How I started over – RUNNING

In 1985 (yes, there was a 1985. And yes, I know, It was eons ago) I was listening to Duran Duran, begging my parents to buy a VCR, and wearing tightly rolled jeans. I remember it well.  

Anyway, I tried out for the freshman volleyball team and was cut. I was devastated as I stared at the list of who “made it” on the locker room door. About that time, my sister’s BFF wandered by after her first day of cross country practice. She encourage me to, “join the Cross Country Team.”  She continued that, “they will take anyone.”  So I did. I joined. And I became a runner.

To be honest, I’ve been running ever since. To date, I have completed 11 marathons and 20 triathlons. I LOVE to Run.

group of young people runs at the beach on beautiful summer sunset

Then it happened. Devastation. On December 9, 2015 I had major surgery. I was told not to exercise for six weeks. And when I started again, I was told to go slow. The six weeks flew by and my day to begin exercising and running again arrived.

Easy, right?  I’m a runner.  It’s what I do.  No sweat.  

Wrong! I no longer was a runner. I now became a New Runner.  All my years of experience meant nothing. I was starting from scratch. Walking, actually. So I guess that isn’t from scratch.  But I knew I needed to start slow to not undo my post-surgery healing.

I started with walking for 20 minutes, every other day. That wasn’t bad. I needed some decent shoes to keep my feet hurting.  My calves were a bit sore but walking will do that. It felt good to be outside, getting fresh air and even sweating a little.

Week number two I was ready to try to run again. Ouch. Yikes. It was hard. I set my athletic watch to beep after four minutes and then beep after one minute and repeat the intervals. I strolled merrily for four minutes. At the beep, I took off like a little girl running through a meadow of flowers. The wind blowing through my hair, I felt like I was floating on air.… for about 30 seconds.  

Then I was tired. I stared at my watch 40, 41, 42 … come on!  Give me my next beep!  At long last, I heard the beep and I got to walk for four more minutes before the torture returned.

What happened? I am an Ironman Triathlete and marathon runner and I couldn’t run for one minute? Humble pie, my friends. Humble pie! I was stuffing my face with humble pie.

I repeated the four minutes run, one minute walk for 30 minutes.  And they did get easier. I wasn’t praying for the next beep until around 50 seconds. Baby steps.

I took a day off and repeated the workout again.  And it was better. My soreness was there but not too bad. I stopped dwelling on the beeps and started to enjoy the fresh air again.  I was walk/running along the river. And that is always beautiful.

The following week I increased the stakes. I went with a three minute walk and a two minute running interval. I’m not going to lie. The two minutes seemed like an eternity. But I toughed it out and did this workout for 30 minutes three times that week.  

tblog2It was now time to go for 40 minutes and once again, up the ante. That’s right; now more running than walking. Two minute walk, three minute run, three times that week.  

It did get easier. And I felt better. I felt fast when I ran in comparison with the walking intervals. I started to feel like a runner again. The soreness was going away. And there was more sweat.

As you can predict, I went with one walk and a four minute run the following week for 40 minutes. I was back to glancing at my watch and hearing several “phantom beeps” before the real one went off after four minutes. But as week continued, it became easier. I ran faster. And there was more sweat.

At long last, week six arrived. I was ready. My “time off” of running was now equal to my time back “on.” That has to be significant somehow, somewhere.  So I went for it.  Forty minutes of running nonstop. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast. But it felt amazing. I felt strong. I was a runner. It was awesome.

After my run, I celebrated with 10 minutes of stretching to keep my calves, quads and hamstrings from getting sore. Obviously, I didn’t want to risk any strained muscles.  That would mean resting and starting over again. No way.  

The training plan I used is called Couch to 5K. Download it. Print it. Go For It! It is one of the healthiest, safest ways to go from walker to runner. Find a couple of buddies to hold you accountable and get yourself a Beef-a-roo shake (kid size) after you finish your first run-only workout.  You’ve earned it! #YouCanDoThis #bfitnation

Written by Tonya Meyer, Community Engagement Director for United Way of Rock River Valley