I’m not a runner, but I play one on TV

I ran a 5 K yesterday, just to see if I could.

I can. And I did. Without even stopping. Not bad, huh?

I’m not a runner by nature. I’ve dabbled in it, but I’m really not a runner. Some people just get out there and run, like my husband. And I have a lot of friends who’ve done those Couch-to-5k programs recently. I’ve always been sort of intrigued by the concept of gradually moving from being slug to being a runner. For one thing, it seems a lot less daunting than just trying to run on your own, and for another, it seems so easy to just follow a prescribed routine. I’ve been telling myself that maybe I should try it out, too.

I had let my overall fitness level slide since breaking my ankle last summer, and I wanted to just get more active again. So I’ve been trying to just get back to a baseline level of fitness recently. I figured that I needed to do that before trying to run. Okay, and yes, I wanted to lose the rest of the baby weight that I packed on with my second son, who will turn one next week. I’ve been walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine several days per week, and doing weights, too.

One day last week, I decided to try running for five minutes in the middle of a 45-minute treadmill session. And you know what? It felt pretty good. I decided to run for five more minutes. At the end of the ten minutes, I slowed the treadmill speed back down to a walk and congratulated myself. The best part? I felt okay afterward, too.

So yesterday, I thought, “Hey, I’ll try that again. Maybe I can run a whole mile today in the middle of my workout.” So I walked about a mile first. Then I bumped up the speed on the treadmill to 5.4 and ran for about 5 or 6 minutes. Then I bumped it up to 5.5 mph and ran for another ten minutes. At that point, I was feeling pretty good. I’d already run more than a mile, and I thought, “Okay. I can run. I could probably work my way up to running a whole 5K this spring without too much trouble.”

So I decided to keep going, so I could hit an even 20 minutes running. At the 20-minute mark, I decided to see if I could make it two miles, since I was nearly there. I did. And then I decided to bump it up to 5.6. And after a few minutes, I bumped it up to 5.7 and ran for about three minutes at that speed, then bumped it back down again. When I hit the the three mile mark, I decided, “What the heck. I can say I did the whole 3.2 miles if I run just a little bit more.” So I did that, too.

Essentially, I ran 3.2 miles (after walking one mile) by sort of persuading myself along the way to keep going. By seeing exactly how far I’d already run on the treadmill screen, I was able to tell myself that I could make it a little bit further and hit the one-mile mark, or the two-mile mark, or whatever. I was able to keep my speed at a managable (for me) level, so I wasn’t feeling too winded. I actually felt like I hit a little bit of a stride, in fact, which is what allowed me to occasionally boost the speed a bit.

After I hit the 3.2 mile mark, I slowed the treadmill back down to 4.0 mph and walked about another five or six minutes to cool down. All told, I put in a little more than 4.5 miles in one session. That’s about a mile more than I’ve been averaging during my three-or-four-times-per-week walking sessions. (I tend to walk at varying speeds at varying heights, to maximize the workout.) A friend warned me to load up on the ibuprofen last night, just in case my body decided it hated me for pushing it. I took 200 mg before bed and I woke up this morning feeling fine. My right knee was a little sore at first, but it’s been like that, off and on, for weeks now.

So. 3.2 miles! That may not sound like much to many of you out there. But for me, that was significant. The last time I ran that much at one time was the summer before I got married. In 2002. I was a lot younger and a lot more active in general back then, plus I had more time to devote to working out. But I also had the big white dress in my closet motivating me to climb on the treadmill and walk/run 3 or 4 miles after work most days.

But the reason I was able to do it this time was because I didn’t really set out to do it. I know, that sounds weird. It sounds counterintuitive: “don’t set goals for yourself!” is not exactly a rallying cry for persistence or achievement, is it? You won’t see that slogan on motivational posters. You won’t see an app for that. But it worked for me. I was able to sort of trick myself into it by telling myself just to go a little bit further, then a little bit further than that. And it worked. For me. It might not work for someone else, but I know how I work. And you have to work with what you’ve got. Maybe tricking myself into running is goofy, but it works for me. If you find a strategy that works for you, then go with it.

Will I do it again? Will I go out and run 3.2 miles (or more) again? I want to say yes. In fact, I will say yes. It won’t happen every day. It didn’t happen today–I had too much other stuff going on. And tomorrow, I’ve got a freelance article due, plus two meetings to attend, and a child to ferry back and forth to preschool. But I think that, because I proved to myself that I can do it, I will be more likely to do it again soon. For me, it really is at least half mental. Once I know I can do something, it becomes easier for me to do it again.

But I think I may need some new running shoes if I’m going to try to do this any more often. I was trying to remember when I bought these Brooks, and er, well, I bought them at the Road Runner store in San Diego before we moved back to Tennessee. We moved here in 2007. Oops.

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About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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6 Responses to I’m not a runner, but I play one on TV

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention I’m not a runner, but I play one on TV | Jennifer Larson, Writer at Large -- Topsy.com

  2. That’s awesome good for you! It is such an awesome feeling when you finish a 5k isn’t it? I know what you mean about not setting goals, in a way it allows freedom to run for as long as you want!

    ~David

  3. jenniferlarsonwrites says:

    Thanks, David! I guess we’ll see how well I do the next time I set out to run…

  4. Awesome, I look forward to hearing about it!

  5. Diane says:

    Jennifer, Your entry is very inspiring and rings true. Now that I’ve been back on an exercise routine for a little over a month, I’ve found out:

    1. I’m stronger than I thought I was.
    For example, I was using 7.5 pound free weights for some arm exercises and thought I was doing fine for just starting back into a routine. One day, there weren’t any 7.5s available. I moved up to 10 pounds and thought I’d just do a few reps, but managed to get through my usual two sets of 15 reps each. Today was the third time I used that weight and I’m still struggling a bit, but it’s coming.

    2. I can often go a little farther or faster on the aerobic machines than I thought I could. My experience is similar to yours – just push a little to the next milestone and I’m at a new level.

    3. Although the weight is not coming off rapidly, I feel myself getting stronger, having more endurance, and being more energetic in my daily life.

    4. I’m becoming more aware of making healthy choices in my diet and I’m not craving sweets. (I may need some birthday cake soon though!)

    Keep up your good work!

  6. Natalie says:

    So proud of you! Keep it up! Did you buy those shoes in 2006 when we met up at the Road Runner Store in San Diego after my Traditional Chinese Medicine conference? I’m still wearing the running skirt I bought that day! But it’s probably time for some new shoes – go to a specialty running store and have them fit you for the shoes you need. Do not just pick out a pair at the Foot Locker!

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