I’ve been exercising regularly for most of my life. My Mom put me in various sports when I was a child, including gymnastics and soccer. I tried a lot of them but only soccer held my interest. I loved loved loved playing soccer and ended up playing at least one season a year from ages 6 to 18 years old. After graduating high school, I timidly tried out for my college’s soccer team but felt it was too tight knit a group and I felt quite intimidated and not very welcome, and truth be told, I was in relatively terrible shape. I remember being so winded during the sprint exercise and I definitely felt my “teammates” sense of disapproval at my time trials. Nonetheless, I made the team but with my conditioning, I never started a game. And with the continued sense of being an outsider, I just stopped showing up at practices and I’m not sure if anyone ever minded. I didn’t get any follow up, “where are you, Kate?” phone calls.
I soon began to miss the exercise however and started to run around the track, going for time rather than speed as in I’ll run for 30 minutes rather than saying I’ll run 3 eight-minute miles. I find it hilarious, in retrospect, to think of the start of my solo sports adventures, to think of me exercising in my sophomore year as I would get up in the morning, shower, spend a good 45 minutes on my hair, getting it shellacked all to hell with hair spray and then walk 40 minutes to campus only to run another 45 minutes and shower again, taking care not to ruin my “do”, in which nary a hair had moved since first shellacking it more than two hours prior.
I became, at age 18, a runner and I loved it. I had no plan, no goal, just the love of exercise, the sport, and being out “there”.
Nearly 10 years later, while I was serving in Peace Corps in West Africa, Benin to be specific, after close to two years of being away, I came home to attend my sister’s wedding. Side note, thanks again Chris for the miles on Delta and for making it possible for me to attend my sister’s wedding! While in California at my parent’s place, the ancestral manse, and going through monster amounts of culture shock, I decided to go running to clear my head and get grounded. My sister-in-law, who’d also flown in for the wedding – but from Indiana- asked if she could accompany me on my 5 mile run. I was more than a bit surprised as Cathy is a far faster runner than I have ever been and typically ran a sub 7-minute pace. At that time, I was happy with my 9-minute pace. I explained the obvious about my 9-minute pace. I’ll never forget, she said, “No that’s ok, I need to keep pace with a slower runner since I’m not supposed to run fast”. You see, she was 6 months pregnant at the time. So we hit the road, running together the whole time at her easy, breezy 9 minute pace and me realizing that perhaps my 9 minute pace was a big too difficult for me and perhaps I really ran an average of 9.5 minutes. She was enjoying the “slow” run and I was sucking wind. What a great lesson in perspective.
Here I am, 13 years later. I no longer run even a 9 or 9.5 or even a 10 minute pace. I’m down to an 11 minute pace and I’ve been hit with plantar fasciitis too, for the better part of two years. 8 months after having been treated for it, I am now back to running 5 to 6 days a week. But then I thought, what about that life long dream of being in truly peak conditioning? Why continue on my same steady state running/cycle lifestyle? What’s wrong with running with intensity for shorter periods of time and working my way up to 30 minutes again but at a greatly increased average speed? Let’s try it!
So last week, I took my scheduled 15 minutes of running and hit the treadmill instead. As I was beginning my run, I wasn’t even sure I could run a 7 minute mile for even a few seconds. I got nervous that maybe my plan was too ambitious and began thinking “but what if I can’t do it?” And instead of chickening out, I thought, we’ll know soon enough! You know what, I can run a 7-minute pace – for 30 seconds at a time. What a revelation! How fun! It was a lovely run. Three minutes warm up at a 10 minute pace, and then 10 minute of intervals of 30 seconds at 7 minutes and 1 minute at a 9.40pace, ending with 3 minutes of the 9.40 pace.
I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to be able to run a full mile at the seven minute pace but I’m excited to try it out.
If you don’t try it, how do you know you can’t do it? And as Steve Pavlina says, start with acts of courage that fit your current level of courage ability and begin training yourself to become more courageous with more bite sized efforts – appropriate to your level of training. It feels great!