Thursday, April 18, 2013

Running on empty

For a few months this winter I had some icky mental health issues (which have since been resolved. Apparently hormonal birth control can cause major anxiety and panic attacks. THE MORE YOU KNOW) and before I figured out what was causing it, I prescribed myself leafy greens and exercise to try to combat the issue.

The leafy greens are easy. Salads galore, or else I shove a bunch of spinach in the blender along with some various fruits and have a delightful smoothie. The exercise part was a little harder, though. I enjoy weight lifting, but I have chronic tendinitis in my right wrist and have to be careful with that. Yoga, same problem; all those planks and downward dogs just about destroyed my hand. Walking gets boring, and I get very shy about group exercise classes (because I'm just weird that way).

So I started thinking about running. The sadistic gym teachers in high school made me loathe it with the fire of a thousand suns, as the saying goes, and up until now if you ever saw me running you had best get out of the way in a hurry, since there was probably a rabid bear chasing me. But I kept hearing about the Couch to 5K program, and people kept talking about how it changed their lives, and I figured what the hell, it can't hurt to try.

So I did. I found a nifty little app for my phone with voice prompts and set off. The first day was hard, I'm not going to lie. I was woefully out of shape and could barely manage the 60-second run intervals. But I got through it, and amazingly, instead of feeling like I wanted to die afterward, I felt exhilarated. It was bizarre.

And I kept going. Eventually I got myself fitted for a good pair of running shoes (which has made a tremendous difference) and got a little armband thing to hold my phone, and I go running three times a week. I'm almost done with week 3 now, and even though at the beginning I had a hard time running for 60 seconds, now I'm up to 3-minute run intervals and it's perfectly manageable. I just take it easy, go slow, and do what the robots tell me, and it's all good!

The difference this has made in just one month is astounding. My mood is better (although that's partly due to going off the hormones), my lung capacity has improved tremendously, and you should see the muscles in my legs. Clearly this is working!

So I am here to tell you, if you've ever thought about taking up running but find yourself hating every second of it, give Couch to 5K a try. As with most things, if you take it slow and sensible, it will be much easier. I can actually believe now that eventually I'll be able to run a 5K, and I'm even thinking about registering for a race to give myself something to work toward. I never, ever would have considered that before, and it's pretty amazing.

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