‘I hate to exercise’
Sometimes it’s said off-handedly. Sometimes with intense emotion. Usually with some kind of tone of apology or plea for sympathy.
Followed quickly by ‘So, how did you learn to like running…?’
I have this conversation weekly. No lie.
It comes up when I admit that in the process of finding a healthy life I discovered that I love running.
I think that the real question or comment hanging in the air is ‘HOW can I learn to like being physically active?’ or ‘I’m too fat, too out of shape.” (We’ll tackle the ‘too fat’ topic in another blog. I keep working on that blog post and setting it aside. It’s a tough one.)
I used to hate exercise too. ‘Run when chased’ and even then if I stood any kind of chance I would much rather stop and fight back. I had no desire to run or take classes or lift weights. I had no fitness. I hated to sweat.
Times have changed.
More importantly times CAN change.
It obviously took some serious baby steps to change things.
I was 392 pounds and inactive. Now I’m 160 pounds and I love to run. HOW did THAT happen?! How did I learn to love running? How did I learn to make exercise a priority and habit?
The honest answer is boring.
I learned to love running by walking.
I started walking with my friend Hannah 8+ years ago. Long before I began my lifestyle overhaul.
Hannah is a runner. (Qualified for Boston Marathon in 2015!) She is one of my best friends. She has solidly healthy habits and is someone I have looked up to for years. She has been by my side on this journey almost every step of the way. Literally. (Not hyperbole.) She’s an artist, a world-class photographer and one of the toughest women I know.
Our early walks were a labor of love. And a time to chat. We would meet at the Oregon State campus in the morning, several days a week and walk. Slowly. Short distances. She would encourage and push me to walk just a little further each time we met.
Over the years these became the famous ‘Worm Walks’.
Yes… It rains a lot in Oregon. Worms are strewn all over the sidewalks and paths. When you are grossly overweight and out of shape, the act of pretending to save each and every worm you encounter is a brief, welcomed REST period. Trust me. It was a horrible, obvious stalling tactic. She knew what I was doing. I pretended otherwise.
We joke now about those early Worm Walks. Getting in a mile was a 30 minute endeavor and thousands of worms were saved.
With Hannah’s help, being active became a consistent endeavor. A daily walk with my friend slowly became a habit I truly enjoyed and looked forward to.
I started to measure and observe things after a few months of walking…
- How much further could we go?
- How fast were we going?
- How many miles had we covered in a week?
- My blood sugars are better on the days we walk…
- ‘Hey – I can walk AND talk to you without gasping for air…!’
I had no idea that the Worm Walks were the beginning of a lifestyle change.
With my lifestyle overhaul in full swing, Hannah and I signed up for a race January 1, 2012. We picked one where I could walk. It had generous time limits. Hannah knew that having a race to look forward to was important and would keep me focused on staying active. I hadn’t figured that out yet. I just knew that having an event to train for kept things FUN. Fun is important when you are doing hard, repetitive work. And we got free t-shirts. Win. Win. 🙂
I walked the first race; a 10K. I was the last person to finish. I was SORE for days. But I felt invincible. I had DONE it!
So I signed up for a marathon.
Logical reaction to completing your first-ever 10K – dontcha think?
The marathon was the SECOND event I ever signed up for. I planned to walk the whole thing. I remember when I told Hannah. Conversation went sort of like this;
‘Ummm… You signed up for a Marathon in 11 months??!!”
“Bets, you have not yet even done a HALF marathon…”
“I know. I am going to walk it. You’ll train with me. I can do this!”
“Yes. Yes you can! We really have to get training.”
THAT, my friends, THAT is a living example of unwavering support and friendship.
If she ever had any thoughts other than those of pure support and encouragement, I never knew it. She helped me pull training plans and understand them. She made sure I had good shoes. I got lectured about NOT wearing cotton. (Chafing.) I couldn’t have done it without her. I know that. She knows that. Maui Marathon, including the months of training was an incredible experience.
Some of the best changes in our lives can happen because we simply choose to face our fears.
Signing up for a marathon was facing my fears. A friend walking by my side made facing my fears possible.
And it changed everything.
Having a friend who was as eager to celebrate my goals and successes as she was her own. Slogging out the long, slow miles in happy, cheery companionship. Keeping me focused on learning and developing walking and running as a safe and life-long habit. Someone who understood the DAILY balance I was trying to find between fear and reason.
Someone who let me stop and pick-up worms.
Thousands of worms. 🙂
You have to walk before you can run.