Running: Why I got off the couch and into the street

I’m ugly, bald, old, and fat. Given the aforementioned I can do little about the first three that won’t require substantial surgery or a time machine. Though surgery is always an option on the last so is simply not sitting in front of my computer and hitting refresh on my favorite websites.  Running to lose weight though is kind of like beating yourself with a cudgel so it feels good when you stop. I can’t say that I am to smart but I can pay attention and listen to my body. Mine told me to run.

Some people run away from things and some people don’t even get out of the way of things. I listened patiently to my wife with that declaration constantly ringing that we needed more exercise. She was literally begging me to get out running or walking. Every morning during the school year she would say lets walk the boys to school. Reluctantly and with a longing look towards my couch I would follower her all the way down to the school.

It struck me though that really I needed to do more. Listening to that raspy bellowing lethargic thrum staggering up the stairs at work I realized was me. Dragging my sagging posterior across campus was one thing, but doing so without having a heart attack was another. I have little to fear from exercise but really I don’t have the time. I read voraciously, write constantly, and don’t really have much time to be out puffing around the block. Well gasping, gagging, dragging, wheezing, and crawling back home. The end of the driveway being so freakishly far when wearing running shoes I break into a sweat thinking about it.

My spousal accessory unit (e.g. wife) has never really nagged me except for droning on and on about wanting to run. Finally I succumbed and started the Couch to 5K run program (C25K). To start is really simple. Get off the couch. Though to be honest I’m not running to lose weight, get better fit, or any of that stuff. I’m a little to selfish for that kind of grandiose stuff. I just want to feel better. I want to feel like I’m alive and my heart isn’t going to fall out of my chest. I want to be awake. I want to know that for at least thirty minutes (maybe more!) every other day or such I can spend some time in my head.

Now I’m pounding out a rhythm on the road with my shoes.

I used to run when I was in the Marines. I ran a lot. I hated it. My life was not my own and I ran when other people told me to run. I did what I was told. I craved anything but that driving must do attitude. I didn’t like running and running didn’t like me. I had many serious injuries. One x-ray of my shins showed hundreds of little stress factures in my leg bones. The doctor said it looked like glass. Another time I destroyed my knee on a straight leg drop into a hole. A friend in the Marines said I was a stumbler more than a runner.

I’m not in nearly that good of shape now. It’s been nearly 23 years so I forgive myself.

If I was a stumbler I’m a staggering now. I have goals. The first goal is to run a 5K race. Maybe the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, or similar. Goals though are sometimes easier to follow and harder to focus on. So, a race is not the reason for doing this thing. This thing is about feeling good every day not just one day in the future. After the 5K I know I will do a 10K (representing the longest I’ve ever run in the past). After that maybe a half marathon or similar. I don’t really know. Every day I reach my primary goal which is no regrets. I’ve done my run and I am injury free I have done my duty to myself. I feel pretty good with a lifetime fitness goal.

My wife and I changed the program a bit. We do each day of the C25K for week. Our progression is much slower that way but our chance of injury is much less too. As of this writing we are on Week 4 day 2. I don’t complete all the runs but I don’t stop either. I keep moving. I bounced off 200bpm heart rate on the first run and now have set a cap at 175 while running. When I start bouncing off that I dial everything way back. Still we are running an 8 minute mile pace pretty consistently.

They say if you take up an exercise program you should tell everybody. It will guilt you into continuing the program. I tell everybody because I have no regrets. I don’t know if I will be a life long runner. I’ve listened to some motivational books on tapes while traveling this year on marathons and ultra running. There is a lot of similarities in the mindset of these people to other people I know from long distance motorcycle riding and adventure touring. I think I have found similar people in many of these types of activities.

No matter how much beauty sleep I get I won’t wake up in the morning pretty. I can wake up rested and ready for the day. A good run is a mighty fine start of a morning. I have two little guys (9 year old twin boys) who LOVE running with me. I’m slow enough that they are easily able to run me in the dirt. But, they don’t. They motivate me, running alongside, less interested in being faster, better, stronger than running with me. Every day I run for myself I run for them too. I’d like to be the healthy 50 year old that can still get out of my own way. I’d like to be able to play football or baseball with them without dragging.

It is easy to stay on the couch.

A life is a continuing process effected by the parasitic losses and continuing erosion of enthusiasm. That is a life lived on the couch. I have to be honest running is not my only activity. I also do push ups, chin ups, squats, sit ups, and ride my bike. This wasn’t part of a doomed to failure new years resolution. This was a drastic change in diet, life style, and thinking. Purposeful, inclusive of changes in how I use technology, arrange my day, where I sit, and what I spend time on. I’m reading more books and less websites as an example. I am writing more for publication and less on my blog. I sit with my computer off the chargers (I only use laptops) somewhere nice, write, and when I run out of power I go do something for an hour. No more marathon after midnight sessions writing being distracted by students until 3AM.

Will I continue as the summer turns into fall and harsh Midwestern winter? I really don’t know. I have read that many quit as the bruising cold descends. I hope to build momentum rather than slide back to the couch for the winter retreat. I read in a popular book that European wheat farmers hide from insidious winter, while Chinese rice farmers take care of their fields year round. A cultural as well as physical change in seasons imprinted perhaps on the people. I see a life that may allow me more enjoyment for the investment of time and a harvest to be reaped year round. We shall see.

After 11 weeks I’ve dropped 4 belt holes, gained three inches in each leg, stopped panting thinking about walking outside, gained some clarity, lost 10 pounds, smile more, enjoy life a lot more, have lost that continuous tired sensation, and sleep the night through.

Time for a bike ride.

6 comments for “Running: Why I got off the couch and into the street

  1. mafaulkn
    July 29, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Did your wife say something to my wife? anyways I’m with you 100%. Fortunatley I belong to Omni Heath and Fitness and they just started their own version of the biggest loser contest. Not looking to win any prizes, just looking to lose weight and feel better. also, it would be nice to be around to see my son graduate from Purdue next year… good luck with your running…
    PS I hate running, ran once didn’t like it. I prefer riding the bike.

  2. Borton
    July 30, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Wait a minute, Sydney said you pushed HER to run. Sounds like this whole thing is just one big misunderstanding.

  3. sam
    July 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Mr. Borton, you know you can’t believe women. It was totally her idea. I’m a couch potato. She drug me out the door and has abused me. I’m a victim here.

  4. mvanbode
    July 31, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Like Mr Faulkner there, I enjoy a good bike ride. I have a hard time keeping injury free walking in Chicago. Maybe now with the summer semester over I can go back to the gym more. Maybe I will go for a 30 mile bike ride this Sunday. Kylie would love to go running, but I can’t. Slight case of asthma and bad case of allergies combine for a hard time breathing normally let along a hard workout.

  5. mvanbode
    August 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Well, I just started the C25K program. One day complete, I was able to run for longer and more than Kylie was. Legs feel like jello the day after. Hopefully I will improve over time

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