Monday, March 17, 2014

Running in Circles. Lift heavy things.

Last week, for the first time, I ran a ten-minute mile. Three times.

Now, I know a ten-minute mile is nothing to brag about, but I'm someone who has never in her life been fit. I should celebrate. With cookies.

A few years back, I shared an office (we do that here at the Big G) with someone who had a very different experience of fitness. Who had apparently been a sponsored runner at some point in his life, a concept so alien to me, I had to wonder whether it was really such an impossible thing. I decided to give it a try. (I did not decide to try the many other things he had also done, like rappelling out of helicopters face-first).

Of course I wanted to control my weight, which was ballooning due to the endless food at work, but I also was worried about my heart. I had occasional spells of dizziness and near-blackouts, prompted by nothing. My blood pressure is actually low, and I found out that my heart rate was insanely high. I got a Polar heart rate monitor and included bringing my heart rate down as a measurable goal.

I'm a person who needs the details simple and spelled out. My friend mentioned a good running shoe store and I dutifully went and got sized up and bought whatever they told me. At first, I started by running with Paul, around the neighborhood. Then we found a nearby track at the fancy local high school, and did run-walk sessions there. I pretty quickly ended up going to physical therapy for a weird foot/ankle pain. But did not give up.

After we moved to Sunnyvale, and there was no track nearby, I found that I ended up happier running indoors on a treadmill, due to the opportunity to completely tune out the world around me. No dog poop, no cars, no creepy dude sneaking up behind me while I rocked out to the angry music of my youth. Just me, running. It was easy to figure out. Not a lot of fussing with circuits and reps, methods or partners. Just me, running. I started running longer, and little faster. My heart rate was still very high, but I no longer had blood pressure drops that used to nearly knock me out.

I got pregnant. I read a book that told me not only could I keep running, but it would lead to the very best outcomes. I kept at it, until sometime around the 5th/6th month when round ligament pain left my in pain for a 45-minute spell after work one day. Then I tried to switch to bicycle, but as always I HATE bicycle, and abandoned exercise during pregnancy.

After Molly, we bought a treadmill since I couldn't very well leave to run during her naps, but I could be in the garage. I ran... sometimes. Not very often. I am a person who needs simple, spelled out details. When I finally got back to running, it was because I bought a C25K app. I need a simple plan. C25K got e back into running. Then, of course, back to the physical therapist, this time for sacroiliac pain that appeared after Molly was born, and had gotten progressively worse to the point where I could barely move by the time I got help. That one is still with me, but I manage it a little better now. And I didn't give up. I tried to keep running once I got my PT's go-ahead.

I was sporadic for a while, then a coworker asked me to be her gym buddy for a while. It was the first time I set foot in the gym at work since before Molly was born. But it worked. I started going 3-4 times/week. Just running. But? I was till quite slow, and my heart rate has never really gotten any better. And it was not helping me lose weight at all.

I added a GBarre class weekly (something kind of like this), the first time I've really ever enjoyed any gym class. I think I like it because it's slow and controlled. I don't like jumping around a ton and a fast-paced class just makes me relive an entire childhood of feeling like I'm the only idiot two steps behind a body of people who appear to effortlessly "get it." After the first class, it was three days before I could walk normally again. I loved it.

But after all this, I still could not lose weight, I still could not control my heart rate, and running was starting to get boring with no progress. I like to track because I think that if I track, I'll see progress, which will motivate me. I did not see progress in spite of my .

Enter fitocracy. I don't remember what link led me to it, but I thought I'd give it a whirl. As I said, I like simple, clear plans and tracking my workouts is probably what I had in mind. But I started to hear the same things over and over. Something about "Starting Strength." I already knew I hated endless circuits of special maneuvers and isolation machines at a gym. I already knew I had been baffled every time a trainer had shown me 5-10 different moves to do while jumping up and down on a bosu ball while juggling dumbells and balancing on one foot. I respond best to simple, clear instructions. I decided to take a stab at it, and started telling anyone who would listen, lest I chicken out. I signed up for a trainer at work and said I wanted to learn barbell squats, deadlifts (I didn't really even know what a deadlift was), bench press, clean (I had NO IDEA what that was), and press (again, only kind of knowing what that meant). My trainer showed up and seemed to question my motivations at first. But he's coming around and I love the attention to form. I want and need to do this right. He is really concerned about any small deficiencies which might hurt my back. But actually, my back hurts less now than it did a few weeks ago. I am convinced that if I can properly do these classic, compound movements, I can actually reduce my sacroiliac problems in the long run.
Look, I'm not trying to be an olympic lifter, and I don't even think I'll ever lift very heavy, but if I can learn to do these things, and do them properly, I can quietly go about my simple business of becoming a more awesome version of myself. Without the confusion of the latest trendy methods.

A few years ago, this would have been the least likely thing I would ever have thought-- that I'd be running and trying to do weird gym-bro stuff. No way. Those of us who never found our way in the gym are not really able to go to the gym. We get there and feel uncomfortable from the start. We don't know where to go, how to stand, what to do, and in what order/repetition. We feel stared at and ridiculed (mostly imagined) and that's before we even get to the process of exercise! The gym is for people who are already fit and it's terrifying to try to get started so late. But here we are.

I'm glad for the people who have helped push me along. My coworker who runs ( a "real" runner, while I am more of a jogger I suppose based on my slowness) and just gently nudged me and kept saying I was running when I insisted my slowness meant I was just jogging. My friend who asked me to go to the gym with her until I couldn't say no, and just kept telling me it didn't matter what we did there, as long as we WENT. And the random strangers on Fitocracy who show their efforts and kindly offer support for anyone who is interested in becoming more awesome.

Maybe someday I will be able to do my very first pull-up?

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