November 2, 2009 @ 3:20 p.m.: My first run. It was terrible. I could barely run for one minute. The Couch 2 5K plan didn't quite fit my condition. It was more like Coma 2 5K. I hated it! My almost 41 year old body reacted strongly against my plan to be a "real runner". If it hadn't been for the group accountability, it would have been my last run. Now, I've been running for more than four months. I've battled very painful shin splints, asthma flair ups, interruptions in my training schedule, and unusually bad weather--but I didn't stop. I've also finished one 5K and am training for another in a few weeks. I won't go so far as to say I like running, but I don't despise it anymore. I actually, kind of, sort of, almost look forward to it on some days, and I always love the way I feel afterwards. My progress has not been as swift as I had hoped, but I don't want to go back to my pre-running self. (For those of you wondering, this skinny running girl in the photo above is NOT me. I do have those pants, though.)
On my run today, I was thinking of all the "lessons" I've learned since I've started running. They may not "rock your world", but I guess they're worth mentioning. I ran long enough to come up with 9 lessons.
1. Change is hard. Any change is hard. I have to make the daily decision to keep making the change; to move. Some days I move slowly and I don't get very far. Other days I could move faster and farther if I just had more time. The point is, I choose to move. It's never easy. I have to plan time to run, and somedays it's a real sacrifice for my family. The change has to be a priority, or it will never be a reality. If you decide to change something, just know it's going to be hard. It's why the vast majority of New Year's resolutions are broken in the first few weeks. Change is just stinkin hard.
4. I'm a better Mom because I run. This can be a tough, guilt filled, lesson. Let's face it, running is more time away from my kids. It's time just for me. It's more time away from my responsibilities. I have less time for laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. because I choose to run. But, I think I'm a better Mom because I run. I have more energy and it relieves a lot of stress. My daughter is proud of me and I think I'm a better example for her. I don't want her to wait until she's three weeks shy of 41 to get active. I hope we'll be able to run together soon.
7. Results take time. I'm not going to run a 1/2 marathon anytime soon. It's still a challenge for me to run the first mile. Running has taught me that real change takes a lot of time. I've read that the majority of new runners overtrain and are then plagued by injuries. Most of them quit. I really wish I could take a six mile run a couple of times a week, but I'm just not there yet. I do try to push myself to do a little more each week, but I'm trying to be patient with my progress. I think people like to see quick results. I know I do. But, I want to make a life change so I guess it's going to take more than four months.
9. Every breath is a gift. If there's one thing running will teach you quickly, it's that breathing is way underrated. We become so unaware of our breathing that we don't even realize when we're holding our breath. I used to take aerobic classes (ugh!) and the trainers would often say, "Don't forget to breathe!" or "Don't hold your breath!" It sounded odd to me at the time, but then I would catch myself not breathing. I took a few Yoga classes (another story for another time) and so much of the focus is on breathing. A good, deep, cleansing breath is wonderful--but sometimes hard to come by. I am trying to learn to breathe "correctly" while I run. Because of my asthma, this has been a challenge. There are times I've almost hyperventilated because I couldn't get a deep breath. Very frustrating. On days when my breathing is good, I can run so much farther and I feel so much better. Each deep breath is rewarding. Now, I'm trying to concentrate more on my regular breathing during the day. Call it relaxation or whatever, but I think I was going all day most days without taking a deep breath. It's just another change I'm working through. But, running has certainly taught me that every breath is a gift.