My relationship with running over the past 18 months has kinda mirrored my relationships with EVERYONE in my life recently. Tenuous, hot and cold, starting and stopping, frustrating and then absolutely perfect… and then frustrating again. There are stretches where running and I are best buddies, and then there are times when we give each other the silent treatment.
If you’ve read this blog you probably know that I was pretty in love with running. I mean, who starts a running blog if they don’t really dig it? It was a perfect fit for me for awhile. It made me feel powerful and accomplished and healthy and it gave me escape and focus and goals. I got off the couch. I got fit and strong. Ten half-marathons and dozens and dozens of other races of varying distances made me feel like running was my “thing”. Running was what I had been missing all my life. But then… running stopped being “it”. I started dreading run o’clock. My blog went dark. And then running and I kinda drifted apart. In fact, I left running altogether – left it in the dust. I was a runner, and then I simply wasn’t.
I was a weightlifter.
I hired a trainer and I immersed myself in my weight training. I read books and magazines and blogs about it. I picked the minds of friends and strangers who lived the gym life. I considered competing (but I’m glad I didn’t) and admired those who had the fortitude and willpower and single-mindedness it took to do so. I spent hours in the gym picking things up and putting them down. I did this for about a year.
And here’s what happened: Nothing.
I stayed exactly as fit as I had been as a runner. I didn’t bulk up like a man even though I lifted more than some men in the gym. I didn’t turn into a fitness model either, much to my dismay. I sweat like mad but I shunned cardio for almost a year. I gained a couple of pounds of muscle, lost a couple of inches overall. But the net effect was not noticeably different.
Then I added Boot Camp.
I ran and jumped and squatted and lunged. I sat-up and pushed-up and pulled-up. I swung ropes and pushed sleds and hurled medicine balls.
And here’s what happened: Nothing.
I stayed exactly as fit as I had been as a runner. I didn’t get super cut or super lean or super bulky. My abs didn’t suddenly form a 6 pack and my ass didn’t perk back up (well maybe a little). But I was still wearing the same jeans I’ve had for years, and I was still solidly in the “athletic/fit” category and no closer to the “fitness/supermodel” category.
THEN I started cycling.
My first ride was about 40 miles and I was pretty impressed with myself. I did a few rides like that before the cold weather hit, and one after, when we had a nice warm day a few weeks ago. But mostly I rode bikes in the gym. I’ve been riding 80-100+ miles a week for awhile (5 months?) and doing hills or speed sets or intervals. I’ve been BUSTING. MY. ASS. on that bike. I’ve done a few spin classes too.
And here’s what has happened: Nothing.
I’m exactly as fit as I had been as a runner. I’m not featherlight like a “real cyclist” – nowhere close. Likewise my quads didn’t bulk up more than average nor my arms turn to mush. My lung capacity may be slightly improved but only slightly. My fear of clipless pedals is now well established but that’s another story…
And guess what? On January 1st 2015 I ran 15 miles. And on January 10th I couldn’t do two. And I did 8 miles two weeks ago and yesterday two was my max.
So here’s what has changed: Nothing.
I started this blog to track “the Evolution of a Runner” yet I failed you, my reader, by not documenting ALLLLLL the other things I did when I was NOT running. Those things are part of the evolution. Part of my journey. And what I have learned on this journey is that at 42 I am more fit than I’ve ever been in my life – fit enough to do ANY SPORT with skill.
Because being FIT *is* the end game, more than being a card-carrying-runner. Being healthy and fit are two of the most important advantages a person can have in life, and they are totally in our control to have or not have. Five years ago when I started this blog I had just learned that being fit was up to me, and running was my weapon of choice to wage the war against the sloth inside me. And over the past few years I’ve changed weapons and learned new skills but the battle goes on. Doing nothing is how I quickly lose the battle and fade into middle age and muffin tops. I choose to fight like hell against that, and I now know that I can do it in many different ways with many different weapons.
And you know what that makes me want to do? Everything.