Friday, October 19, 2012

The Good Enough Mom Becomes a Runner (Sort of)

I write this by way of encouraging myself to get back in the exercise groove, which is so much harder for me during the school year with its busy schedule and cold mornings and dark afternoons . . .

If you asked me what my hobbies are, I don't think exercise would make the list. I view it as a necessary evil, one which I sometimes subject myself to and sometimes do not. And running has always been one of my least favorite of all the exercise options.

So when daughter #2 asked to do the same school-based girls' running program that daughter #1 did a few years ago that involves a parent running a 5K with their daughter, I looked at my out-of-shape and on-the-bad-side-of-35 body, and I said, "sure, I can do that!" And then the next day I started running. Well, really it was shuffling. This time around I actually had to start on week 1 or 2 of the couch to 5K program, rather than jumping in at week 6 like I used to be able to do. It was pathetic, really. But I did it.

So here I am, 8 or so months later, and I can run 3 miles without stopping in under 30 minutes. Or I can run 5-plus miles with a few stints of walking. Here's what I've learned in the process:

1) Running is a good way to clear your mind. I still find it somewhat unpleasant while I'm running (although running outside on a trail makes it almost enjoyable), but I always feel better afterwards, and now I find that I look forward to running because I like the way I feel after I'm done.

2) Running will not necessarily help you lose weight, but it will tone you and help you feel better in whatever body you have. Weight loss would have been nice, but I'm satisfied that it's still been worth it even without that.

3) Anyone can run. Really. You may be shuffling for 1 minute at a time and thinking it'll kill you when you start out, but stick with it and you'll get better. I promise. And if you feel like everyone is secretly laughing at your pathetic shuffle, they aren't. They are either thinking "good for her!" or  "she's shuffling just like me!"

4) You have to run regularly, but 30 minutes three times a week is enough to make progress. All spring and summer I ran at least every three days. If I took 2 days off, I made myself run the next day because I was afraid otherwise I'd never get back to it. And sometimes I did better after taking 2 days off than after taking only one day off. In theory, an hour and a half a week is such a small amount of time that anyone can fit it in, but I have to admit it's been very hard for me to even find that much time since school started.

5) Tracking your miles is very motivating. I used, but there are many ways to do this. My plan for next year is to set a mileage goal for the year.

So there you have it--sort of a non-runner's running guide. I still marvel at people who can run marathons, or who take months at a time off and can still go out and run a 5K with ease, or who can have a baby and then a few months later run a half marathon like it's no big deal (Abby and Leah, I'm talking about you!), but at least I can run a little, and I'm in better shape at 36 than I was at 26.

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