Couch potato.Walk.Run: the evolution of healthy me

Since today is national running day, I thought I might be fun to  reflect on why I started to Run….again.

The first time I ever ran seriously was in middle school– I vividly remember being on the track and long distance teams.  For track, the 200m and 4 x100 were my races and I did extremely well. As far as long distance–well it’s long distance. I can’t even remember how far we had to run. I just know it seemed like forever…lol

Too bad I didn’t keep that up through high school and college. In high school, it wasn’t an option because my mother worked long hours and needed my help around the house. By the time I got to college, I sort of hated any form of exercise and scoffed at the fact that I had to take phys ed for a semester my freshman year. My idea of exercising was going to the club and grinding on some dude, doing some “strolling” with my sorority sisters, or stuffing my face with food in the caf. That was the perfect way to work up a sweat.

When I got to graduate school, I vowed to be better. I had a free membership to one of the largest (if not the largest) university gyms in the United States with more than 8 floors of varying activities and an excellent workout room with weights and machines on the fourth floor. I can probably count on my hands the amount of times I stepped in that room over the course of my 6 years in school. Although I did take some cool classes–Bhangra, Pilates, and Belly Dancing. But I didn’t finish any of them. I would quit mid way through.

Even if I used the excuse that I was in the lab 50+ hours a week in graduate school, I couldn’t when I started my postdoctoral fellowship in North Carolina. I had ample time to work out–but still I didn’t. I think the only exercise related things I did was to take a pole fitness class and to walk around this lake close to my apartment occasionally. But that’s it.

I was comfortable in the fact that I was genetically skinny and had height to hide my weight. But skinny doesn’t equal healthy. When I moved back to New Haven to take my current position, one of my friends asked me to run a 5K with her. I figured why not? I didn’t train, didn’t eat right, or even get proper running shoes. Boy was I naive and in for a treat. By the time I finished run/walking the 5K, I was nauseous and almost threw up. It took me over a week to walk normal and not like I had a stick up my butt.

But that humiliating experience inspired me to finally get my act together and to take better care of my body. I began to be more conscious about what I put into my body and I vowed to run the whole 5K next year without stopping. So I went to a running store and got properly fitted for shoes. And then I started to train.  Enter Couch to 5K. This program helped me so much–last January 2011, I couldn’t even run 5 minutes without being out of breath or stopping. But I slowly built up stamina. I pushed myself when I had set backs and I by the time the next 5K rolled around, I was able to run without stopping.

I was perfectly content with that landmark until my friend Nicole challenged me to do a 10K before I moved to Baltimore.  I didn’t believe I could finish a 10K, but last weekend I did. And now I will be doing a 1/2 marathon in October.  Last year, I wouldn’t have even considered to sign up for 13.1 miles–but here I am.  I learned so much about running over the past few months and realized that I need to really integrate more cross training in my marathon prep. I scoffed at yoga for a long time, but I realize now how that will help me improve my breathing.

What you eat when you are in training is VERY important as well. I realized that I really need to step up my nutrition game and cut back on all of my snacks. Too bad there isn’t a “Running University”. I really could benefit from being immersed in the best practices of running.

It is amazing how far I have come in less than two years–from couch potato to runner. I still haven’t mastered the running thing but I am learning what works for my body and learning how to tell my negative voice to “shut up”. The mind is such a powerful weapon–it can push you to succeed or stop you in your tracks.

Step by step, mile by mile, I am carving out a better me and I look forward to where I will be health wise another two years from now.

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