There’s that word again… running.
And just like that I may have run out of metaphors, ways to beat a dead horse.
Where’ve I been, you ask? OK, pretend you asked it. Well, as you might have guessed from my most recent post of, oh, about 18 months ago now, I’ve been busy trying to get myself in shape. One of my sisters asked on the phone the other night “Are you doing this with some kind of goal in mind?” Actually, that’s an English translation of her original Jersey. What she said was “What’s the fuckin’ point?” “Well,” I said, “Trying to set goals for myself, accomplish things, get in shape for once in my life.” And then after a long pause, realizing I was apparently making little to no sense I added, “Figured I’d run a 5K in December.”
So, truthfully, the 5K is a goal but it’s not the main reason. Look, I’m going to be 40 in a few years. I’ve had two major spinal surgeries. I don’t want to sit around and wonder why I never did anything for myself and most importantly, I don’t want to get ten years into the future and stare down another fusion surgery asking “Why didn’t I just tighten up my core like they suggested?!” I know it’s hard work. I know it sucks. I know I’d rather be watching reruns of the Bionic Woman and eating Fritos but I’ve got to do something.
So, with the help of a very able-bodied friend (that is, a friend who is jacked and therefore knows the well guarded secret of jacked-ness) I embarked on my path. It took me some time to ease into it. A few months back he showed me all the movements, even gave me demonstrations. He wrote out a detailed plan. It took time but when I reached the summer and I had a few months off I committed to just doing it.
Most of the initial plan involved me doing these high intensity interval sets called Tabatas. Sounds dirty, I know. But for 14 minutes every day I would mix it up with push ups, box jumps, jumping jacks, etc. at a heart-stopping pace. I did this for six weeks. I started to feel better. I thought my clothes were fitting better. I perceived a change and I liked it. Were other people noticing? Not sure. That’s tough for me because I crave attention. That’s why I’m writing this right now. It’s why all bloggers write. We’re throwing crap on the internet in the hopes that millions of unknown “fans” will read, adore, and comment. Plus, it’s easier than talking to ourselves. Admit it, Debbi, that’s what you’d be doing if you weren’t blogging. Secret’s safe with me.
Around the middle of August it came time to add running into the mix. I had never seriously attempted to run before. This time, things would be different. Thanks to his help I started building up my endurance and my pace. Although I’m proud of myself and what I’ve done over the most recent six weeks I feel like I’m at a dead end. Let me explain.
I started out running 30 second intervals interspersed with 12 seconds of walking. “How am I ever going to run,” I though, “if I’m stopping and walking every half-minute?” But when you do 18 sets of this without a break you realize how hard it is for a non-runner. Fortunately I’ve remained injury free as he gradually shifted me into a slightly different program. I moved into the ranks of elite runners who can run for 2 whole minutes at a time and only take 1 minute of walking time in between! Hey, I was happy with that. Well, looking forward to the 5K, I began to think “This is a true metric.” It’s 3 miles. I’ve never run that far. It’s within reach. I can do it! Then I mentioned this to a student who promptly told me “A 5K is nothing.” Thanks for the pin prick, kid. Here’s your “F”. Of course it’s nothing to you, you wiry prick. Unfortunately, I still have some “meat” on me and did I mention that fused spine thing? Yeah that’s right I didn’t because I hate excuses. So I’ve been gradually increasing my intervals without paying much attention to the naysayers.
Now I’m up to a few 5 minutes intervals each time and I’m really happy with that. My pace is improved. Here’s the problem. I’m impatient and I can’t avoid comparisons. On the first front, well, there’s nothing I can do about that. I would have hoped to see more gains by now. I’m starting to let the fitness component (the jacked-ness aspect) fall by the wayside of the running component and I’m not thrilled by that. Still, it’s hard on me when I still can’t discern a noticeable difference in my appearance from three months ago. One of the reasons anyone does a program like this is with the hopes of at least looking a little better. On the second front, man oh man is it humiliating sometimes. As in: “Yay! I ran 2.2 miles today at an 11:15 pace!” And then you realize how weak that sounds next to people who routinely run 6-10 miles several times a week at a 7 min. pace. I know I can improve and I’ve been assured it takes years. That’s what scares me. Did I mention that I’m impatient? Tonight, I simply gave up. Yeah, I know I’ll be back at it tomorrow but boy did it feel good to chill out on the couch with a bag of Taco Bell.
With all of this in mind I really appreciate where I work. I’m a Catholic school teacher. For the past few days we’ve had Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel and I’ve been blessed to bring my students in for an hour at a stretch several times. I knelt before Our Lord and asked him some soul-searching questions.
“Jesus? When will I be jacked?” “Lord, will you give me patience and perseverance?” And as if to remind me of what’s truly important, He showed me something very beautiful. He showed me what I’m really capable of in His name. For today, I brought 17 teenagers to Him in prayer. I even taught them how to sing Holy God We Praise Thy Name — and they sang it, too! All in all, I suppose that’s a mark of success. And for a man who all too often feels unsuccessful, this one is pretty powerful.