Saturday, August 2, 2008

Run Away

This is going to be slightly off-topic for my blog, but it's becoming a big part of my life so I just want to put it out there- let's talk about physical fitness! Now, I have a lot of friends that have monthly gym memberships, which I think is great if you can afford it and you know you'll use it, but I am so busy most of the time, I just don't know how I'd find 2 hours in my day to drive to the gym, work out, shower, and then drive home. It would be tricky, and therefore not necessarily worth the expense.

I have always tried (key word is TRIED) to exercise on a fairly regular basis, but of course it hasn't always worked out. But in April I had something of an inspiration when my husband ran the Monument 10k here in Richmond. He is very athletic, so even though he wasn't in top shape and he only started preparing for it a month in advance, he ran it in an hour and ran the whole way without too much trouble. I really enjoyed supporting him and cheering everyone on. It was just really inspirational watching all of these people- many of whom did not look like they were athletes- taking on the challenge and having fun with it. 

So after that race I decided that I wanted to give it a shot. I know that I am not a runner, and I am definitely not athletic, so I knew that I would probably need the whole year to prepare and so I started about 2 weeks after the race. My training really picked up in May after I got my heart rate monitor for Mother's Day. I usually don't endorse spending a lot of money on things, but in this case, the heart rate monitor was TOTALLY worth it. Mine is made by Polar, and it has a watch/wrist unit and a chest strap. I think it was around $100 on eBay. Shortly after I got it, I checked out a book from the library on how to train with a HRM, and that helped me understand that I didn't just need to get my heart rate up, I needed to keep it steady in the right zone for me. Basically, think of your body like a car- cars get the best gas mileage when they are going steady (like on cruise control) on the highway. It's the same way with your body- if your heart rate is constantly jumping up and down, then your endurance is greatly reduced. If, however, you keep it at a constant rate in your target zone, then your body uses your energy much more efficiently and you can do a lot more with a lot less expenditure.

Anyway, before I was barely able to run for 3 minutes without stopping. After I started training with my HRM, I was able to keep going for quite some time. After only about 8 weeks I ran a full 3 miles without stopping. It may have taken me 40 minutes to do it, but I did it! It was a huge accomplishment for me.

All along my goal has simply been to run the 10k and do so comfortably- without feeling like I was going to die! Before, it was a distant dream. But now I am running at least 2.3 miles 2-4 times a week, and I feel really good! Having the 10k as my goal has kept me moving, even through the "slumps", and I am looking forward to conquering a mountain that, up until now, had always seemed far too tall for me to climb. Nothing makes me feel better about myself than accomplishing something that is really hard for me to do, and doing so as a result of persistent hard work. I am proud of what I am doing, and of how it is making me feel not just physically, but emotionally as well. 

So, to summarize, running is an initial investment that can pay off huge dividends if you throw in a little perseverance and hard work!

What mountain are you climbing in your life?

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