I recently became really passionate about running.
By "recently," I mean as of 2 weeks ago, and by "really passionate about running," I mean that my frothing desire to run is starting to spill over into the rest of my life. Which just so happens to include this blog. I feel like that's as good a reason as any to put it down in ink (pixels?) for consumption by anonymous internet people.
My experience with exercise started when I was 3 years old. My mom took me to a pool, got me a kickboard, and I was set. At age 6, I joined a summer league swim team and until my freshman year in college, I basically swam nonstop (with the exception of that time that I lived in a small town in Kansas that didn't have a swim team). Swimming is great exercise and as a result, I stayed lean and healthy while I kept at it.
As I entered high school, my training intensified and I started to experience what it felt like to push my body as far as it would go. I loved barely being able to pull myself out of the pool because I had spent all my energy in a race. I loved the accomplishment of making it through "hell week", 2 practices totaling 5 hours and 10,000 yards every day for a week (almost a quarter marathon every day for 6 days in a row... swimming.)
Swimming instilled that sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and wellbeing that comes after doing something really hard. And don't forget the endorphins that rush through you when you've just kicked your ass for 2 hours. It's easy look back on those days with nostalgia.
When I went off to college, I joined a club swim team with the hopes of one day walking on to the school's team. Shortly thereafter, I was overwhelmed by school work and my newfound personal freedom. I stopped swimming and started partying. My dream of joining the swim team suddenly didn't seem as important. As I started feeling the pressure of my future bearing down on me, I replaced most of the partying with studying. I still swam on my own every now and then, but it was nothing close to the intensity or duration that I was doing in high school. I just didn't have time for it anymore.
When I graduated and got a job, I went through a similar phase. I gained more free time (no homework), but spent most of it playing video games or watching TV. Having a job also increased my income. With the price of restaurant food no longer an issue, I started eating out all the time. Every day for lunch, I ate some ridiculous-sized portion of fast food. I started swimming again off and on, but it was only enough to slow my weight gain to about a pound a month. Finally, I was transfered to Dallas, and after a brief attempt to lose weight, I stopped working out all together.
The Recent Past
One day at the end of last year, I got out of the shower and looked in the mirror. When I saw the chubby naked body staring back at me, it triggered something in my brain. I hated what I saw. I wasn't the skinny, lean kid I remembered from just a few years ago. I had become chubby, flabby, weak, and old.
I needed to make a change in my life. I got on the scale that I had been avoiding for months and it read 266 lbs. How the hell did I weigh that much? My senior year in high school I weighed 185, when I graduated college I weighed 220, and on my wedding day, I weighed 230. Oh. I suppose that could be considered a pattern. I am pretty tall at 6'4", so it took a long time for that weight to spread over my frame, to the point where I wasn't noticing how out of shape I had become. But give it a couple months, a couple years, and suddenly I hardly recognized myself.
Without hesitation, I started going to the gym. It's literally inside the building where I work. In hindsight, if it weren't for this convenience I probably wouldn't have made it very far. I started working out every day. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I used the elliptical machine for about 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes for warmup and cooldown). On Tuesday and Thursday, I did resistance training, starting off with high reps of low resistance free weights. On Saturday, I went back to the elliptical machine for a slightly slower pace, but bumped the time up to 40-50 minutes.
I also started watching what I ate. I went from eating 4000 calories on some days to eating between 1800 and 2400. I stopped drinking Mountain Dew for breakfast, and replaced it with a granola bar. In fact, I cut out sodas almost entirely (from 2-4 a day to 1-2 a week), and replaced them with plain old water. For lunch, I substituted the fast food with a can of Campbell's soup and a sandwich, and maybe a bag of baked chips. For dinner, I started eating pasta, or chicken, or maybe a can of chili, or some tuna helper, or occasionally a healthy-ish frozen dinner (one of the ones that comes in a bag you heat up in a skillet).
After 2 weeks, I had lost 5 lbs.
After a month, I had lost 10 lbs and felt way stronger. I was no longer winded from walking up the stairs. I could easily carry that 40 lb container of kitty litter, or that 50 lb bag of dog food.
Since then, the ride has occasionally been bumpy. About once a week, I cheat and eat out, and there have been a couple of weeks where I hardly worked out at all, but I don't lose motivation because I continue to see results. I am still on track to meet my goal of losing 60 lbs by October (at this rate, I'll finish 2 months ahead of schedule). I keep getting stronger, I keep building my endurance, my pants and shirts keep getting looser, I sleep better, my acid reflux is gone, and I could honestly list dozens of other ways that this decision has improved my life.
This morning, I weighed in at 219 lbs. Yesterday, I was able to keep my heart rate between 170 and 195 bpm for about 55 minutes on the elliptical machine (1200 calories burned). Two Saturdays ago, I was able to run on the elliptical machine at a slightly slower pace for 90 minutes (1600 calories). The feeling is the same as when I was swimming in high school: the muscle soreness, the physical exhaustion, the accomplishment of doing something hard, and the endorphins that make it all feel really good.
So what the hell does all of that have to do with my sudden interest in running?
Find out in part 2.