So today, I ran.
Like, actually ran.
This might sound totally underwhelming but as someone who has drowned in obesity for the bulk of my life, someone who less than a year ago couldn’t complete a single quarter-mile lap walking around their block without severe calf pain and huffing and puffing, this is an achievement.
I’ve always hated exercise, because I always tried to force myself to do the typical exercise kind of things. Go to the gym, get on a treadmill, manipulate some machines. Within a month of getting that gym membership I’d be finding a reason not to go, dreading the time there. I get no joy out of those kind of things and I always proclaimed exercise just wasn’t my thing.
But just like I’ve learned the key to weight loss is finding healthy foods that you like to eat, the key to exercise is finding activity that you enjoy. Life isn’t meant to be filled with self-inflicted torment. It’s meant to be filled with happiness, joy, satisfaction. I don’t like exercising for the sake of exercising, but I do like getting exercise via activity that I enjoy.
I really look forward to when we finally achieve our long-term goal of buying and creating a homestead farm. The idea of getting my exercise by tending my home, property, plants and animals sounds divine to me. I hate being bored, I hate being inactive and this current lifestyle we have where my condo takes minimal effort to maintain and my responsibilities are all sedentary leaves me feeling drained. I love moving, I’ve learned that. But it needs to be purposeful or I feel unhappy.
Earlier this year when I began a whole life change, I knew it had to include my level of activity. My body was so lethargic and unwell for a woman in her early 30s. I would get winded from simply going up the stairs and would avoid if as much as possible. I was so sedentary and felt trapped within my body, coated with shame that dragged me down to the ground. It tanked my self-worth (and as an avid science fiction lover it didn’t escape me that if the zombies came I was basically veal on a platter.)
Back in February I began food journaling, tracking my intake and decided to add on the most benign activity possible, walking. I didn’t do it with joy, but with a sense of duty, it was a means to an end and at first it would generate shame at how weak I was. I would force myself to walk one lap around the block every other day or so and at first that was more than my body could handle. Sometimes after a walking day I would be so sore that I would need three days off, but I kept going back to it. I’m ashamed to admit how difficult just one lap around the block was back then, which equates to a quarter mile or so, it was sincerely a physical challenge and I resented it for highlighting my poor condition and resented myself for being so broken down.
But over the course of many months, my stamina increased and I began to add on more laps to my walk, each one nearly unbearable at first. Now I’ve come to the point where I crave that time outdoors. I feel my body hum with life and energy and can practically float on air for four laps. It isn’t a chore anymore, walking is a daily treat that I actually look forward to! I love feeling my body feel so useful and alive, something I had never experienced in life.
It took a long time to get to the point, and forty pounds off of my body has made a noticeable difference, I’m hauling around a lot less weight. When I started walking my goal was to work my way up to four times around the block which is just about a mile. This seemed insurmountable and huge, a huge undertaking and unrealistic goal… but now I complete that and head back inside because I’m done, not because I’m exhausted or in pain. I’ve made it all the way up to six times around sometimes, and it feels great. It feels amazing to know I can accomplish a goal like this.
And at some point, it went from being a chore to being a desired part of my day, something I look forward to, something I turn to in times of stress or upset as well instead of binging or other self abuse. I love breathing the fresh air, I love feeling my body warm up and hum with energy. I love witnessing the wildlife that lives around me and watching the trees transform throughout the year. And I love how powerful it makes me feel, to know that I took my body from a wasted pile of flesh to a machine that can power through whatever I throw at it with enough perseverance. Now I can bound up and down the stairs without panting and fatigue and it’s helped peel back my depression as well.
So today, I got the urge to try running a little. I wanted to challenge myself and see how I would do. I hadn’t tried it yet, I’ve never enjoyed running, I was never good at it. I remember back to the shame of gym class during my school years, the dreaded annual timed physical fitness test where we were expected to complete a mile in twenty minutes. I’d invariably be the last to complete, or not even have enough time to complete it, I would amble along out of breath and humiliated, feeling the disgust and frustration of the gym teacher as they watched me shuffle past.
So today, I said let’s do this. I did three sprints. For my first lap, I just walked as usual and for the next three laps I ran a sprint from my driveway to see how far I could make it. I didn’t make it tremendously far, maybe three light poles as a marker before I had a little pain and felt winded, but overall it felt… good! I was shocked that my body didn’t immediately cry out in pain, that I was able to recover by the end of each lap to try it again. I didn’t feel discouraged, but quite the opposite. I felt like this is something new I can add to my life now. My body isn’t conditioned to it, so just like I had to work my way up with the walking I will have to work my way up with this but I’m excited to try.
The biggest area of difference is my attitude about it. I didn’t berate myself for not being able to run all the way, an unrealistic goal for someone who has never done so. I didn’t tell myself that it’s because I’m still so huge and fat and a failure at life like I did when I began walking. At some point of my evolution I’ve learned to be kind to myself and accepting of my limitations, challenging them in small and achievable ways and celebrating success even if it is minor.
My new goal is to make it to being able to run fully around the block one time. No time frame, no deadline, no pressure. I just want to work my way up to being able to do that, to know that if the zombies come I can outpace them by a quarter mile without keeling over. That seems reasonable enough to me.
And I know I’ll achieve it in the end.