Today I forked out $99 for a pair of running shoes. There were scientific looking machines that measured my gait, my stance and my balance (turns out I am very balanced – I almost asked to have that in writing. My husband will never believe it.). The sales person went to a lot of trouble. We tried 3 different shoes and she offered me a pair for $170, managing not to wince or wrinkle her nose when I asked rather sheepishly if there were any on special. Having only just taken up running I am not nearly fanatical enough yet to spend close to $200 on a pair of glorified sneakers.
If you had told me a year ago that I would take up running and get hooked within a week I’d have offered to refer you to a good psychologist I know who specialises in treating the delusional. SO not going to happen. Running is why we invented bicycles. Waaaay too much like hard work. And yet… and yet… it began as a whim, rather like the time I shaved my hair. My husband has been telling me for years that running builds stamina and would improve my cycling, and I have time and time again said “Never.”
I’m a cosmopolitan sophisticate
Of culture and intelligence
The culmination of technology
And civilized experience
But I’m carrying the weight of all the useless junk
A modern man accumulates
I’m a statistic in a system
That a civil servant dominates
And all that means is that I’m running on ice
Caught in the vise so strong
I’m slipping and sliding, cause I’m running on ice
Where did my life go wrong
You’ve got to run, run, run, whoa-oh-oh-oh
You’ve got to run, run, run, whoa-oh-oh-oh
As fast as I can climb
A new disaster every time I turn around
As soon as I get one fire put out
There’s another building burning down
They say this highway’s going my way
But I don’t know where it’s taking me
It’s a bad waste, a sad case, a rat race
It’s breaking me
Running on Ice, Billy Joel
Regular readers and those who know me well may remember that I have a bad record with the N word. I have been frustrated over the last year of trauma and health challenges, watching my weight rise and my stamina sink. I ride my bike several times a week for commuting or shopping purposes, and I walk a lot, but I haven’t pushed my physical limits in years. I was stagnating.
Half way through December last year I was idly speculating about how little time there is to socialise with a particular friend, when my husband joked that I’d have to take up running to spend more time with her. And there it was. A pregnant pause. An indefinable moment during which I failed to brandish the N word. I actually thought about it.
The next day I pulled on my ancient sneakers and headed off around the block twice. Now, it’s a largeish block. Twice around it amounted to around 2.5km. The day after I did it again. And for the next week I could barely walk, and I disturbed my workmates for days with small yelps every time I stood up or sat down. I stubbornly continued to use the stairs at work, but I couldn’t help moaning all the way up and all the way down. I suspect the rest of the staff thought there was a particularly heavy footed ghost haunting our new building.
Yet once my quads could flex without screams of agony, I did it again. This time I went slower and was careful to stretch. I also ran on grass in an attempt to lower the impact on my poor feeble body. And I did it again. And again. And again. I used an app on my phone, RunKeeper, that told me exactly how far and how fast I had gone. Like a super-enthusiastic best friend it told me about personal bests almost every run. Indeed, the first time I ran it beeped enthusiastically about how many personal bests I had just achieved – never mind that they were, in fact, personal firsts. Nonetheless for a geek like me the numbers were cheering – even the time the gps glitched and had me running out in the middle of Port Phillip Bay with a speed of around 52kph.
I was completely hooked on the blissed out endorphin rush I got when I stopped (yes, just like beating your head against the wall. Stopping is FABULOUS.). I was amazed at how fast I was improving. The first time I ran I did more walking than running. Within a week I was running for 25 minutes non-stop. For those of you who are regular runners that may not seem impressive, but to a committed non-runner like me it was a revelation.
I am fitter, stronger and have vastly improved stamina already. Much of that improvement may be psychological, but that’s not to be sniffed at. The mind is often harder to change than the body. Anything that makes me feel better and stronger is priceless. But here’s the thing: even though my kids don’t run with me, they seem to be getting fitter too. Perhaps because we are walking more and driving less. Perhaps it’s because they are running around more with me, and I am less likely to collapse into a chair and tell them to leave me alone. Perhaps it’s simply that being active is contagious. But this was a benefit I did not expect – that my own fitness level would directly impact on my kids.
With all the noise about the obesity crisis, I have heard all kinds of strange theories about combating it.
Ban junk food advertising.
Change the food in school canteens.
Add more exercise into the school curriculum.
Print their weight on their school report.
But nowhere have I ever seen the advice: Encourage their parents to be more active. Yet we are their role models, their inspirations, and the foundation of their lifestyles. We set the pace, the duration and the format of their lives to a huge degree. How can we expect them to be healthy and active if we drive them everywhere and spend our home lives slumped in front of facebook or the tv?
It can be hard to motivate ourselves to get fit. It’s probably one of the most broken New Year’s Resolutions of all. What if we knew it was crucial to our kids?
Running is my own private bliss. I zone out, becoming meditative and calm, and incredibly mindful, as I focus on just making it to the next milestone. It has had an incredibly positive impact on my life. And it helps my kids, both directly through their own fitness, and indirectly through their happier, less stressed out Mum.
I think I won the race.