Weight Loss

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

In the Long Run

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.

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