It’s time to quit making excuses and start running again.

I’ve been holding true to the theme of this blog for far too long.  It’s time to get going again.

Not too long after my previous post, I got sick. That stopped my running for a short time. As I started feeling better, my neck went out and I was unable to turn my head to the left, let alone do anything strenuous like running. Long before it ever got better, I packed all the necessities into my truck and moved to Mississippi.  Now, Ive been here for almost three years, my family for just over 2, and we’ve moved from the big house we were renting to a little one-bedroom cabin in the woods. Oh, and my neck is better.
Very conveniently, there is a small network of trails on the property that we’re renting that Beth and I started using as our own personal track a couple of months ago in preparation for a 5k. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to afford the race and between that and my work schedule getting longer and longer, we got discouraged and both stopped. 

We have both wanted to pick it up again, but then the rainy season, the heat and, consequently, the humidity is here.  Last week, the heat index was at 112 degrees for a couple of days. Definitely not ideal conditions for the well-padded to be out trying to run in.

Now, to top it off, I’m sick again.

There! 

Right there!

Do you see what that was?
It’s easy to miss while it’s happening, but to write it all out, it becomes clear.

Excuses. A whole list of them, one right after the other. 

While I am sick and currently spending the entire weekend splitting my time between riding the couch and sleeping, as soon as I’m better, I’m hitting the trails. 

I miss running.

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Oscar Pistorius – Amazing Inspiration

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Pistorius Fails—If Only by Stopwatch – http://pulse.me/s/bWlgn

I keep finding excuses to not get out and run. I feel sick. I’m too tired. It’s too hot.
No more.

If Oscar Pistoris can race in the Olympics, I can get my fat butt out and run.

By the way, I hate the title of the article. In no way did Pistoris fail. As a double amputee, he raced in the Olympics! Stop and think about that for a minute, then explain how that could be considered a failure, no matter his final time.

I have a new hero.

What inspires you to get out and run? What helps you stick to a running schedule? What motivates you to go out and do it when you just don’t feel like it?

Maybe my shoes don’t like me?

The last time that I wore Nike shoes was in Jr. High school. I was reminded of this a couple of days after picking up another pair of new shoes that were on clearance and, honestly, were really cool looking.
Like most people, I’ve been given the impression that Nike shoes are awesome. I mean, they look really cool and the pros wear them and you can’t go anywhere without seeing Nike shoes, either on someone’s feet or at least on a billboards. They’ve GOT to be good shoes, right?

Perhaps they are. I honestly can’t say. I can say this though: Nikes are not the shoe for me. After wearing them for just a couple of days and running home with my son after picking him up after school,my knees started hurting. They’ve hurt for about four days now, even after not wearing them since then. I’ve worn my Asics a couple of times now, but those seem to aggrivate the pain and make it worse. It’s taken some thinking, but I’m pretty sure that I know why this is; too much padding in the heel.

For most of my life, I’ve run around barefoot. Even now, come summertime, my shoes are off whenever they can be. One summer at camp, my shoes came off on Sunday just after I arrived and didn’t go back on until Monday a week later. This even included a couple of hikes through the forest on old dirt logging roads. Needless to say my feet are strong and tough. It must be my hillbilly roots.

There’s a trend right now that has runners going to “minimalist” shoes. Some are even taking it as far as running barefoot. The idea of “less is more” as far as shoes are concerned is really taking off. The natural biomechanics of our feet is being closely studied and we seem to be coming to the realization that just maybe, if we let let feet loose to get stronger and do what they naturally do, we might benefit from it.

My understanding is that there is some transition time that it takes to get one’s feet used to little to no padding. There is some retraining to be done to adjust one’s stride from a shoe-bound and well padded heel strike to a more flat-footed, natural landing. Biometric research is showing that the mid-foot landing also puts much less impact on the ankle, knee, hip and lower back.

I believe that this is the cause of my knee pain. I have been wearing shoes with thickly cushioned soles which my body isn’t used to. When I walk, I land on the ball of my foot, using my foot and legs to absorb any impact. My shoes, no matter the brand, are causing me to move on a way that it’s not used to and impact joints that never get that kind of abuse. Instead of my muscles absorbing the impact, I’m relying on the shoe to do so. My knees are taking the brunt of the impact and screaming from the abuse.

I’m considering taking both pairs of shoes back and getting a minimalist style of shoe instead. I have a feeling that my knees will thank me for it.

Inspiration

I’m coming to realize that if I ever want to develop and keep a reader base, I need to offer more than my random thoughts.  I need to engage the reader and leave an opening for discussion, and I need to do so on a regular basis.  Here goes:

Whenever I start a new venture, I study up on it.  This has led me to buying a lot of books.  I have books about everything from Photoshop and web design to fishing and appliance repair, among other, non-related topics.  Running is proving no different.

As I’ve stated previously, I’ve subscribed to a couple running magazines and have been pleasantly surprised that they offer advice and motivation to people like me; new, large and slow.  I have to admit, I still look at the people on the covers and sometimes think “man, that person could really use a cheeseburger,” but nonetheless, I’m enjoying reading the articles.

When looking for reading materials, I also looked for books.  I’ve found books that address proper technique, proper clothing and proper shoes, all of which is information that I need.  Something else that I’ve looked for is books on motivation for running.

Right now, I’m out there walking (and yesterday, GASP! running!) and I’m motivated to do it.  I also know that once the initial “something new to do” novelty wears off and things start getting hard, I’m going to either need to keep being motivated or I’m going to quit.  I don’t want to quit. Might as well start building the motivational arsenal up while I’m… well, motivated to.

While reading reviews on a few books, I noticed that a lot of people would compare the book in review to “Bingham’s book,” though they never mentioned the title.  This sparked my curiosity.  If “Bingham’s book” was the unit that all other books were measured by, I needed to read that first.

A little sleuthing on Amazon brought me to this gem; An Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age 

From the Amazon website:

Known by fans as “The Penguin” for his back-of-the-pack speed, John Bingham is the unlikely hero of the modern running boom. In his new book, the best-selling author and magazine columnist recalls his childhood dreams of athletic glory, sedentary years of unhealthy excess, and a life-changing transformation from couch potato to “adult-onset athlete.”

Overweight, uninspired, and saddled with a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoking habit, Bingham found himself firmly wedged into a middle-age slump. Then two frightening trips to the emergency room and a conversation with a happy piano tuner led him to discover running—and changed his life for the better.

Inspiring, poignant, hilarious, and heartbreaking, An Accidental Athlete is a warm and engaging book for the everyday athlete. Bingham tells stories of the joys of running—the pride of the finisher’s medal, a bureau-busting t-shirt collection, intense back-of-the-pack strategizing. An Accidental Athlete is about one man’s discovery that middle age was not the finish line after all, but only the beginning.

I highly suggest picking this book up and giving it a read.  If you’ve ever thought, “I can’t get into shape,” you, like me, can learn something from John’s wisdom.

Insanity

So I’ve been walking to pick my son up from school.  It’s not far, just about ten minutes each way.

For some reason, I had a brilliant idea today:  Why not run, at least part of the way?

Why not?  Because, I’m not a runner, that’s why!

I tried it anyway.  You know what?  It didn’t suck.  At least, not too bad.  I might even be willing to go for a longer walk/run, if in short bursts like I did today.  You see, that’s the trick.  At least, that’s what the “how to run” articles on the running websites day.  The secret trick is intervals.  Walk some, run some, walk some more to recover.

Another “secret” is the length of time to go.  I’ve always been under the impression that you need to dedicate excruciatingly long times to it, especially in the beginning.  Nope.  Everything I’m reading says 20-30 minutes and no more.  Did you see that there?  No more than 20-30 minutes to begin with. I’ve always seen people running for miles or hours and figured that I needed to do the same to get to their level.  I’ve also realized that if I ever attempted to do the same, I’d never survive the day.  Start with short times and distances and eventually you’ll be able to go harder and farther.

It all seems so obvious now that I think about it.  I have a feeling that changing my attitude from “I can’t ever do that,” to “This is something that I want to do,” might help a little too…

It was HOT, I was wearing cotton shorts, I started thirsty and, if I’ve failed to mention it, I am not a runner.  Knowing all these things, I ran anyhow.  Not far.  By no means far enough to regret any of the “bad” variables.  My heart felt like it was going to pump right out of my chest and it was hard to breathe, but it felt good.  Heck, I might even do that again.

Read any running magazine, blog, book, or ad and you’ll quickly run across the term “PR” or “Personal Record.”  Running seems to be about setting PRs, then breaking them.  I started wondering if I was ever going to be able to break my own PR, or how I’d go about knowing if I ever set one.

I realized that today, I set a PR.

I ran.

You see, that’s the great thing about PRs.  They’re personal.  They don’t have to be amazing to anyone but you.

Where did all the fat people go?

So I started yesterday morning with a walk.  I went out to join my fellow fat people…  At least, that was my plan.  Apparently Tuesday mornings are scheduled for fat people and the skinny people all come out on Wednesdays.  I was obviously out with the wrong group.

You know what?  I didn’t care! I was out there, doing it.  I was getting healthy.  So what if my people abandoned me.  That’s fine, I’ll solo it.  I’ll represent the chubby bunch and show those skinny folks that we can do it too, if slower.

I didn’t set any records by any means.  I was out for an hour and covered just under three miles.  I then had a super-long day of school and work, not getting back home until after 11pm.   I’m pretty certain that starting the day with a walk helped get me through it without collapsing.  By the time I got home, I was mentally finished, but all through the day physically felt better than I had in quite a while.  I was even jogging up the stairs to my last customer’s font door at 7:30 at night without thinking about it.

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed is people watching.  No matter where I am, why I’m there or what I’m supposed to be doing, I watch people.  I’m entertained by people just being themselves and secretly trying to reason out their odd actions.  My morning walk proved no less entertaining a venue than any other.

There was the one guy who walked to one end of the park to do jumping jacks and jog in place, then walked back the way he came from.  (Why not jog the whole time and get your heart rate up  getting to the park and back?)

There was the  fellow with the seemingly nice dogs.  Nice enough to come up and say “hi” until I looked at them, then bark at me and threaten to bite, that is.  (The owner remembered at the last moment, just before I was out of hearing rage to apologize for his animals’ behavior.  Too late guy, keep your dogs away from me since you don’t seem surprised by their actions!)

Then there was the one lady who was actually jogging.  She was wearing a big visor and a pair of those stupid face-shieldingly-large sunglasses.  (You know the kind that possibly served as windshields for small European cars at one time, but are now mounted in plastic frames.)  I felt a sudden connection with her.   Here too, was someone who was obviously not in the best shape that she could be.  Here was a fellow portly person who was out trying to better their health.  She glanced up to see who was approaching when she saw my shoes break the rim of her visor.  I smiled and opened my mouth to say “good morning.”  We almost made eye contact (I think, it was hard to tell) but she immediately looked back down, hiding behind her windshields and visor in what seemed like embarrassment…

“NO!” I thought at her.  “Don’t be embarassed!  You’re DOING it!  You’re out here running!  So what if you’re a little pudgy?  You’re inspiring those of us who are a lot bit pudgy!  Take off the huge glasses (they look goofy anyway), look up and say ‘hi.’  It’ll make both of our mornings better.”

Keep that in mind, folks.  When you see others out for their morning walk or run (or walk-then-run-in-place-and-walk-some-more, whatever that’s all about) say “hi.”  You just might inspire them.  You never know.

Oh, and if you see that sort of odd looking fellow with two dogs on retractable leashes, cross the street.  His dogs aren’t as nice as they first seem.

Fat people walking.

I couldn’t help but notice the large number of large people out taking walks this morning.  There could be a few reasons for this.

One is that I’ve been thinking so much lately about getting into shape.  Not that I’m not in shape right now, it just that I’m in too much shape.  This, by the way, allows me to use the “f” word in the title of this post and prevents you, the reader, from getting mad at me, much in the same way that a number of the population uses the “n” word and are okay with it.  Note however, that unless you too are of the tubby variety, you cannot comment on my weight.  Deal with it skinny people!

The second reason that I noticed more people out today is that the weather this morning was wonderful and the days have already been getting warmer.  No better way to beat the afternoon heat and humidity than to get out there early and get your exercise in.

The third, and probably most truthful reason that I noticed so many people out this morning was the fact that I was an hour late to school.  Every single one of the people that I saw this morning were probably in the same general location that they are every single morning, performing the same general activity; it’s just that I was just there today to witness it.

I do have a point to all my rambling.  Thank you for staying with me this long to find out what it is.  (And for those of you who gave up reading already:  I don’t want you as readers anyhow.  You can’t pay attention long enough!)

My point is this:  Every single one of those fat people out there this morning inspired me.  (Honestly, the one skinny chick that I saw did too.  She was making running look easy.  Some day, I hope to as well!)  They were out there, doing it, making a difference in their health.  They weren’t finding excuses or bemoaning their large derrieres.  They weren’t hitting the snooze button for the eighteenth time.  They were walking and enjoying it.

I didn’t walk this morning, but I did yesterday afternoon.  I walked about 45 minutes and it felt good.  I wanted to run.  Honestly, I did, but I was too self conscious.  All I could think about was others seeing me and thinking, “He must smell a cheeseburger.”

I know that I shouldn’t care.  Who are these imaginary people after all?  Screw them and their imaginary opinions!

Then I had another thought:  What if the people who see me are fat people too?  *gasp!* What if  I inspire them?  What if they see me and think, “That fat guy can do it, maybe I can too…”?

That would rock!

Tomorrow morning, I’m getting up and going for a walk before school.  Heck, I might even try some of that running stuff, if just a little. I just need to remember one thing….

I am not a runner.

Let’s get a couple of things straight right up front.

My name is Rob.

I am not a runner.

Why then, did I buy a pair of running shoes today?  Why am I now subscribed to both Runner’s World and Running Times magazines on my Kindle?  Why  have I been itching for about two weeks now to strap on a pair of shoes and go for a jog, to sweat and bask in the burn of tired muscles?

I am not a runner.

I told my wife today that if you’d asked me ten years ago my opinion about running.  “There are only two reasons to run: You’re either chasing somebody or running away from somebody.  I’m a big guy.  There’s nobody that I need to run away from.  I’m also a patient guy.  I’ll wait for the person I want to chase to think that they’re safe and grab them the next time they come in range.”

I most assuredly not a runner.

I find myself sitting here in my new running shoes, enjoying that post-exercise feeling after walking to my son’s school to pick him up.  For the last few months, I’ve found myself finding excuses to hop in the truck and drive the few blocks to pick him up in the afternoons;  “It’s too cold/windy/wet to walk.  If I drive, that gives me ten more minutes before I have to leave.  I’m feeling lazy and just plain don’t want to walk today.”  It got to the point where I didn’t even try to think of an excuse to drive.  It was just habit.

My son stopped asking if we were walking or driving.  He gave up.  I remember how bummed out he’d be when he realized that we weren’t walking home; then he stopped caring.  Of course we were driving.  That’s just what Dad does.

That changed today though.  I was waiting outside of his classroom for him as I usually do, but this time in shorts and my new running shoes.

“Are we driving today, Dad?”

“Nope!”

“Yay!”

Yay, indeed.

I am not a runner, but I’m tired of being fat.  I’m tired of being tired all day and restless all night when I should be sleeping.  I’m tired of not finding clothes that fit and not fitting into the clothes I have.

When I told my wife my opinion on running she said that it obviously hasn’t changed.  “You’re running away from who you don’t want to be any more and running after a healthier you.”

I am not a runner, but I bought some running shoes today.

Apparently, I’m going to have to start running.