What me run? Not all that long ago, I would've laughed to your face as I went to get a refill on my bowl of potato chips. I'd probably still be chuckling to myself as I grabbed a couple of Slim Jims on the way back to my parking spot in front of the television.
It's not that I was a total stranger to physical activity. Through my 20s and early 30s I weight trained regularly along with cardio. But now, in my early 40s with two small children, graying hair and ballooning waistline, those days were far in the rear view mirror. And running? Not my bag. Back in the day when I was in the gym, I avoided the treadmill like the Black Plague wrapped in the Hanta virus.
Summer of 2011. While on vacation, I took my 2 and 6 year olds to a playground near Grandma's house to play. On the way back my youngest asked to ride on my shoulders. I hoisted her aboard and less than half a kilometer up the street I developed a stabbing pain in my knee and had to have her dismount. When she asked what was wrong, I was so winded it took a couple of minutes to spit out an explanation that resulted in her having to walk the rest of the way beside her limping Dad. After dragging my sorry carcass back to the house, I popped a couple of ibuprofen, massaged my sore knee then hopped on the scale. 266 lbs. 42 years old and 266 lbs. How could this have happened? Of course I knew the answer to that question before the neurons in my brain had even finished formulating the thought. It all boiled down to a simple equation:
2 kids + stressful job + no time + eating like a 10 year castaway who'd just been rescued + whatever other excuses you'd care to toss in = Me.
Without wanting to seem too Dr. Phil-ish, I guess that was my "light bulb" moment. The grim reality was that if I wanted to be around to see my kids grow up, I was going to have to do something different. Something different from doing nothing. "Doesn't sound too bad," I thought to myself. I just needed to figure out what that "something" was.
I knew from experience that a return to the gym wasn't in the cards. That, I decided for various reasons, wasn't who I was anymore. But I had criteria - a checklist if you will. I needed an activity that I could do at or close to home, preferably with little monetary investment. It also had to be something that I could start in a clandestine manner not unlike a top-secret Navy Seal operation, lest I flame-out and fail miserably. Given my condition at the time, the odds of achieving any success, I thought, weren't exactly in my favour. Therefore, if I was to crash and burn, I would prefer it happen in complete isolation.
While surfing the web one day I stumbled on an 8 week program by Christine Luff that was essentially designed to take the average Joe from, well, an average Joe to someone who could run for 30 minutes straight.
"Could that really apply to me?" I asked myself. Surely this was meant for someone else. I mean it had been years since I had done any physical activity of any significance - and c'mon...it was running. The one activity I had always said wasn't for me. The one activity that evoked an image of Homer J Simpson echoing his trademark "BOR-ING" in my head. Still, one of my older brothers had been running for most of his life and my older sister had taken it up only in the last 4 years. Perhaps there was a speck of DNA, some thread of family heredity that I could leverage. And, after all, it did meet my my rigorous Hi-Lo checklist criteria. So named for the state of high self-consciousness and low self-esteem that I found myself in at the time. "OK," I said. "I'll give it a shot."
The emphasis of this particular program was to start slow. "Not a problem" I thought to myself, "I can do slow." It stepped through 8 weeks of varying and increasing ratios of running to walking, building up to an 8th week where the subject would find him or herself running for 30 continuous and glorious minutes. Was I skeptical? Yes. But I was also fat. "Biggest Loser" fat and I needed to do something about it. Fortunately the need to actually do something and get going outweighed the skepticism, so I started a journey of a thousand miles by taking that first step that that mega-smart Chinese dude referred to a couple of millenia ago.
Mornings were my time of choice for a couple of reasons. First, I had to get up for work anyway. And if I got up a little earlier, I'd be out and back before anyone else in the house slipped out of their state of REM and gained consciousness. The other major advantage to this time of day was the distinct lack of daylight. This was key, as I didn't want any of the locals to see their former sedentary neighbor huffing and chuffing his way around the local roads. With my rural area's distinct lack of streetlights, I surmised, the most anyone would see would be a shadowy figure slowly making it's way past their house. They'd likely chalk it up to a slow moving, perhaps injured, black bear or some similar sized form of wildlife." I had this reoccurring fear that if I ran when I could be seen by others, someone would actually see me and dash out of their house to see what was wrong.
Like some warped version of a Lassie episode, they would desperately try to extract from me a description of what must be a most dire situation as I tried without success to say something, anything, between wheezes and gasps. "What is it boy? Trouble? Is someone in trouble? Are you in trouble? Is it fire? Is someone after you? Aliens? Is it aliens? It's aliens isn't it? Good Lord. Martha!," he would yell over his shoulder toward the house. "It's the end of days! Get the canned goods, puffed wheat & shotgun and head for the root cellar!" I couldn't go through that, so a blanket of darkness was what I needed for those first weeks at the very least.
The next 8 weeks weren't exactly what I would call easy, but most surprisingly, they weren't exactly the end of days either. The progress that I made each week seemed to fuel the desire to keep going the following week. I followed the plan to a tee....then I got a bright idea
To be Continued...
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