September 2019

Week 4 – It CAN be done!

Three minutes. One hundred eighty seconds. One minute in-between each of six repetitions.

At this point, it’s a battle of the legs against the lungs. Who’s gonna poop out first? What I have to try to remember is not to try to keep up with the rest of the class. Not only are they younger, but they have all been involved in other exercise, so they can move faster than I can. One lovely lady stays back with me from time to time to converse — and I quickly learn distraction is my best friend.

I’m surprised that I can do this. It’s hard, I won’t lie. My legs are complaining like a whiny child and my breathing is crazy. I stay aware of both to ensure I’m not overdoing anything. Even though it’s only been four weeks, I’m liking the knowledge that I’m working towards this and I’m pretty sure if I stick with it I’ll be back to calling myself a runner in no time. I do not want to risk having to start over yet again by being silly here.

By the end of the week I can tell that my body has finally recognized that we’re exercising on a regular basis going forward. This is not a phase I’m going through or something I’m going to chicken out on. I know the first weeks are where the really hard work happens and by next week things will feel a bit easier because this base is being built now.

We’re still climbing, but each week the mountain is a little less steep.

Week 5 – Can’t Believe I’m Doing This

Four and ones. I don’t know if I feel it’s getting easier or if I’ve utterly surrendered to my running fate and just don’t care anymore. only a 33% jump this week — and that percentage will keep shrinking — so 5 reps of this somehow seem not too horrible.

I’m still incredibly slow. I’ve figured out that in the years of no exercise I have actually forgotten how to run. My ankles no longer have that spring in them, the muscles that lift my legs to go up stairs are not strong enough for repeated lifting over a few minutes. My version of “running” is more like a bouncy walk or shuffle. The instructor actually walked beside me as I ran.

I don’t mind being this slow at this point. It’s still work! All of those muscle things will strengthen up over time. Right now I need to work on the fitness part and be able to breathe throughout the run and build up the thighs to endure the distance.

I’m getting into things so much, that on my Saturday run I even threw in an extra rep of 4 minutes to make it 6 in preparation of next week and 5:1s.

Week 6 – Over the Hump

This week, we run five minutes with a one minute walk and do that four times. The end goal of the course is to run ten minutes with one minute walk, so this is our halfway point.

My runner’s attitude has started to return. The body has realized now this is not a passing fad and we are actually going to get fit — and actually are so much more fit than when we first started this thing. I was terrified of running 3 minutes and this week I’m actually looking forward to running 5! Go figure.

Throughout this process, I have not hurt myself at all. My legs are sore after the exertion, but that’s not surprising and it’s also not crippling. Easily taken care of with an ibuprofen or Epsom salts. I suspect it’s lactic acid build up which indicates that the muscles are, indeed, working and strengthening.

At this point, too, I am not puffing and panting until the second half of the reps. The first couple I am able to chat if there’s anyone with me to listen and chat back. The last couple I’m sucking air like always, but the lungs and heart are also learning how to get fit. The improvement is starting to be noticeable.

Week 7 – There is light at the end of the tunnel

Two young ladies dropped out 2 weeks ago; we’re down to a class of four. I can’t believe I have come this far. (Or that I’ve survived this much, frankly.) This week we run 6 and 1s three times. The six would be really intimidating except for the three times. When I catch myself thinking about the 6, I remember the 3 and things calm down.

Not to say that running 6 minutes three times is easy. The first one I always find myself looking at my watch part-way through to find out when this new, longer time will end. The first one always feels like forever. But when you get up to 6s you can remember 3s and wish you were back there again. The dreaded, anxiety provoking 3s. The 3s where I thought I wuz gonna die just thinking about them. How easy they seem now. Just as 6s will in another few weeks.

I got this. Once the first rep is over, the trick is not to stop to walk early during the last rep. The middle reps I can usually get through by grumbling in my head and generally wondering how much more I can take, but the last rep my legs are ticked off at me, my lungs are ticked off at me and it’s really only my jackass stubborn streak that lets me fight through it.

And, frankly, while I match the instructor walking in the first one or two sets, I’ll bet she could pass me crawling on the last one. By the end, I’ve redefined the word “slow.” And that’s totally OK. I’m heavy and I’m older (in 3 months I’ll celebrate my 60th birthday). I will never get back to running a 9 minute mile like I could in my late 30s and 40s. I will crack open a bottle of bubbly if I can do a 12 minute mile at this point – and I may be 63 before I’ve built up to that. (And at some point I’ll have to try to convert distance to km as is now the custom, apparently.) Oy.