A funny thing happened this December. I started running every day. There was this challenge on Facebook. Run every day between Dec 1 and Jan 1, at least 1 mile. I've been running again since the summer, but in a very half-assed way. I'd run a day or two a week, feel lousy because I was slow and felt heavy and unmotivated. I'd go back out a week later because I finally felt guilty enough to get back outside. Rinse and repeat. Not much happened except I cultivated a feeling of guilt and dread about working out. My weight stayed stubbornly the same for months.
But this challenge came along. I don't know why this was the silly little thing to kick me out of my rut. I think it was because a work friend of mine was doing it, and she was so chipper and peppy about it, it made me want to do it too. I started a couple days into the month because I saw a couple of her posts about it and decided to give it a go. I figured, as slow as I feel, I can at least do a mile, right?
I gave myself 4 outs: days I could just say, nope, it's not happening today. I took one within the first week. Daily running felt hard at first. I couldn't figure out which seemed worse: getting up early (earlier than 0530, my normal wakeup time) to run, or running after work. I knew I could run on my days off, but days that I work? Sounded exhausting. But I figured, a mile will take me 12 minutes at most. What do I have to lose?
After the first week, I started to remember that running at night is fine: just use my dorky headlamp, and be safe and aware of my surroundings. My neighborhood is pretty safe, so I stuck around there. I noticed that while at first I had to start walking before I reached the end of my block, after a week I could go about twice as far. I used my HR monitor chest strap and found that my heart rate was already improving. And then I lost a couple pounds.
It was only a couple, but people noticed the difference immediately. My face was different, and my posture. My body composition was obviously changing. My appetite decreased too: instead of stress eating, I was running my stress off. I started to feel a sense of power in my body.
After a couple weeks, I had another out day, when I was unexpectedly on call and had to stay late at work. I hated taking that night off. It became much easier to fit my runs into my schedule. If I was going to head out and my 3 year old fussed that she didn't want me to leave, I just stayed and went out after she went to bed. It wasn't a big deal any longer. I came to relish the time to myself to think and reflect. Around this time I stopped listening to music during the run: now I mostly just run in silence, listening to my own thoughts or meditating.
My time improved as well as my mileage. My ultimate guide of a successful run became how I felt during and after: strong, capable, confident, versus slow, heavy, lethargic. I dropped a full 2 minutes off my mile, and my occasional sub-10 minute mile runs (I still walk a little, but not much anymore) feel like a real victory, even though I try not to fixate on time.
Most shockingly, I lost about 10 pounds over that time. Maybe that isn't shocking to people I consider "normal" at weight loss, but for me I've never lost weight like that--not even when I was losing weight with the band and running regularly. Not only did I lose the weight but my body composition clearly changed. I've lost one size in jeans, and am wearing smaller scrubs (in fact, small scrubs). Now, I am within reach of my first goal weight, after spending most of the last year wondering if I was going to lose any more at all.
What next? The challenge ended. I've continued running every day. I'm just looking to see how long I can keep the streak alive right now. It's been 15 days since my last day off (Dec 18, the day I had to work late). I'll sign up for some races this year, but racing isn't really an important goal for me. The biggest things I get out of running are the feeling of being strong, and the time and space to myself. I like to feel a slight soreness in my legs, just enough to remind me that I'm alive. I'm taking yoga classes when I can, too, mostly on Saturdays. Moving your body feels good and natural when you make a habit of it. Whatever my next goal is, I want to reach it with joy, not exhaustion. In fact, maybe that joy is my next goal.