Thursday, April 26, 2007

If I'm alive and well

I went running today. I've been putting it off all week. I've been doing reasonably well with my BodyRev workouts but am not maintaining sufficient motivation to make me proud of my efforts. I'm hereby committing to 30 minutes a day for the next week, motivated or no. But my resistance to doing what is good for me got me thinking.

I had a friend ask me what motivates me to exercise, and if there were some defining event that pushed me to it. It wasn't so much a defining event as a realization that if I stayed active I have a genetically excellent chance at a good quality of life into my 90s, but if I don't remain active I will probably need assisted living care for 30 years. Staying active is clearly the superior option. I like the idea of being active. I even think of myself as an active person: I like to hike, I walk fast, I take the stairs, my friend and I took several mile walks through Boston after work in the summers.

But at some point, I realized that I was no longer active when I went to physical therapy for my sore knees (which prevented hiking) and realized that it was only due to lack of muscle tone and I could hardly be bothered to do 20 leg lifts 3X a week. That's some serious sloth, despite walking up 12-16 flights of stairs every day and blowing glass several hours a week. I figured that even if I wasn't motivated for myself, there were people in the PT room with actual health problems and I owed it to them not to let my perfectly health body deteriorate through lack of attention.

I decided early in the summer of 2003 that I would have to seriously focus on exercise because I had reached the lowest level of fitness I could really tolerate. By July of 2003, I still hadn't figured out how to do this. I have had reasonable luck with aerobics classes and organized school sport regimens but little luck going it on my own. That might have been the year I signed up for an ultimate frisbee learners league and got rained out all but 2 days. My favorite author does online countdowns before book releases and that summer offered up a raffle prize of a fitness camp. I thought about it and decided to go whether or not I won the raffle. I did not win the raffle, but I made a winning decision.

I thought about all my goal setting learnings and printed off the camp schedule and chose the activities I wanted to do and wrote down what fitness level I would have to achieve in a year and other things, like recertifying in SCUBA. I also decided that despite hating running more than just about anything, I would learn to run 1.5 miles. It seemed an impossible goal. Yet still, I found myself in August without a clue how to go on. It was not until I found that about 50 other readers had the same intention and had formed a yahoo group and were getting online fitness advice from the former Navy SE.AL running the camp that I finally made some headway. I took a little mocking for my "online fitness group" but it really helped.

I learned things about how to conduct a workout that I'd never learned before. I learned that doing a run/walk/run/walk combo is an acceptable way to build running endurance. I got the recommended videotapes his buddy made to build core, arm, and leg strength. I also realized I'd have to give up all my extra-curricular activities but the glassblowing in order to make my health a top priority. No classes at Harv.ard Ex.tention, no chorus. But I needed a gym membership and I needed to go as if I were getting a grade. My brother got me a heart monitor, and I learned that I like treadmills because I can generate loads of data.

Much to my surprise, I surpassed all my goals. Within 6 months I was running 5Ks and not hating it. I worked up to 3 sets of 10 pushups on my toes. I was doing 30 4-count flutter kicks. I went to SEAL camp and met all the online workout ladies and enjoyed myself. I started running around Fresh Pond with another friend. And even with some occasional yoga, I got my muscles all clenched up.

The clenched muscles lead to plantar fasciitis. While I still have the ab workout from the tapes memorized and can do 20 4-count flutter kicks, I have not gone running more than a couple times since the fall of 2005. I've finally got some shoes and shoe inserts that allow me to walk without pain and I'm giving the running a try again. Even with my recent BodyRev workouts with cardio, it's not the same as continuous running. Running hurts and I don't like it. But I do like what it does for me - makes me trimmer, healthier generally, takes multiple seconds off my swimming lap times, and allows me to be truly active. So I'm going to do it again, but I'm going to stretch more this time.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will use you for inspiration!! :) I have been excited for friends who have been losing weight, and my goal is to be 20 pounds lighter by summer's end, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff tendonitis and hip bursitis be damned...

freakin' old age...mumble,mumble

'kerrit'

Alaskan Hellcat said...

whoot! whoot! you go girl!!

I can't wait to meet you in June so we can go for a walk/run/walk together :)

farmwifetwo said...

Exercise is one of those things that every time I get started... life gets in the way... so we'll just keep starting again :)

S

CrankyOtter said...

So yeah, I'd like to be 20 pounds lighter too! I think if I do just a little more than I'm doing now I'll make headway. But I tend to do better with short bursts of intensity than with sustained moderate effort. I should be able to get myself up to a reasonable run distance in a month and a half... oh. Working backward, that means I need to run more than 1X/week...

Anonymous said...

Hey, we can walk around the lake in Westlake. It's about 4.8 miles and easy. Used to do this for years, but haven't done it since daylight savings kicked in again. Easy to do after work for you. What do you think?

kara

CrankyOtter said...

Walking around westlake. I dig it! In looking for that clip of the faulty airplane ride, I noticed that the friend who blogged that goes hiking after work with friends, and thought this would be a great idea for me too, so I'm pleased you spoke up. Plus we could maybe make beer happen. It's not like a wilderness lake or something...

janet w said...

I'm afraid to ask this question because I have never ever not-even-once been a runner and I do NOT want to blow out my knees: is running the biggest bang for the buck exercise around -- I hike tons -- or is it less time needed for it ... that is, 1 hour of hiking = 20 minutes of running ... what's the answer?

And thanks for the fitness journey story :)