Recent lessons on running

There are three main reasons I exercise.

1. I eat too much for my lazy metabolism.

2. I’m vain, so I need to do something about #1, and eating less is not an option.

3. I’m an introvert, so I need my restorative niches.

There are plenty of other benefits too of course, like it helps me sleep better and it’s the perfect de-stressor, plus it’s good for me in terms of not dying too young or ending up in a wheelchair at 70 with osteoarthritis or whatever, and yes I do enjoy it, especially how I feel afterwards, but those things are really just bonuses. If I’m to be completely honest, if not for these three factors (and the support and encouragement of Toby) I would probably be a non-exerciser since at heart I’m a fairly sedentary lounge room dweller.

At school I despised PE and was always the one faking asthma attacks or sprained ankles. I liked dancing and I liked gymnastics and aerobics, but that was it. I hated running and team sports most of all. When I was 19 Andy and I started going to the gym, and I’ve been going ever since. The gym was made for people like me. You don’t have to talk to anyone. There is no competition, you don’t have to catch or throw a ball or anything like that. You don’t have to be self-motivated, you just show up to a class and let the instructor tell you what to do.

After ten years of gym-going, and once I’d completed a round of p90x, I needed a new challenge. I’d noticed during my weekly Body Attack classes that I didn’t actually hate the running track. Since Jude and Dave were already runners I figured I’d just piggy-back off their runs and give it a go.  It was refreshing to be out of the gym for the first time in my life. I didn’t have to run fast – I just had to put one foot in front of the other. Jude called it ‘shogging’ – a cross between shuffling and jogging – which took the pressure off. I liked it enough I signed up for a couple of 5km fun runs.

Then I promptly fell pregnant. How convenient! Just like all those sprained ankles in high school. My last fun run was at 20 weeks, and after that I didn’t run again until a few months after Emma was born and I was confident my insides wouldn’t fall out onto the bike path. I bought the proper gear and tried to get out once a week for 5km, aiming to build up to 10km in time for the Canberra Running Festival in April.

And I did it! Thanks to 12wbt and my innate stubbornness, I ran the whole thing in just over an hour. Dad said I didn’t even have to call it shogging anymore! I don’t care if he’s just being nice.

After meeting my goal, I needed some time off from a strict running program, and I needed a new goal. But I was keen to keep running – I am a runner now I guess?

The first thing was I had to buy new clothes. The weight I’d lost meant my lovely lululemon pants were now too big. Plus my previous gear suddenly felt unsuitable when the temperature dropped below 15 degrees for my long Saturday morning runs. I googled ‘cold weather running gear’ and felt instantly lame when I realised that for most people in the running world, that meant below zero. Below zero Fahrenheight.

So I decided I didn’t need full-length tights, 3/4 would do and they’d last for summer as well. My lululemons are now too big (thanks Michelle Bridges!) so I went with a pair of Lorna Janes, plus a long-sleeve lululemon running top with a LJ vest over the top and a scarf. Last time I was at Costco I also picked up six pairs of sport socks for $12 and they are awesome. God bless Costco.

My first test of the new gear was last Saturday, and I decided to also attempt 12 km for the first time, because why not. On my way to the lake it was drizzly and 10 degrees and I debated going home and getting my gym card and hitting the treadmill instead. This is why I have a gym membership, I told myself as I turned on the headlights and the windscreen wipers at 9.30am. But something spurred me on. Probably the expensive new clothes, let’s face it.

The clothes worked a treat. I wasn’t too cold, I wasn’t too hot. I felt pretty (which is half the point). Everything worked as it was supposed to. I declared my new running outfit a success.

My next goal was to start finding some new routes. Around the lake is nice and flat and very pretty, but my short runs and walks around Red Hill had me thinking I wanted to seek out some trail runs. I did some googling and for my first attempt around Mt Ainslie I invited dad. Partly for the company and partly because if you’re going to get lost in the bush with nothing but expensive running clothes, it’s good to have a second person.

We can probably blame dad anyway for my sudden interest in trail running, a thing I didn’t even know existed a year ago, since he’s the one responsible for all those bush walks we were taken on as children. I complained bitterly at the time but something must have clicked because now I can’t think of a better way to de-stress and take time out for myself than to go running through the bush. I seriously don’t even recognise myself or my google search terms these days.

We only got slightly lost going ‘around’ Mt Ainslie and ended up going ‘over’ Mt Ainslie, knocking 1 km off our route and incorporating some low impact high intensity bursts through areas of bush marked ‘no abseiling’ into what was supposed to be a long easy-ish run. But we did it. Next on the list, more of Red Hill since that’s easy to do from home, maybe some Mt Stromlo action. I’ll probably have to buy some trail running shoes, because of course. Canberra is a great place for runners, and running is a great exercise for a person who exercises for the reasons I do. It’s all coming up roses for this non-runner.

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