As part of my year of trying new things, I’ve been making my first attempts at running. Like I said, I’m a girl who doesn’t run – and never has. Even before those four knee surgeries, I was the fat girl who’d go out of her way to avoid running. Frankly, I just didn’t get the point. I mean… Where are you even going? Wait… You’re going in a circle?
Plus, for a long time, it’s been something I’ve been a little reluctant to do. As a short summary of my knee surgeries, I’ve had “tibial tubercle transfers,” “patellofemoral ligament reconstructions,” and all sorts of other things I couldn’t even guess how to spell – leaving me a lil’ nervous to hit the pavement too hard for fear of shakin’ out a structure that’s not supposed to shake.
And that means when I have knee pain, I have to try to figure out if that’s the ‘should be expected, given you’re the Bionic Woman’ kinda pain, or the ‘no, you should probably stop now’ sort – and that, right there, is something that very much depends on my mood. If I’m feeling negative, you can bet your ass I’m more inclined to plump for the latter – and given I’ve never really found running anything but a chore, it’s been many, many a year since I’ve had anything bar negative feelings about it.
I’ve also spent the last few months suffering from severe workout envy over the people who litter my Twitter feed with their joyous ‘just ran a thousand miles and now I’m going to eat all the carbs in Europe’ updates, and who don’t have to spend money on an expensive gym membership (or just a house with more than half a metre’s floor space) in order to get in some exercise. They’re all so happy – meaning I’ve been doubting my own ‘running = torture’ logic.
I mean, if everyone loves it except me – could it be (god forbid) I might be wrong?
So that was the attitude I took for my first few attempts – each of which taught me a little more about making my next run a tad easier.
First up: the boobs. As a girl who tends to feel more at home in the weights area, I’ve never had to invest in a bells-and-whistles sports bra – instead, I’ve managed to get by on a fairly low-budget affair that holds things in, unless I bounce.
Turns out running’s a bit different – and having narrowly avoided a severely bruised chin after my first go, I invested in a Shock Absorber bra. That thing, right there, was revolutionary – although hell. Let’s just say it’s a good job it was two days after payday, because it turns out boob engineering is expensive.
Secondly: the music. I have a workout playlist, and it is epic – but it turns out, when I’m running, epic ain’t really what I’m pitching for. While bad-ass hip hop and the like might suit that weights area, it’d appear what I’m looking for when I’m running is something a bit more… Cheesy.
Yes, you heard: my running workout playlist includes Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Mama Do the Hump. In fact, I’ll wager I’m the cheeriest person in London when I’m stepping out the door at 6am to Nina Simone’s Ain’t Got No, so judge all you want. I’m nailing it.
Then, there’s the hands. Turns out trying to hold a phone, money, keys and a bottle of water when you’re on the move is kindofabitch – not insurmountable, mind, but just a bit of an inconvenience. Fortunately, I managed to wangle a Tune Belt armband and sports headphones courtesy of Tesco (I refer you to my ‘yay free stuff’ policy) – which solved that issue nicely, and also made me feel slightly more like I looked the part, because… Well, armbands mean business in any context, right?
And finally – the shoes. I’m going to review these in full at some point, because they really are fabulous – but the folks at SportShoes.com sent me some gorgeous running shoes by Adidas, and… Well, I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with a piece of sportswear, but it is.
It’s not just because they’re super gorgeous – although they are – but they’ve been pretty revolutionary on the ol’ knees. I’ve always been a bit of a trainer skeptic, because I’ve always been poor – and for god’s sake, don’t ever think you shouldn’t at least have a go at exercising because you’re on a tight sportswear budget.
But I’d honestly say – if you’re inclined to feel knee pain when exercising, try changing yo’ shoes. On this, I am no longer a skeptic.
Because on Run No. 5 (which reminds me – must see if Mambo No. 5 would fit on my cheese playlist) – it all came together.
Boob issues solved, playlist nailed, shoes at the ready, and everything prepared the night before so I could just get up and hit the road – these things solved the practical aspect.
But more than all that, there was one big change that made all the difference. I went out there, pretty certain this was something I could do – without being laughed at, or falling over, or dying on the pavement. I felt positive about it.
So I went.
And having been plumping for the ‘one minute run, one minute walk’ method for the last few attempts, you can imagine my surprise when – twelve minutes later – I was still going at near enough the same pace I’d started out. I was – gulp – enjoying myself.
For the first time ever, I was running, because I wanted to – and I didn’t particularly want to stop.
Now, the message I’m trying to get across here isn’t that you need to buy loads of stuff to run. Far from it. I’ll be honest – for all the snazzy wares I’m currently sporting, I still feel a bit ‘all gear, no idea,’ and I’m definitely more Phoebe from Friends than Paula Radcliffe, if you know what I mean.
But the thing is – whenever you’re trying something new, fitness or otherwise, you’ve got to find the balance between the things you can change, and the things you’re going to just have to work through. And that’ll involve a lil’ bit of trial and error.
In my case, that’s meant strapping down the boobs, styling out new shoes, and making the conscious decision to think myself into it – despite 26 years of being someone who Hates To Run.
It’s also meant knowing that after about two and a half minutes, I’ll feel like I may never be able to breathe again – but if I can drag myself on for another thirty seconds, my body will catch up with my brain, and I’ll be able to keep going.
And if that ain’t a big ol’ metaphor for every other aspect of this whole health journey malarkey, I don’t know what is.
In other words – try new things. Have a go at the things you don’t think you can do. And take a positive attitude with you.
‘Cause you never know – you might end up having fun.