I have a very love/hate relationship with running. I am not an outdoor runner; I may be one of the very few people in the world who prefers the treadmill to the road. And I would always choose to run stairs over running laps.
But there have been times in my life when running on a regular basis has served me well; back when I first started weight lifting and got serious about working out (by “serious,” I mean giving up the home workout DVDs that I used to do in my living room), I was angry at how awful I was at running.
I had no cardio endurance, and my legs just wouldn’t carry me more than 1/2 a mile.
I worked my butt off for a year, and I finally got to a point where I felt like I had conquered running — I worked myself up to a 6-mile weekly run at around 54 minutes in total time. And once I got to this point, I stopped running regulary for a while, except for the occasional sprint, random 3-mile treadmill bout, or weekly track laps done in boot camp.
By the fall of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, I was running again. I wasn’t doing so with any purpose, but I was running instead of doing other cardio at least twice a week. I was close to my original pace — I often did 4 miles in around 40 minutes, sometimes pushing that to 5 miles in 50 minutes if I felt like it. Sometimes I would do other cardio and then finish up with a fast mile on the treadmill.
The beautiful thing about running back then was how spontaneous it was for me. I did it when I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to, and I like it that way. There was no plan, no goal to reach, just my enjoyment of making my body move as fast as it could.
It was lovely, but it was short-lived.
Come February or March of last year, I was entrenched in working two jobs, taking two grad school classes, plus lifting 5-6 days a week. Problems with binge eating and stress were creeping up on me, and the last thing on my list of things to accomplish was a treadmill session.
Other things had my attention, and my spontaneous running days ended.
About a month ago — maybe more than that — I jumped on a treadmill again for the first time in forever.
All I tried to do was one mile.
It killed me.
It wasn’t because I didn’t have the cardio capability for this anymore; frankly, I had been doing all kinds of cardio all along, just not running much.
What killed me was how heavy my legs felt — I was, after all, 20 pounds (or more) heavier than I had been when I last tried to run something more than just some sprints.
It bothered me that running a mere mile made me feel so weak. It bothered me that running that mile didn’t make me feel like it used to — there was no endorphin high, there was no feeling of flying, there was no enjoyment.
More than any other reason, that first mile back into running is why I have been running 2-3 times a week since then.
I want to feel that lightness, that high, that I missed on that first mile back. I want to enjoy the movement, to bask in the moment, because it makes me feel awesome to do so.
I have no specific speed goals, no designs of racing or going specific distances.
I just have my body, my legs, my spirit, and a treadmill.
That’s all it’s about.
Just me and my awareness of my own body.
That’s what all fitness should be about.