Thursday, April 11, 2013

How I Became A (Slow) Runner

I don’t believe I’ve ever told the story of where I originally got the idea of starting to run by going slowly. In fact, it’s slightly embarrassing. But since I’m learning to tell the truth, I will admit it now: I got it from Jane Fonda.

This Jane Fonda:

As opposed to the Barbarella, Black Panther, Hanoi, Keffiyeh, Ted Turner, or Christian Jane Fonda. (I just learned that her given name was Lady Jayne Fonda. Could explain a lot.) (I like Feminist Jane Fonda, just for the record.)

Anyway, the year after I graduated from college was a not great time for me, and it occurred to me that getting fit might help things. I was not overweight, but I was definitely not strong. One day I found an old Jane Fonda book (not even sure which one) lying around my mother’s house. I briefly tried a few of the exercises, but they felt absurd and rather useless. Then one very small paragraph caught my attention: she mentioned that running is a good way to exercise, but that you should make sure you don’t run so fast that you have a hard time talking.

Well, I had always liked the idea of running, but whenever I tried it, I found it miserable. I was gasping, cramping, and unable to go for more than a few minutes. It had never occurred to me that running didn’t have to feel this way. So I put on some crappy shoes and vaguely exercise-appropriate clothes and went out the door. I was shocked to find how slowly I actually had to go to feel like I could still converse. (Mind you, I was not conversing. I made sure to do this someplace where no one I would know could possibly spot me.)

And this time, I could do it. I walked some of it, sure, but at the end of 30 minutes, I was exhilarated. I think by the end of that very first run, I was hooked. (Aside: I am writing this via dictation because I have a wrist injury* and it kept transcribing “f—ed” instead of “hooked.” Maybe I should have left that uncorrected.)

The rest was trial and error. I quickly figured out that if I ran two days in a row, something started to hurt. I discovered that running on a track gave me knee problems, probably due to running on a slant/turning corners constantly. I found that if I tried to track my time too closely, I ran too fast and burned out before the end, and that I shouldn’t speed up until the second half of a run. I learned that eating candy before a run was not wise. I figured out that I couldn’t run early as I was too stiff in the morning, even in my 20s.

And I got rid of my chronic headaches. I became strong. I found muscles in my legs I didn’t know existed. I was better able to manage my anxiety. But most importantly, I was a runner, and having that identity somehow made me feel so much more confident and able to face life.

So thanks, Jane!

*Said injury due to bad luck, not deliberate self-injury: I was trying to move a large picture when the frame fell apart and the glass slid out. Turns out if you slice the inside of your wrist open, the staff in the emergency department get quite worried. I also found out that showing up to your therapy appointment with a wrist wrapped in gauze can cause quite a stir. The receptionist couldn’t spot my name in the appointment book at first, and suddenly four people were running around reassuring me and chasing down my therapist (who was in the bathroom, poor guy). I didn’t even know that many support staff worked there. In the session my therapist asked what the heck THAT was that all about. I showed him my wrist and he was like, “Ohhhhhhh, right.”


Solitary Diner (Also Known as The Frugalish Physician) said...

Thanks for this post. I'm just getting back into running after a long hiatus, and I feel so slow. It's nice to be reminded that slow is okay.

Roe said...

Thanks for making me laugh! Great post! I have always wanted to be a runner because I have long legs and throughout college everyone said I should. But everytime I tried to run my knees hurt and my lungs screamed! After reading your post from years ago I tried it again and slowed way down... It was awesome! I have been running off and on for the last couple of years... I haven't reached the point of loving it yet but I will keep trying!


Anonymous said...

Your original maggot post about slow running inspired me to start running a couple of months later (and stop and start and stop and start and keep at it finally).

I ran a 10K last weekend. I am proud to say that I ran slower than most of the people walking.

Right now it's my main source of stress relief and exercise, so thank you for the inspiration.

MightyOz said...

You are a ninja and it makes my day every time you post. Other things make me happy too, so don't feel pressured, but DoctorMama posts are guaranteed happy feelings when I get them. Never stop being astounding.

Val said...

I became a slow runner in college when I hit the track for the ten millionth time (I'd always charge out like gangbusters, have to stop & gasp for breath in short order, give myself painful shin splints - stop, rinse, repeat) and I was lucky enough to fall in behind a slow middle-aged woman... Lo & behold, I completed an entire lap (1 mi) w/out stopping! It was like a miracle!

ozma said...

I had this crazy experience once doing aerobics via this Jane Fonda record.

I was following her ideas and she had you do this funky yoga thing at the end. It was this thing with your spine--the feeling was so intense I felt like I was permanently injured. I was not, but it felt like it.

Everyone is very hip to injuries now.

Yoga is more like my running--at least in terms of the psychic effects. And Jane was way ahead of the curve on that too! I didn't really do yoga until YEARS later and really regret that I didn't know about that sooner. I could have done yoga instead of taking up smoking (no, I don't smoke now--but THAT used to be my running/yoga in terms of psychic effects).

Anonymous said...

What I remember about that book was that everyone got it and Jane promoted it as I way to get fit and look great if you followed her methods. My friend worked her self like crazy following this book. Years later Jane came clean and admitted to liposuction, nips and tucks.

Talk about old and slow. I ran every day for 30 years. Nothing for the last 8 and now at 200+ lbs I am trying again. It is a wonder I don't crack the pavement.

Anonymous said...

I took up running at 45, when I began to get the feeling that parts of my body I was attached to might start falling off if I didn't start proper, regular exercise (small discoloured spot of skin where a leg ulcer would start - disappeared very quickly once I started running). Slowly and only three times a week was the only way I could keep it going consistently, and it is wonderful to have that validated by this site. Thank you.

I don't run early in the day either. A former colleague who did was told by his doctor that his back problems were due to running early in the morning. Apparently the discs expand over night, and the sudden pressure of running is not good. Better for them to gently compress over the day, so when you run they are already geared up for the strain.


Kate Hagel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I love Jane Fonda. When I lived in an attic apartment in my 20's, I did one of her workout videos religiously. Oddly enough, I would sit down and smoke a cigarette right after my cool down.

Also, your wrist story is hilarious. I can only imagine all the drama. ha!

Majerus said...

I also like feminist Jane Fonda best (no big surprise).

The wrist injury repercussions story is priceless. Hope you heal well and soon.