still pretty broke, I ran in crappy Wal-mart yoga pants down snowy trails, or around an indoor track in Waterloo.
I worked in Yellowknife for a few weeks in the spring of 2009, and continued with the running there, too. I had a treadmill in my condo (luxury!). And it was warm enough, I would venture outside, exploring the city while I jogged.
When I moved to Saint John that summer, I kept it up, running in Rockwood Park around the Fisher Lakes and Lily Lake. I figure I had about a 4K loop that I ran about three times a week. I always felt so spent at the end. But I had something good going – regular physical activity was now safely a regular part of my life. I had lost a bit of weight, and after suffering a big break-up (in fact, a divorce, but that’s another story…), I needed a confidence boost.
Gradually, I would make little improvements to my lifestyle that made huge differences in my pants size. Once I got hired on full-time, I could finally afford a gym membership. Gym classes introduced me to new workouts and new friends.
I quit eating refined sugar for almost a year (I think back on this time in complete awe) because I was getting chronic bladder infections and was willing to try anything to make them stop. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but it worked, and also helped me shed quite a few more pounds. (Now I am most definitely back on the sugar.)
Then, I got the idea that I should try and increase my distance beyond 4 or 5K. I knew I could do it, I just needed a goal and a little push.
I signed up for the 5-miler at the Marathon-By-The-Sea in 2011. As I wrote at the time, I was hooked. I loved the adrenaline of race day, and since then I’ve run a number of races, including three half-marathons last year. This blog is filled with those stories.
Running has so many health benefits – it has really helped me clean up my lifestyle – but probably the best thing it has given me is confidence. Pushing your body to achieve results is incredibly gratifying.
And now, coming back after pregnancy, I know that if I could do it once, I can do it again.