Monday, January 28, 2008

In Which Seattle Freezes Over and I Start Running

Seattle has apparently opted out of the global warming (so much for "global"), as it has snowed at least five times here since December. This may not seem like a lot to those of you who, say, live in Pittsburgh (shout out!) but here in Seattle proper, we might get snow once a year. Some winters go by with no snow whatsoever. For those of you who are now wondering why I keep talking about skiing, if there's no snow, come on out to Seattle and visit me and I will show you the wonders of elevation. Rain down here in the city means snow up above 2,000 feet, and since Seattle is somewhat known for its occasional rain, you can guess just how good our snow is.

In fact, it's been snowing all this morning; Titan and I took an early walk and actually frolicked in a nearby park, off-leash. (Shhhhhh!) He chased the snowballs I threw for him, crunching them to bits when he found them, and terrorized the local crows, something I think every city bird population needs once in awhile. (By all accounts, those crows are actually smarter than Titan, although I chose not to hurt his feelings by telling him that.)

And if snow in Seattle isn't, in itself, a sign of the apocalypse, I have been...



Not away from my fears or toward a Starbucks free coffee line or any such good excuse. No. I have been running, like, for exercise. With my iPod and safety vest. And Titan. I have been running for exercise, and the worst part is, I kind of...

...I kind of like it.

I never thought this would happen to me. I never used to MIND running, when I was younger, and actually ran track for a few ill-advised months in middle school. But as I grew up, went through puberty, started swimming, started smoking, discovered alcohol in college, etc--running grew less and less enjoyable. It wasn't in the water, which I loved. It wasn't dancing or step aerobics, which I also loved. It was the same step, over and over. No mental challenge, no excitement. I still loved walking, but running just exhausted me. And it was boring.

I'm not really sure what happened this time around. I read an excellent article (found in my beloved Blueprint) on running, which laid out a few guidelines for first time runners--DON'T expect to complete a marathon on your first try, start out with intervals of walking and running, take it slow, don't push yourself very hard--and I was feeling a little fat and out of shape and I thought, What the heck, right?

It's been three weeks now and I'm still doing it. I go three times a week, and I took the article seriously when it said to not push yourself too hard. The first week, I ran one minute and walked for three minutes, then repeated, for twenty minutes. The second week, I ran for two minutes, and backtracked on my progress a little as I tried to run errands while running. I learned that a) running up hills is a lot harder than running on flat ground, and b) a beginning runner has no real energy for anything else, including juggling poop bags, keys, an iPod, a dog, checks to cash, and groceries, and will invariably drop all at once and curse loudly, because you (and by you I mean "me) are just too tired to think of other words besides curse words.

Last week I started running for three minutes and walking for three minutes on flat-ish ground (this IS Seattle) with nothing in my hands except keys, an iPod, and a dog (and a poop bag) and had a much easier time, even not wanting to stop after three minutes and just deciding to keep going with the jog. This week I'm on four minutes of running and three minutes of walking, and I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I'm looking forward to it. I was surprised at how soon my lungs adapted, although they're still not in great shape; the first week, running a minute went okay, but I was grateful to fall into a walk again, and then by the end of the week a minute was no problem. By the end of the second week, two minutes was no problem, and like I said, by the end of the third week, I wasn't bothering to slow to a walk if I felt like jogging longer. I'm still scared that I'm going to lace up my shoes, get out the door, and suddenly find myself panting and cramping, the reaction I USED to get when running, but so far that hasn't happened and I'm still going. I don't work fast--even on my running parts, I'm still slowly jogging, Titan never breaks his fast trot--but I get there. I'm not afraid to slow down when I need it, as long as I'm technically still jogging and not walking.

I was also surprised at how well running fit into my schedule, which seemed to be too packed to accommodate even the most convenient of gym classes; between work and tutoring, I have only two week nights free, and I dreaded dedicating those to a gym, and paying outrageous gym fees to use it twice a week. Running has none of those problems. The only expensive things devoted to running are shoes and jogging bras (essential for a well-endowed girl like me, I love the Enell, which looks like chain mail but WORKS), and while both of those things wear out eventually, they're not monthly costs by any means. And running--especially right now at the twenty minutes that I spend--is a stupidly-quick method of exercising. I warm up for five minutes, jogging in place and maybe doing some jumping jacks, then just...head out my front door. No more than thirty minutes later, I'm back. Technically you could do your entire workout in less time that it takes to run a load of laundry, just in the washer alone.

Of course, just running isn't enough. I've also recently discovered the free workout videos in On Demand, if you are unlucky enough to have Comcast. Make the most of their pricey product and terrible customer service by doing every workout video on the the On Demand screen! Punch in your TV at the end! Therapy included! Moving on. Doing all the fitness videos would actually be impossible, unless you didn't work and had someone else to clean your house--there's a ton of them. Some are very cheesy, but some are quite good. Some are permanent fixtures and some are only there for a limited time--definitely check out the limited time ones first, as those are usually the better ones.

Finally, and I had no idea this would be such a long post, putting the right music on your iPod is more important even than warming up, and I think that's pretty important. I was completely inspired by this post on Bluelines, about half of which I have either downloaded or reserved at the library already. Here's mine:

Expect an update post when my knees give out. I still can't believe I'm doing this.

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