Old Fat Lady Gets Fit ... Again (#YEG)

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.

Week 8 – Jumping by Two

You’d think we’d be running 7 and 1 today. When I first took a running class, that was how things were done, except in the old days all times were run with six reps instead of the current variable rep limit.

This week we’re running 8 and 1s, and I must say I am a little intimidated. But that is tempered by the past 7 weeks’ experience. In not quite two months I have gone from a couch spud who needed to stop to rest during a spirited walk to someone who, last Saturday, ran an extra set of six minutes just because I could. It is amazing how quickly the body adjusts to accommodate the new demands.

More than the distance, or maybe in addition to the distance, the hard part is trying to ignore the passage of time. I’ve started wearing ear buds with my aged MP3 player to distract me. The rest of the class is usually way ahead of me, so I’m always being left to run alone. (There is one lovely lady who, a few times, ran with me to chat even though she was capable of keeping up with the lead group — always welcome.) This is why I say this class is not meant for all ages — running alone while seeing a group ahead of you laughing and talking and enjoying their efforts is, frankly, cruel. If I did not have the history I have; if I did not have the motivation I have, I would have dropped out to make up with my sofa for the rest of whatever. In the ten mile class, I saw a lady who I assume was about my age — and in that class was obviously fit and not overweight — who was running at a relatively slow rate compared to the others in her group. That implied to me that speed is affected by age. If I can improve to her pace, I will be a happy camper.

Eight minutes is a long time. But I do notice, when running on my own on my previous routes, that I’m covering some impressive distance. And music really helps. I do keep my volume set low enough to hear traffic and even to hear footsteps coming from behind as a safety measure. Funny when people yell “Good morning!” thinking I can’t hear after I’ve greeted them in a normal tone

Eight minutes! I did three sets on my own on Saturday. And of course I brag about it on social media. Darn right I brag. I’ve worked hard and earned the right. Next week we do 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking which is the goal for the course. Bring it on!

Weeks 9 & 10 – The Big One!

Ten and 1s! The goal for the course a week early. (We had class interceptions with a couple of long weekends so it worked out we got here early.)

Knowing today is the establishment of a new base level provides enough adrenaline that there is no fear of the ten minute span. That and the fact we’re only doing 2 of them. I have my tunes on. My playlist was created well over 10 years ago, and with my lack of exercise I’ve not heard it for a very long time, so the entertainment is augmented by the surprise of the next tune. Very cool.

A lot of celebrating for the whole group when we get through this. I am the only person in the class, including the instructor who took a week off to run a race, who attended every class (and lead it the week the instructor was away). So I secretly applaud myself for my wherewithal to hang in there and get it done. I am officially back in the running world and a happy camper.

The final week is a repeat of this one, so I suggest we add a set and make it three reps of 10 and 1 so there is a continued growth to the last class, and we do.

Full disclosure at this point, the class ended August 12, 2019. I have been writing this blog well after the fact and enjoyed looking back and reliving the terror and intimidation of the class. Haha!

The next couple of posts will cover my ongoing progress and come up to the present in short order. Spoiler Alert. Today is October 9, 2019. I can run 40 minutes non-stop and just ran my first five set 10:1. =^D

Going Forward – the New, New Normal

I am SO glad I said “yes” to the course; and so grateful my hip and feet gave me no cause for concern. After however many years it’s been, I’m baaack.

I’m much slower now. Even though I had lost around 30 pounds long before I started this journey, I’m still carrying about an extra 40 pounds around with me and I do believe that is a large factor in my current speed.

I continue to run 3 times per week, but if I have a day when I just cannot get it together, I don’t sweat it and take the day off. Not more than once a month. As slow as I am, I am actually faster now in portions of my runs. I discovered when running the same route I had to pad more distance on the end to run out the clock.

I also started mixing it up between running on the sidewalk and running trails. We have a lovely huge off-leash, multi-use park here where the trails form a loop to and from the parking lot, so I can bring my wee pup with me and let her run, sniff and catch up as she wants while I run the trails. I’ve discovered I can run much further on dirt than on concrete.

September 24 I ran 30 minutes non-stop for the first time. I mash up running 10:1s and non-stop. In the old days, once I could run 20 minutes non-stop I quit run/walking and just added time until I could start running for distance – my shortest route from my house is 3 miles (just shy of 5 km).

October 4 I ran 5 sets of 10:1 for the first time. During the following week I ran 42 minutes non-stop. At this point, my legs are the indicators of how tired I’m getting. As I run slow enough to talk, my fitness level is now such that, even if I start to breathe a bit heavier it’s tolerable. My leg soreness is the sign I’m either extending my distance or going too fast (for me).

Goal setting is key. Knowing what I want to achieve is the only way to keep motivated. For me, as always, I don’t intend to race — I just want the fitness and endurance. Ultimately, at this age, I will be happy to be able to run 10K once a week with two other runs between 3 and 5 miles. If I can get there and make that my weekly fitness routine I will be content.

Dealing with the Weight

Now that I have a dependable and enjoyable source of exercise and fitness, I will begin efforts to drop some more weight.

I had joined Weight Watchers for about 2 years and had lost 30 pounds. I was working on the next 25 when they changed their brand to WW and shifted their focus from weight loss to healthy eating. Their points system changed and I put on 15 pounds. The most obvious thing to me was the new seeming disregard of caloric intake.

The former points system worked for me. It was healthy eating and I changed a lot of habits for the better, but following the new system let me play the zero points game with foods that should never be considered “have as much as you want.” Like lentils. Great healthy food, nutritious and excellent source of fibre. They also have nearly 400 calories for 1/2 cup. Zero points. Things like this made it very easy to stay on the plan with a halo over my head while the pounds came back on.

Of course there was no access to the old points system once the switch happened, so I had to resign my membership. I have managed to maintain my current weight since and use My Fitness Pal to make sure I’m on track.

That being said, I am going to re-commit to starting serious weight loss efforts with the My Fitness Pal app next week (it’s Canadian Thanksgiving and until the leftovers are gone, it’s pointless to start).

Yes, you can be fit and fat. My doctor even told me she didn’t care how much I weighed as long as I was eating properly. And thanks to the initial Weight Watchers system, I have learned what that is and how I can enjoy eating healthily (even if I do a bit more of it than I should =^D).

Why Running?

If you’ve tried it and you don’t like it, try other activities to see which clicks with you. Give each activity a fair try — depending on how sedentary you are, the first few weeks are (or should be) tough — before casting it aside. You want to find something you like so much you look forward to your next exercise day. It should be a happy time — a time of achievement — an opportunity to get closer to the goal.

I had some pretty awful teachers in school and learned not to like team sports. (There’s always that interdependency and lack of control that I didn’t care for (or understand) at that age that probably had a lot to do with it too.) One reason I loved tennis is that it was up to me to do the work. I didn’t have to trust someone else who might not have been up to the task. I had only myself to blame. But enough of this self-analysis … Running for fitness has no opponent – you’re running against your earlier self to show growth.

Running needs one thing – a pair of shoes. You can do it anywhere. There is no official time limit. As long as you have clothes to take care of your modesty you can participate in running. It’s cheap. No memberships required, no travel to the club or the gym or wherever. The only thing you need to ensure you have the best you can afford is the shoe. Truly. Shin splints can be caused by shoes, your running form can be affected by your shoe. Your continuing ability to partake in running can be affected by your shoe. Get your stride and foot analyzed and get the proper shoe for your foot. Probably cost you in the neighbourhood of $100 CDN give or take $20. Shoes last around 500 miles (+/- 800 km).

The rest of the available gear is for your vanity for the most part. During this process I bought a running bra for the first time in my life. I’ve never spent that much money on a bra before, but it turns out my girls aren’t bouncing around like a couple of cantaloupe in a mesh bag when I run now. So that was a win for me. The rest of the stuff, like a t-shirt for $60 is ridiculous (especially when it contains a logo that advertises for the people who get a part of that money). I don’t like to pay money to advertise for someone else. That’s completely backwards – they should pay me to wear their advertising.

Once you’re so established that you are entering races to win, you probably need some of the fancier gear. As long as you’re just getting yourself fit and happy, your wallet can stay shut after the shoes and you’ll do just as well. (You can always ask for some special stuff for Christmas or birthdays. 😉 )

Running, besides being one of my favourite activities that gets me around neighbourhoods to check out landscaping or architecture, also burns calories like nobody’s business! The rule of thumb is about 100 calories burned per mile. Sometimes that mile takes 12 minutes or longer, sometimes for the younger folk it might only take 4 or 5 minutes. (It’s also affected by sex and weight, so just use it as a round number and not an exact measure for you.)

Extending my time

As of yesterday, I can run 44 minutes nonstop. I’m still really slow — I don’t cover a lot of distance in that time. Probably just over 5 km (average fast runners – not record holders – run 10 km in about that time).

Frankly, I’m still undecided about whether, at this age, it is healthier for me to run 10:1s or to keep extending my nonstop time. I suppose all I have to do is contact some running folks to find out.

Today is the first day back on the weight loss track. All my Thanksgiving leftovers are gone and I stepped on the scale for the first time in a couple of months to find I’m at the same weight as I was when I started running. Basically I have eradicated my over eating by my running. Returning to a proper eating pattern (lots of fruits and veggies, chicken breast and fish and no more donuts or chips) should have the weight coming off in rather short order.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m using the Fitness Pal app on my phone. It’s free to use and lets you enter your food through the day and calculates not only your calories, but lets you know if you’re getting a bit too much sugar or fat content as well as when you’ve hit your fibre goal for the day. It’s very good in my opinion. Future posts here will document my success.