My running journey
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Running can be an intimidating sport for someone who is new to exercise or who is overweight and not used to this type of rigorous activity. I can say this because I was that person. I began running 3 years ago, about one year after the birth of my first child and a 50 pound weight gain. I remember running for something like 30 seconds and it seemed like I’d been running for 5 minutes. When I checked my watch I was dumbfounded by how little I was actually able to endure. Nonetheless, I kept going. I’d run for however long I could, usually between 30 seconds and one minute and then I’d walk for 5 to 10 minutes. Looking back it was actually quite amusing!
It’s funny because I remember thinking how embarrassed I was running outside for fear that someone would see me and laugh at my form or the overweight person doing this run/walk on the side of the road. Of course, the biggest fear was that they would see my fat that I could feel jiggling under my arms, my belly and my inner thighs. People used to tell me to keep with it because my running would improve. Even though I didn’t believe them, I kept going. I was determined to prove someone wrong; them or myself. Every time I ran, I’d check my watch and realize that I was able to run a little longer and walk a little less.
Someone once told me that if you want to lose weight, running is the best exercise. The only problem was that running was so hard on me because I had the extra weight to lose. It’s sort of a catch-22! I came to the conclusion that I had to run hard enough to get my heart rate up into my fat-burning zone and keep it there. I would run and then walk about the speed of a turtle to catch my breath but what I didn’t realize was that I was actually lowering my heart rate too much so I wasn’t really burning very much fat. Because I couldn’t physically run long enough to stay in my target fat-burning zone, I decided to run and then speed walk. I was exhausted and remember feeling like I was going to throw up so I knew I was definitely working hard! Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to die if I didn’t walk like a turtle, I actually started to lose weight and become a faster runner.
After about a year of running and weight lifting, I was smaller and fitter than I had ever been in my life. The best part was that I could run about 10 km in less than an hour. I couldn’t believe it! I could even run pushing my baby in a running stroller. For those of you out there who are in a similar situation, I know you can appreciate that as a major accomplishment.
Let’s fast-forward to the present. I had my second baby 9 months ago and gained 65 pounds this time. I stopped running and weight training during this pregnancy; need I say more! I started running again at about 5 months. This time around I purchased a treadmill and ran at home until it was warm enough to head back outside. This time, I needed a major goal to get back into running and in shape. If you’ve had a baby, you know how hard it is on our bodies and how long it could take to get back into the groove. In March, I joined the running room aspiring to run in a 10K race in May. That gave me 2 months to train. Now let’s remember that I gained 65 pounds and did not do much exercise for 9 months.
I was determined to do this race. The first night at the running room, I was so nervous because I had never run with anyone before, even when I was in great shape after my first child. I had no idea how long we would be running for or how many people there were going to be or if I would be able to keep up. As scared as I was, I went to my first clinic and when I got there I breathed much easier because low and behold, most of the people there were in the same predicament as me. I couldn’t believe it, I felt so reassured. Everyone ran at different speeds and in fact, the clinic days were “short run” days so we didn’t run more than 4 km. However, during the 10K clinic they teach you how to run what they call 10 and 1’s. This means you run for 10 minutes and then walk for 1 minute. (Now keep in mind that the running room does have other clinics like learn to run, just women, 5K, etc…) The reason that I decided to join the 10K was because I ran before as mentioned above. I really wanted to challenge myself. 5K would have probably been a great challenge in itself but I believe that we need to push ourselves to the limit.
As I was training for the race in May, I also started kickboxing and increased my weight training. When learning to run, it’s great to do other activities as well because then you get full body conditioning and you’re getting in even better shape. While I was training, I started to experience some serious pain in my knees; that’s not good! After going to see my doctor, he told me that I had a displaced patella. That means that my knee cap was sort of loose and basically would move when I ran and would hurt like hell! I iced it, taped it, and stretched it…it still hurt! But, I was determined to do this race. I went for physiotherapy and my physiotherapist showed me how to do some exercises to strengthen the inside of my knee. She also showed me how to properly tape my knee without a tensor band wrapped all the way around, cutting off my circulation.
Of course, when doing any type of activity, you really need to check with your doctor periodically, especially if you are experiencing pain. It is one thing to push yourself to the limit, it is another thing to hurt yourself and do permanent damage. That being said, I am stubborn and I continued to run and kickbox. (I did have permission from my physiotherapist to proceed with caution!) However, I did slow down with kickboxing and did more punching than kicking. This seemed to help a little.
The week before the race, I developed some kind of chest cold and could not stop coughing and actually could barely move. I thought that maybe this was a sign that I should give myself more time to train for the next race. Then I looked into my children’s eyes and found strength. For that entire week, I did nothing but rest to prepare for that race.
I am happy to report that after all the training, I did it! I’m not going to lie; I struggled with cramping and minor pain. I took cough drops, carried lots of Kleenex, put a ton of tiger balm on my knee before taping it and finished the 10K race in May in 1 hour and 8 minutes. This is not bad for my first time, with all the obstacles I faced that day and not to mention carrying this extra weight which is yet to come off.
The ultimate reward was seeing my family and friends at the end of the race, cheering me on and placing my medal on my 3 and a half year olds neck. He was so proud of me and even though he is still a little young to understand, I just taught him one the most important things in life: “don’t give up”! He knew that I was sick and had a sore knee and at the end of the race, the expression on his face was priceless.
When learning to run or learning to do any new sport, you need to find motivation somewhere. You need someone to encourage you, especially if you are facing an obstacle. My obstacles were very miniscule compared to others facing disease and illness but nonetheless they were obstacles to me. I found a way to overcome them and accomplish my goal just like others who ran with diabetes, cancer, etc… just being there and moving is motivating to others and though we seek motivation from others, we actually are motivators to others as well. Remember that when you strap on your shiny new white running shoes and head for the side walk your first time. Hold your head up high and reach for the stars, it may take a while, but with determination, you’ll get there. Promise! And the reward is satisfaction, there’s no better feeling in this world!