This could get rather long – Grab your favorite beverage and settle in.
I’ve been thinking over the last few days that it’s been a while since I posted something. Indeed it’s been 2 weeks! The last 2 posts were about attending and participating in the Imagine: Run for Mental Health. On the one hand it only seems like a few days ago – and yet it seems like at least a month ago! What’s been happening?
Well it appears the Phoenix has inadvertently discovered an addiction. A single experience, just one high is all it took. Like all addictions, this one is probably not going to be cheap, and it’s probably going to affect my health, both physical and mental. It’s probably going to affect my work and social life. Chances are good it’s going to impact almost every corner of my current life. And like most addicts, while I’m not completely oblivious to the possible life-altering changes it may bring, I probably don’t fully grasp them either.
Yep, Phoenix has discovered long distance running.
Am I crazy? Possibly (remember, I am on medication!), but I’m hoping I can stick with this, especially through winter – because let’s face it, running outside in temperatures well below freezing is probably NOT going to happen. So I’ll have to get used to running on a treadmill for a few months. Which means paying for a gym membership. And budgeting for shoes every few months. And changing what and how I eat. And I’ll probably eventually start doing supplements, and energy gels, and talking about macros and split times and personal bests, and when the next event is…..ok, I’m sounding a little annoying about it, even to myself!
But it’s true! I started this spring with the goal of running 5k by the end of summer. A mere 15 days ago I ran my first 5k event on Sept 23, 2017 It was a small event, and it was more of an awareness event than a full on race-type event. Barely a week previous (Sept 14, 2017) was the first time I was able to run the full 5k distance without a walking break. 7 days later (Sept 30) I ran a full 10k without stopping – somewhat by “accident” which I’ll explain further on. Since then I’ve done it another 3 times (4x total) and to be honest, almost every day at work I’m thinking how I can’t wait to get home so I can go for a run. I’m limiting myself to 3x a week for now, but I might switch up to 4x a week. And once I feel a little more comfortable with the 10k, my next goal is 21k (which is a half marathon). Of course if I’m going to push that distance I’m going to need to make several lifestyle adjustments (especially nutritional, but others too) – but if running feels this good, I’m sure it’ll be worth it.
So what changed? I mean I was enjoying it but for some reason breaking through the 3.5km mark was very very difficult for me – but I changed up my technique and managed to get myself used to doing 5k – and once I beat that I wanted to challenge myself to 10k – which wasn’t nearly as difficult. As I mentioned before, the first one was somewhat accidental. To train for the 5k, I was using an app called C25K – which stands for Couch to 5k. (by ZenLabs, for iOS and Android). It’s designed to take someone from couch potatoe to running 5k. It was several weeks of training – 9 if I recall correctly. The first week was very simple – after a 5 minute warmup walk, it has you jog for 1 minute, followed by 1.5 minutes of walking, back to jogging for a minute, and walking for 1.5 – for a total of about 28 minutes or something like that. Each week would slightly increase the time spent running while gradually decreasing the walking time per cycle. It gives voice prompts over your headphones so you don’t need to worry about setting timers or checking times. This continues until at the end of 9 weeks you can run 5k. The next step – 10k – works very similar, and actually just continues on where you left off. Week 10 was jog 10 minutes, walk 1 minute (and that was repeated 4 times).
So the first day, I fired up my music, started the C210k app and did my warmup. At the end of 5 minutes, the voice prompt came on and away I went. 10 minutes jog, 1 minute walk, repeated 4 times. It didn’t even feel that bad! 2 days later I was out again, and used the same routine. Same apps. Everything was the same. Headphones on, music going, and I started the C210K app. After 5 minutes I was prompted to run for 10 minutes – just like last time. So off I go….after about 4 songs I was thinking this seemed like a very long 10 minutes – but I kept going. Another 2 songs and I’m realizing that for whatever reason I’m not getting the voice prompts from my training app. I had planned out a route so I knew where to go to hit the 10k distance. As I was jogging along I realized I had 2 options. 1) wind down to a walk, fish out my phone, and figure out why I wasn’t getting the voice prompts, or 2) just keep jogging along, follow the route, and when I’m feeling tired, just cut the route short and head for home. I elected to take option 2. I knew roughly where the 1/4, 1/2. and 3/4 points were, so I could gauge approximate distance that way, but otherwise I was “on my own” – just music and guts.
Long story short, I did it. And if I can do it once, I can certainly do it again – which of course I’ve done Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ever since. I even did a “short” 5k run today just for the fun of it.
So how does this tie in to mental health? I’ve learned that somewhere between 6 km and 8.5 km I need to “dig” to keep going. I’ve learned my legs and lungs can handle a lot more than my mind thinks they can or should – it just takes grit, determination, and focus. Sometimes it’s a block at a time, or a few driveways ahead, or a sign – Sometimes it’s longer – but I know somewhere in that range I’m gonna have to get into my music, try to relax and keep a smooth rhythm with my breathing and my strides – soon enough it goes away and I “perk up” again towards the end of my run. Excluding warmup and cooldown I’m usually clocking 10k in 55ish minutes.
You see, I’m realizing that when my mind is telling me to quit – my legs and lungs can keep going. When I think “this is too hard, I want to give up” – I need to keep going. Because I have something to prove – and before I try to prove anything to anyone else, I need to prove it to myself that with dedication and focus I can do this! The problem is for simpler things, I give in, give up, or don’t even attempt to start. Lets say dishes for example. I have a cheap basement suite – and it’s just me. No dishwasher. So every couple of days I need to do the dishes. I could leave it all week – and often have – but it’s so much faster and easier to do them every 2-3 days. Is washing dishes more physically demanding than running 10k? Not even comparable. Does it take more time than running 10k? Well – depending how long the dishes have been standing and how baked on the crud is, worst case scenario – then maybe. Does it take that much more mental focus? Well….that’s the dumb part. Dishes. Folding laundry. General domestic stuff I have a brutal time staying on task because I’m easily distracted and “it’s too hard, I don’t want to do this anymore”. So I quit. I procrastinate. I give up.
I have the courage (or I just don’t care what people think) to jog around town in running tights – and half the time I lounge around at home in them too (yes, the clean ones!). Yet I have a brutal time calling friends and or family – when I’m feeling alone, when I need a ride to run errands, or anything like that. I feel like I’m not worthy of helping, like I’m interfering, like I’m hindering them because they’ve got busy lives too. But I’ve got the courage to attempt, and overcome not just 5k, but 10k, and I’m pressing on to bigger and better. It’s taken physical work, but for me it’s been more mentally challenging as a whole, but I’ve done it, I am doing it, and I will do it.
Does anyone else see the odd and frustrating dichotomy? On the one hand I’ve set a goal that few people over 25 would attempt – and I started it at 39. Yet I’m to insecure, to scared, to shy to call friends for help – despite the fact they’ve reminded me time and time again that it’s not a hinderance.
So – yes, I’m running and loving it. But as good as it is for my health (physical, mental, emotional) – I need to learn how to transfer that ability to “dig in and focus” when it comes to other unpleasant or mundane tasks that are just a part of adulting.
I hope I can settle into blogging a bit more regularly – the running thing kinda surprised me but I’m hoping I can figure out a better schedule between work, working out, meal prep, domestic duties, and maybe even some social time.
Love and peace ya’ll. It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada – so from me to you – take a few moments and write down things that you’re thankful for. Doesn’t matter how insignificant it seems, if you’re thankful for it, write it down. It’s worth the 5 minutes out of your day 🙂