It’s been a while since I posted about my fitness & health journey, for two reasons: first, I’ve been writing mostly my bookish posts I actually forgot to write these ones; second, I got crazy busy with work since last September and was too exhausted to exercise or run consistently for a solid four months – basically until this January. I was thinking of posting about the stuff I was doing in that meantime health-wise in order to be able to jump back into it when I had motivation/time, but somehow I didn’t post that.
For context: I suck at aerobics. I did a couch-to-5K training last year, signed up for a couple runs and basically changed my life in several ways to become healthier. I have a family history of heart disease, and also a history of depression & anxiety, and found that exercise helps with keeping my anxiety levels a bit down and gives me energy in a way that seems to keep depression at bay. My 5K is still very slow (and most of the time I can’t do it all in one go without walking) and I’m not a terribly fit person, but I swear by the “okay can be better than perfect” and so I keep going. For someone like me, running 1K without stopping was hard, painful and a huge accomplishment.
After 6 months or so of running, I had to stop for around 4months, doing only the occasional asthmatic and painful 3km run. Now I finally managed to go back to a routine of running a few times per week and started my 10K practice. Here’s how I managed to do that:
I continued some healthy habits & slowly started hyping myself up for running
Although I had no energy or time to go running for a while, some habits I had created since last year were easy to stick to – for example, I still meal prepped for work and kept my meat, milk and sweets consumption rather low. I cook at home more often than not. I know those aren’t manageable for everyone, but for me they work really well and I enjoy coming up with different recipes for meal prepping! That helped keep me healthy, even though I was not exercising anymore.
Once I decided to go back and my workload had gone a bit down (or at least more predictable), I started hyping myself up for running. For new runners like me, the most difficult thing about running is the mental aspect: endurance, motivation, habit. Actually running isn’t nearly as hard as pushing yourself to do it, or to keep doing it, to keep going when it’s hurting or you’re tired. So I find that watching videos about running advice, reading articles and checking out sports gear I’d like to buy eventually really helps me feel motivated to go!
At first I could barely finish 1 km without stopping
I have asthma, which gets MUCH worse in winter. I had difficulty finishing 1 km running mostly because of that, but also I felt tired and my legs felt like mush after not running for so long. But after a few runs it got better! It’s warmer now, which improves my breathing, but also the practice makes it much better. I didn’t have any difficulties with that since then, and my legs don’t hurt the same way. More importantly, I find it easier to push through now and keep going when I want to stop. My 1km turned to almost 8km last week.
I created a challenge with a friend up & chose a running goal
I am… quite competitive. I suck at running, but I suck even more at losing. A friend of mine is training for a half marathon (21K) and I went slightly over-competitive and was like OK LET’S DO A RUNNING CHALLENGE, and here we are. I hate losing, and I am a lot more disciplined if I know I might have a chance of winning if I run more often than he does. I’m going about 4x a week now.
I also decided that I would like to do a 10K this year, and chose a particular race that I ran last year as a 5K, and I’d love to run the 10K track this year. I signed up for a training plan (free with my sports watch, but you don’t need one – if you have a smartphone, there are several apps. My friend uses Runtastic for the half marathon training).
Oh, I also re-instated my reward program – I get new shoes, pants, protein powder, etc for some milestones. At first I made it only mildly challenging (running 5K nonstop again) and then increasingly challenging (running 600m of a very steep hill near my track at pace x, run 5K in x minutes, running 10K nonstop etc). I will run looking GOOD very soon!
When I was mentally ready to go, I broke my own records
Running is a mix of motivation and habit, and I needed to get my motivation back before making it again a habit, and that’s okay too. But once I felt the itch to run again, I was so hyped for it that after a couple weeks of practicing more and getting back into shape, I broke my own 5K record. Last week, I ran for over 7km nonstop (which is huge for a potato like me). So, what I mean is: it’s ok if you stop. For someone who’s never been a runner or particularly athletic, the 4 month stop felt like going back to zero, but you NEVER go back to zero once you have started already. Your brain and body remember it, and you get back into shape much quicker. It was so nice to see that I could go even further than before, when I was lighter and fitter!
Have you had to stop running for a while and then went back to it? How did it go for you? I’d love to get some tips on more things I can do to try and stay fit even if I can’t run. I still feel very new to it and like I have so much to learn.