Why Do I Like Running: Pt. 7
Monday, November 07, 2011
Chapter 7: A New Spark
The new millenium didn't inspire change in me. 30s turned into 40s as I trudged along to the same tune that had taken hold of me during the previous decade and I let myself get old; not just in body but also in mind.
It took a seemingly chance incident to set events into motion that would ultimately lead to things I wouldn't even dared to imagine as I was approaching my 48th birthday.
One afternoon towards the end of July 2008, I went to collect a print job that I'd sent to the printer at work. On the tray was a flyer that someone else had printed but not yet picked up. It was from an email sent out by HR to everyone. I'd received the email myself, noted the subject line, saw what it was about and discarded it. That had been 3 weeks prior, but looking at it on the printer in hardcopy, for some reason, caught my attention.
It was soliciting a new employee benefit of a corporate gym membership at a local fitness club. What I hadn't noticed before was that the benefit included a provision that the company would pay the already discounted monthly membership fee IF the employee actually used the gym facilities 8 times in a calendar month. Having not read it carefully the first time, I had missed that key selling point. That was a pretty good incentive to get me off my butt, but time was running out. Open enrollment for this benefit closed at the end of July, which was in 2 days.
I made a copy of the flyer for myself and took it home to think it over. There wasn't much to think over, actually. It just seemed like too good of a deal and I wanted to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting what the deal was. I enrolled on the last day of eligibility. The membership became active in September 2008.
I was excited as September approached. I hadn't seen the inside of a gym since the summer way back in 1997 before I'd popped my hamstring. I was apprehensive but eager to rediscover myself. I chose NOT to step on a scale, set any specific body measurement goals or make any grandiose resolutions. I already knew I was out of shape and overweight. All I wanted to do was take baby steps and re-habituate myself to some sort of fitness routine. Weight loss goals could come later. "Just Do It" was all I wanted to focus on. I reasoned I just wanted to develop the habit. My only goal was visit the gym for 20-30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise, at least 8 times a month. That's just twice a week. Easy, right?
When September ended, despite my good intentions, I didn't meet the monthly minimum. I had found it surprisingly difficult to establish a habit pattern of regular exercise. October was a repeat of September. I was getting to the gym some, but not nearly consistently enough. I was disgusted with myself. Why was this so hard?
November, the month I turned 48, I finally met that modest goal, qualifying finally as an "8-timer" during the month. I duplicated that in December. Even though I hadn't take better diet and nutrition into account, my modest "program" was working. At the end of December, I was able to squeeze into 32" jeans for the first time in maybe 8 years, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. My workouts had consisted of only some modest rowing and stationary cycling, but it was working. I was inspired to take it up a couple of notches and in January 2009, with momentum building, embarked on a 4-month self-styled "bootcamp" to lose 20 lbs.
What a great phase that was. It was pre-SparkPeople time for me, but I tracked food and workouts in a notebook, added spin classes, swimming, using the elliptical trainers and even strength training to my rotation of biking and rowing. I finally ventured onto the treadmill, running once a week, usually about 3 miles. Running was just a minor part of my program. I was crosstraining, doing the "muscle confusion" thing before ever hearing the term "P90X."
I whittled myself down from 165 lbs to 147 by the beginning of May 2009, at a rate of about 1 pound a week. I was a new man. No...not a man. I was a kid again. I was alive.
Then, in May, I switched to "maintenance" mode, which was also when I learned about SparkPeople. I found I was bored by maintenance. I missed the goal-setting and pursuit. I used June to work on a short range goal of -4 more pounds, getting to 143 before realizing that I couldn't just fixate on losing weight. I needed a new type of goal. I messed around with making a body fat composition a target, but realized what I really needed was a performance goal. What could I work at doing rather than measuring?
How about a half marathon? Could I actually revisit that old challenge again? Wouldn't it be cool to do at 49 what I had done once before at age 27? I picked out a candidate race in mid-September - the Marine Corps Camp Pendleton Heartbreak Ridge Half Marathon, about 10 weeks out. I assembled a training program with insight from Hal Higdon, Runner's World, CoolRunning.com and other online resources. It was only supposed to be phase, after which I'd move on to something else.
More than two years later, and I'm still running. How'd that happen?
Next: Discovering the Joy of Running