Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Runniversary, The Why I Run Story

It all started with a thought.   A simple thought that I could motivate my overweight butt, climb off the couch and run a 5k.  GULP! This is 3.1 miles, the longest I have run or walked in years, especially run, which I hadn't done since high school.   So during my vacation last July/August, I told my wife that I wanted to run the Cable Bridge run here in Kennewick/Pasco, WA.  A simple idea of actually running the 5k.  It was when she told her parents that I felt like was on the hook to do this, like I was committed to doing something I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to do in the first place. 

The Backstory:

I, like so many others, slowly climbed the hill to overweight, little by little, year after year.   I basically stopped all physical activity after high school, as I began working my first real job (retail) and going to the local Community College.   The easiest way to eat was through the drive through, and not the healthy stuff, the good tasting fatty stuff.   This problem continued on through out my 4 years at WSU.  I did eat better (thanks to my wife), but not that much better, the challenges of being in an engineering program mean that food fits around school.   So again, it was fast food heaven. 

After graduation, we moved to New Mexico  I worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.   We were a bit better about home cooked meals, but the exercise was still non-existent, with the exception of a few 30 minutes walks at night whenever I felt good enough to go for a walk.   I assume that my weight stayed fairly constant through out these 6 to 8 years, though in all fairness, I either refused to get on the scale and find out, or didn't care enough to start a change.  A year after moving to NM, my first son was born.   We continued our walking, but never were consistent with it enough to forge a change.   I became gradually more complacent as the rigors of raising a family and working 6 days a week grew upon me.   The fact that my parents were discussing divorce during the summer of '08 didn't help the frustration level.
Either late in my tenure at WSU, or early on after we moved to NM, my mom was diagnosed as prediabetic.  I mild eye-opener, as my mom's weight issues have fluctuated throughout my life, trying diet fads and all sorts of things, but not exacting a lifestyle change.   This still wasn't enough to make me change the way I ate or how I treated my body.

When I got a new job that took us back to Washington State, I was becoming more aware of my seemingly unhealthy lifestyle.   We had been back in Washington for about 9 months when my parents decided that things couldn't be reconciled and began the official proceedings (Jan '10).  I buried this within me as I usually bury things I don't want to worry or think about.   Then a few months later, already worried about my dad and how he was taking things, he told me that he had also been diagnosed as pre diabetic as well.   This got me to thinking, really hard about my future, and making sure I was going to be part of my kid's future too.   But in May of 2010 I still wasn't ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle, exercising was still out of the question, and I like eating way too much to change that part of my life. 

Running Start:

As the weight of my parent's lifestyle choices and medical diagnosis started settling in, I reached a conclusion that I needed to start changing my life for the better.   So what could I do to change my lifestyle?   I remembered that I had a pail or Adidas running shoes that I had purchased in 2005 or 2006, as a futile attempt to become active while in college.   At this time, Mid-July 2010, I told my wife my that I was going to start running with the goal of running the Cable Bridge Run 5k in December  So, at dinner one evening, she told her parents.   Now I felt as if I was on the hook to start, though I still wasn't sure I wanted to.   I did what I always do when I start a new activity or want to find information, I hit the internet and settled on a plan.   Now I just needed to find the motivation.

I made a deal saying that I would start when we got back from vacation, which put my start running date the second week of August.   After vacation and some work around the house, running day arrived.   I however, took a snooze, and slept on past the time to get up and run.   I still wasn't ready to commit, either to waking up or running.   I kept pushing the start off.   The following week, I again didn't get up Monday morning, so I made a decision, Tuesday I was going to get up, no matter how I felt and get out and run.   Finally, Tuesday, August 17, I awoke at 5:15, went over to the middle school track and started my running life.

The Plan:

I don't undertake anything lightly, I didn't want to take on a plan that was going to be too strenuous, to the point that I was going to burn out.   So I hit the internet searching for a manageable C25k plan. After looking at what seems like a ton of plans I settled on a run/walk plan that called for 30 minutes of exercise 3 days a week.   The plan called for one minute of running to seven minutes of walking repeated three times that first week.   I figured that I could drive to the track, walk a five minute warm-up, then start on the running portion.  That first week was hard, but I had pushed myself to 1.5 minutes of continuous running by the end of the week.  

The plan increased weekly, adding 1 minute of running while subtracting 1 minute of walking.   The third week added a fourth set of run/walking, so that I was now up to a grand total of 35 minutes of activity.   I was using the Wii Fit to track weight and do some cross-training, but I found that it was adding stress to parts of my body, so I abandoned that and switched to using the stationary bike for cross-training.   By the end of September I was up to a continuous 10-12 minutes, but seemed to be at a plateau.   I eventually pushed passed this, and by October I had managed to push myself to two continuous miles.   There wasn't any doubt in my mind that I could complete a 5k event.

I completed three 5k events between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.   The Thanksgiving day and New Year's day 5k I ran the whole distance.   The Cable Bridge run was a bit more difficult, as it snowed the night before hand, and was still snowing at start time.   This was a heavy, wet snow which slowed down conditions on the areas where the roads weren't yet plowed.   I remember cruising through the first two miles of that race, before hitting a wall.   I was suddenly very tired, and had to try to plow through snow.   Maintaining pace was difficult.   In then end I was able to find strength and ran the last half mile to the finish, completing the race for which I had trained.   There was a huge sense of accomplishment that I had been able to change my lifestyle as well as complete something like running 3 miles, which I had not done ever perhaps.

A Year of Lessons:
  • Change is hard - To start running after 10 years of a sedentary lifestyle is one of the hardest things I have over done.
  • Rome wasn't built in a day - It took me three months to go from stationary, couch potato to running a 5k.  It has taken me almost a year to get to running 16 miles.   Asked last year if I would have trained or signed up for a marathon, I would have told you that you were crazy.
  • Running is unique to the person - What motivates us individually varies.   Some people run to win, others to PR, some just for the joy it brings.   Whatever your motivation, enjoy it.
  • There are Bad Days - And they suck. They make you question why you do this in the first place.   I look at is a pre-payment for that great run you are about to have.
  • Then there are Awesome days - These are those days that training, or the circumstances all align for and make you realize just why you keep running.
  • Training plans are good - They provide goals, and help manage daunting tasks.   Focusing on today's run is far easier than looking at the whole goal.   Plus they teach flexibility.
  • Listen to your body - The body and mind know when to rest, listen to them and they won't lead you wrong. That training plan isn't set in stone.
The numbers:
  • I ran 515 miles in the year since I started running.
  • I have run 415 miles since January 1, 2011
  • Five 5k races with a PR of 23:00
  • Two 10k races with a PR of 51:39
  • One (Fake) Half Marathon - 2:05
  • 41 lbs lost.
The Final Lesson:

Running was worth it. I started running as a way to get active to start taking better care of my body.   It was something that I decided I wanted to do. I didn't do it as a way to lose weight, or a way to show that I could accomplish a 5k, then give it up.  I wanted it to be a change that I could do for the long haul.   This is probably why I was so successful at continuing to run.   I won't complain about the side effects.   I noticed an immediate shift in the way I approached food.   I was now eating until I was full, trying to watch how many calories I consumed, what those calories were.   I lost 25 pounds in the first three months of running, and had more energy too.   I think that the most important thing about my lifestyle change, is that my sons see that I am an active person.   I will keep running for them, in hopes that they lead a healthy active lifestyle.   But I will keep running mostly for me, because I want to be around to see them and their families.

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