Fitness Friday – I love running.

27 08 2010

If you knew me as little as 3 years ago and if someone at the time had suggested that I go out for a jog, everyone in earshot would’ve fallen over laughing. I would have fallen over laughing.

I quit smoking on February 16, 2008. I started when I was about 12 or 13, so around 1986. That’s 22 years and I’m not an old guy. Back then, gas stations were still perfectly willing to sell to the underaged and I had money because I worked (from the time I was 14 on, I worked at least 30 hours a week at my dad’s store). Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I smoked between 1 and 1 1/2 packs a day and here are there rolled my own filter-less cigarettes. Neighbors would remark on my cough when I’d smoke outside and I coughed a lot.

So, the very idea of running at that time would’ve been anathema to me. But one of the things I promised myself when I quit was that I’d get back into shape, which I desperately needed to do. Chantix helped me quit and it was a surprisingly easy quit after having failed 10 billion times before, but I didn’t enjoy the additional 40 pounds I picked up. With running and changing my diet (read: not dieting, just giving up Coca-Cola and most fast food, which was a lifestyle change), I lost all of that and then some (although I should note that the last 2-3 months have not been very kind in this regard, as I picked up about 10 pounds, and it’s taking some real work to undo).

So, the solution was to get a gym membership and start running. And man, did I suck at it. In fact, I still suck at it, but I’m so surprised by my own improvement over these two years and even just over this summer. Back then I back just running 15-20 minutes of intervals with a top speed (work interval) of 5.5 miles per hour. Laughable now when I think about it, but back then I had to pretend zombies (the fast ones) were chasing me just to make it the whole minute.

I alternate now between periods of doing interval training (work interval speed is now 8.5 miles per hour – how’s that for improvement!) and trying to improve my distance. I’d really like to get to the point where I can run much longer distances and I hope to run a marathon before I’m 40. Last October I ran my first 5k and that was really hard, but I did finish in about 30 minutes and since then I can already see a vast improvement. These little improvements work like quantum leaps. You see nothing for the longest time, you just go through the motions then one morning you hit the street or treadmill and BAM! everything is too easy and you have to pick it up. Like yesterday. I used to cruise on the treadmill at around 6 miles an hour and just hover there for however long I was running, just to see how long I could go. At the beginning of this summer I could go about 4 – 4 1/2 miles before being really exhausted.

Yesterday, I ran 3 1/4 miles at 7.2 miles an hour and it felt easy and relaxing. I love that and I’ve really seen how interval training helps you to add speed to your single-speed/distance runs. If I practice intervals at over 8 miles an hour, then running just 7 seems like I’m taking a break, even though that’s a lot faster than I was originally going. Yesterday, after I got tired, I finished running at around 6.5 and that felt downright leisurely. I also run in the mornings with my wife a few times a week and she’s improving dramatically as well. It’s nice in the mornings before it gets hot and we’ve got our own “courses” that I’ve mapped out on MapMyRun.com. And, now with my second-grade daughter on her school’s cross-country team (which is really cute), I’m trying to get her interested in it as well.

Now, I’m unsure how much further I can push it, but I know I need to get better shoes and start working longer distances and get more time on the actual road rather than on the treadmill.

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