Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On Being a Tortoise

New Year’s resolutions have never been my strong suit. I actually made my last resolution in July, which was to eat infinite vegetables every day. If I aimed for infinity, I might actually eat 5 or 6 servings, right? That strategy worked pretty well for about a month, as do most of my self-improvement schemes.

Despite being weak on the resolution front, I’m all for vague good intentions. My most recent vague good intention is to try to be in better shape. Not to do anything specific, mind you, just to try to be somewhat better.

Well, even though every time the subject of running comes up I say that I hate running and I’m not a runner, I secretly wish I could run and run and run. It sounds freeing and exhilarating. At one point ten years ago I could sort of run, but I don’t remember enjoying it. I set a goal to run 5K. I did, and then immediately quit. When I think of running now, I think of feeling fast and strong, not in terms of time and distance.

A couple of times recently, with vague good intentions, I decided I would learn to run. I would start out running about a minute at a time, figuring I would work up from there and the whole process would be easy and painless. But, after 30 seconds my lungs would be burning and my legs cramping, and I would be hating the whole thing.

But then, I stumbled across some website (which I am kicking myself for not book marking) explaining how even the laziest of lazy-butts could learn to run by going v…e…r…y s…l…o…w…l…y. She said to go so slowly you would be embarrassed if anyone you knew saw you. This floated around in my brain for a while, sounding like a better and better idea until the other night I tried it.

I ran farther and longer than I have in ten years. And! It felt good.

You may be skeptical that running so slowly would have any benefit, but it was definitely a better workout than walking. I got out of breath, but not in an imminently fatal way, and my quads were sore the next day, but not excruciating.

This may be boring for a lot of people to read, but I am just bubbling with excitement. The fact that my pudgy little round body actually RAN anywhere has me grinning and surprised. I’m actually looking forward to trying it again!

On a side note, this whole “try to be in better shape” thing came to fruition when I realized I had gained several pounds over the Christmas holiday, mostly due to the efforts of my coworkers. Every day for a week people were supplying all manner of candies and baked goods. I do not understand this urge to spontaneously make food to offer to people who didn’t ask for it. My coworkers are wonderful folks, but I wouldn’t dirty the kitchen for them unless I had to.


Dave-o-ramA said...

This is actually a VERY good way to start running. Running distance isn't about sprinting, it's about building endurance over a distance.

The other thing that helps build running capability is combining walking and running. You set yourself a distance, say 2 miles, to run and walk. Then you walk for 5 minutes, run for one minute, then walk for 5, run for 1, until you finish the distance you want. Don't worry about how fast you do it, just make sure that you spend the right amount of time doing running and the right amount walking. Then after a couple of times, you run 2 minutes and walk 4, or 1.5 and 4.5, something like that. Slowly you build up the amount of time running, until you run slowly the whole time, and then run a little faster for 1 minute.

I learned both these techniques from Greg, who's run numerous 5Ks, and done his crazy adventure races and 24 hour bike races and other insanity. But it works for not-crazy people.

Admittedly, I still never made myself DO it for long enough to see actual fitness results, I did notice that I could run a much longer distance and time than when I would just try to run at what I felt was a 'respectable' pace, because my respectable pace was faster than I could really maintain.

SerenitySprings said...

My friend Jenn told me to tell you there's a book called Chi Running that might help. Apparently it teaches you to remember how to run like when you were a kid or something.

SerenitySprings said...

Also there is a podcast called Couch to 5K that might be good to listen to you. Also coolrunning.com.