Saturday, July 9, 2016

I'm Running. I'm a Runner. I Run.

I have never been a runner or particularly athletic for that matter. I played a little basketball and volleyball in junior high but was never very good or dedicated to it. Growing up as the tall girl with siblings who were much more athletic and dedicated than I was, people always assumed that I "must play basketball" or that I was "more athletically inclined" than I was. As an adult I have exercised with variable levels of dedication over the years. I like to tell people that I have been a "Couch to 5K drop out" multiple times. I have been known to say that "I only run if being chased or in imminent danger." I can no longer say that.

Last year I found a way into the running world and I think it may have finally stuck. I started working out with the Playmaker's Women's Couch to 5K Training Group. This is a walking and running team targeted specifically toward women. We train two times per week on Wednesdays at 6:00 pm and on Saturdays at 8:00 am year round. Yes, in Michigan that means that you run in the heat and humidity of August and the frigid temperatures of January. The group is broken up into four groups with at least two coaches training with each group.

  1. Walkers: You never say you are "only a walker" with this group. There are women in this group who lap the runners.
  2. Walk to Run 1: This group begins training with an interval of 15 seconds running and 4 minutes, 45 seconds walking. Each week, the running time increases by 15 seconds and the walking time decreases by 15 seconds. The goal is that at the end of the session, the participants can run/walk a 5K at 2:30/2:30 intervals.
  3. Walk to Run 2: This group begins training where the W2R1 group left off. You start with a 2:30/2:30 interval walk/run and adjust time by 15 seconds each week until you are running for 5 minutes straight (and then for 3 miles straight) at the end of the session.
  4. Runners: This group runs. The trainings are set up for approximately 3 mile runs, but there are always people to pair up with for longer distances.
I am an unlikely runner. I have given the Couch to 5K app several half-assed tries, but I have never stuck with it. This is the first time that I was able to stick with it and finish a 5K without walking. Through it I have learned many things about exercise, about running in particular and about myself. Some of them include:
  • You need to have a training plan. Some people can do it on their own with an app on their phone and a playlist in their ear. That didn't work for me. The coaches set up a realistic training plan and after you are consistent for a few weeks let you know that it is "time to add in another training" per week and gently encourage you to do that on your own.
  • You need to have small goals. Anyone can run for 15 seconds. The small incremental increases during W2R1 and W2R2 are perfect mini goals.
  • Do not EVER compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own challenges, their own goals and their own baby steps to take. 
  • Make your training a part of your routine and schedule around it. I have my Wednesday night and Saturday morning training dates in my outlook calendar and schedule around them.
  • Make friends! It is often difficult as an adult to make new friends. In college, it was easy. Meeting people now is different. I have made several wonderful friends through this group and they are keepers. Additionally, it is a lot easier to turn off the alarm and sleep through an early Saturday training if you don't have friends depending on you to be there.
  • Realize that you are going to have good times and bad times. I had a lot of things going on in my personal life this winter and early spring. It had an adverse effect on my training schedule. It was a little discouraging to see that my regular training partners were leaving me in their dust. The great part of this group is that there is always someone who is a good partner for you, you just have to ask or have a coach recommend a group or person to you.
  • Just because you can run the entire 3.1 miles, doesn't mean you have to. I actually get better times with a 2:00/1:00 run/walk interval. My pace for a complete run slows me down considerably. 
One of my funniest recent memories was on an informal training at Lake Lansing. We were at the end of W2R1 and doing 2:30/2:30 intervals for a 4 mile course around the lake. The 5 or 6 of us walked by a homeowner who commented that the "walkers were out" on this beautiful night. As we passed, my friend, Rachelle and I looked at each other with an incredulous look and both said under our breath in unison "WE are runners." Then the ding of the interval timer went off and we started running again. 

I often think of quotes from Bob Wiley in one of my favorite movies "What About Bob?" when I talk about my experiences becoming and "unlikely" or "accidental" runner. "Baby Steps" is the first one. The other one is the title of this blog post. Bob says "I'm Sailing. I'm a Sailor. I Sail." as he sails by, strapped to the boat with his life jacket.

Here is a picture of me with three of my favorite women. Three friends I have made through Team Playmakers.

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