Or, How I Stopped Running 5ks and Learned to Love to Run Again
A month ago, two things happened in my life.
First, I started having some problems breathing. I don’t have health insurance and haven’t gone to a doctor because, well, see earlier part of sentence. I have no idea what caused it, although I am attributing it to the allergies that I’ve started being affected by that get worse as I grow older. I have been treating it with common asthma medications – a nasal spray and an inhaler that a friend from an asthmatic family gave to me. I’ve done some productive coughing over the last day, making me feel less like there’s a small elephant sitting on my lungs, so it could just be the springtime allergy season is coming to a close.
Maybe it’s related to allergies, or the uber-high humidity in the southern US since late spring started, or the construction dust I inhaled two years ago that seemed to trigger my exercise-induced asthma, or living with smokers for many years of my life. Whatever it is, I’m alleviating the symptoms as I can and toughing it out until something changes for better or worse.
Second, I traded 5ks for 2 miles. I lowered my miles per running workout to save time on workouts, not get discouraged by how I feel at the end of a workout, best utilize my new regular running path, and work on my speed over stamina, especially given that my stamina is affected by the weather. But I also increased the other exercise I was doing from almost none to almost daily, so I’m no longer doing 3 days of workouts a week at max – I’m doing different kinds of workouts all week long, staying consistently fairly active instead of pretty active every other day/every three days.
The short running distances came before the breathing issues, to be honest. After I recovered from my foot injury this spring and had some run-ins with growling, chasing dogs† in my rural neighborhood, I changed my regular running path to the relatively flat road to the left (stopping naturally at the one-mile mark where the flat dives suddenly to a 100-foot incline over a quarter mile, which is a pain in the ass to climb) away from the rolling hills to the right that have been my regular running ground for the last two years.
(†Yes, I’m sad to stop running that way because of fear for my physical safety, but it’s the country, people dump dogs and let their aggressive pets run free and pack up with other dogs. Both our next door neighbors have lost pets to wild dogs. I’d rather run a shorter distance on a shorter path than be bitten. I know what I’m talking about; I was bitten on the face and arm as a kid by my grandma’s dog. The recovery was long, I still have scars, and I was afraid of dogs for decades. For a while, when I went that way, I ran while carrying a large stick. That did make me feel somewhat better when I ran across one dog that crossed a field to bark at and stalk me, as I waved the stick around myself to make myself look bigger, ignored it as much as I dared, and prayed for a pack of cars down the winding country highway to put a scary physical barrier between us. But the stick is heavy, doesn’t improve my time, doesn’t alleviate my paranoia and slight fear, and probably wound’t do that much good.)
A shorter run meant that if something else went wrong with my foot, I would be a mile max away from home. I started just walking on it, adding short sprints of running (20 to 50 to 100 steps) to test my recovery and pain threshold.
I’d also try to get in a short run so that I could be home in time for dinner or cook dinner at a reasonable time when the last of the sun and most tolerable running weather of the day was near the evening meal. A half hour instead of 45 minutes to nearly an hour (depending on how far I went, of course) was preferable, and it’s something I could squeeze in much more easily. Plus, the last mile of my 5k was always my worst, because I was usually pretty dog tired.
One day, I went for a 5k that turned quickly from a run into a walk, and I walked the entire way home. “I’m so out of shape!” I said to myself on my second or third run that week. That was the last 5k I’ve done all at once in a single day.
I have expanded my exercise types according to my spring/summer schedule, the tools at my disposal, and the goals I have set for myself.
My goals are currently to exercise nearly every day (and give myself important rest days) in order to…
- get limber
- strengthen my legs
- burn fat
- eventually strengthen my upper body
- avoid injury
- deal with my anxiety
- give myself goals for speed, distance, etc.
- work on my respiratory system strength.
The tools I’ve been using:
Fitbit and a group of friends-of-a-friend who have daily challenges in which I still participate. I was first last Saturday, and I was last yesterday. It’s a lot of fun to get that social encouragement in a small group setting without the anonymity of an online forum and the negativity that a large online forum can engender.
MapMyRun, which tells me how poorly or how well my splits are looking. I run for about two days in a row, then take a rest day or do some other exercise in between.
CharityMiles, which recently updated its sharing user interface and looks even more amazing than ever as well as being a great tool for generating donations to charities through corporate sponsorship of workouts.
YogaStudio, which I got for free several on International Yoga Day (June 21) several years ago. It used to be a one-time fee service, but it recently changed to a subscription service. I have declined to update the app to get access to new classes that a subscription service would provide; I’m such a newb and an infrequent yogi that I’m fine doing the same several classes over and over.
My knockoff Yeti Cup for replacing diet soda with ice water. I got hooked back on diet soda during my main job’s busy time and at my part-time office job – it’s easy to sit at a desk and drink down soda after soda to keep you going or because you want a sweet taste in your mouth all the time. About 3 weeks ago, I stopped buying the big packs of soda and have switched to filling my cup up with ice and adding water throughout the day instead. At my day job, which is cut down much per week at the moment, I bought a large pack of water to keep in the fridge since the building’s plumbing is so old and the faucet water is therefore a little on the iffy side of potable.
The exercise bike my friend so generously gave me last year. I have used it a few times while watching movies or TV shows. Frankly, it’s kinda torturous to use indoor equipment, but it gets the heart rate up and works my legs. The only way to get through it is to do it with a video, I have found.
A local park with a hiking trail. Torrential rains damaged alternate paths several weeks ago, and roping off those sections led me to actually find the correct trail that encircles the park. I’ve gone hiking there alone a few times and with my dogs twice in the last month. They love it, and last time we were there, we ran into a camp of children that descended on them with oohs and ahhs and awwwws. My people-friendly dogs were on cloud nine.
Ok, so what else? Something ridiculous and great I’ve been doing: putting my legs up on a wall.
YES. This is stupid as hell. Yes, it feels great. Yes, it seems to be helping me to ward off injury. It’s a great stretch. Full disclaimer: everyone who sees you doing this will make fun of you if they know you well, unless they’re a workout nut who tries it and also likes it for the benefits it gives you.
Results from so far
My weight loss is slow, but it’s coming along. My legs look better. Although I still feel like I’m drowning when I run sometimes and even like I’m gasping for breath while I’m biking at a fairly normal speed in my air-conditioned house, my times are faster, and I’m getting stronger, even if my body isn’t working quite right.
I’m getting to an age where I can’t neglect regular maintenance anymore – I have to do things for myself to keep active, be fitter, and try to be as healthy as I can be. Until I can work something out about my health insurance situation or live in a country where we have insurance covering everybody and the taxes to pay for it, I’m just going to try my hardest to work toward a better self, remember to take rest days, and never give up trying, even if I sometimes give up blogging.
Follow me on Instagram!
Click on the link to see my fitness Instagram page. It’s not all motivational posts and carefully lit, carefully culled, carefully carefuled images – a lot of it is post-workout selfies, animals lusting after my food, and my lovely lunch choices.