Friday, October 1, 2010

Reactivating the beast gene

Back in August, my mom came out to New York to help my sister and me move into our apartment. One evening, she came across me sitting on the living room floor surrounded by wooden planks and piles of screws -- put simply, in the throes of Ikea despair. Her words of encouragement? "It looks like when God was handing out the beast gene, he stopped after he got to me."

My mom isn't the only one who's implied lately that I'm a wuss. While chatting on Skype the other night, V. and I started reminiscing about the time we hauled his furniture down the street in Santiago when he moved to a new house a few blocks away. (Two days later, his new room was rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake.) He admitted that my endurance had surprised him that day because, and I quote, "you don't do anything."

Anything in the way of exercise, he clarified.

Come on, V. That's not entirely true. Back in Santiago, I rode a bike, walked a lot and had a job that kept me on my feet (literally) for nine hours each day. In Minneapolis this summer, I walked around the lake occasionally and paid a few visits to the elliptical machine. It's true, however, that it's been a while since there's been anything systematic about my exercise. In other words, I don't have a fitness regimen.

I think I need one. At first, I thought fitness would take care of itself in New York. (I also thought I would paint my entire apartment before moving in and have a thriving herb garden up on the rooftop. Alas.) I would, after all, be walking everywhere, right? And wouldn't the plethora of health food options available inspire me to master some healthy recipes?

Not exactly. Sure, I could walk everywhere and spend hours each week chopping cabbage and cooking quinoa. However, the truth is that I'm frequently either too exhausted or in too much of a hurry to do either. There are many days when my only exercise involves hustling to the subway and my only meals are those I can grab on the go. The result: I've been feeling crazed and out of shape. I need to exercise, and I need a routine.

So I've decided to try running. Again. I made my first attempt freshman year of college. I figured that if my roommate could make it to crew practice before dawn each morning, I could at least do a few laps around the neighborhood. Easier said than done in a neighborhood full of hills, treacherously uneven sidewalks and trees that drop softball-sized seed pods everywhere. My career as a runner lasted all of two weeks.

My second try took place halfway across the world. My family and I were on vacation in Spain, and I'd decided that taking morning jogs would be an invigorating way to see the sights. Unfortunately for me, a record-breaking heat wave hit Europe that summer. The one time I actually rolled out of bed early enough to catch some cool air, I got so lost amid the steep, tangled streets of Granada that I had to take a cab back to the hotel. You know, like seasoned athletes do.

Here in New York, it's not as easy to blame my failures on a sinister conspiracy between urban planners and climactic conditions. There are plenty of flat, well-paved and attractive places to run here. Among them is Central Park, where I decided to give running another go this week. Surprisingly, I started off OK. What's encouraging about Central Park is that for every intimidating leave-you-in-my-New-Balance-dust marathoner, there's a novice runner like me. On the day of my first run, there was also a woman who was at least seven months pregnant and put me to shame.

I guess I still have a long way to go.

Any tips, seasoned runners? How can a flojita like me get in the habit without burning out or getting injured?


Julie said...

And I can remember when you jumped on a pogo stick for 2 hours, without stopping, just because you were bored. Good luck with the running.

Anonymous said...

Easy. To help you get motivated, just run with a group. Find a running club in your area and give it a try. That's how I got back into the game after years of being sedentary. Oh, and to minimize injuries or damage to your knees and shins, avoid running on asphalt if you can, unpaved (or grassy) areas are best.

Annje said...

I am not a sports therapist or anything, but I started running in my early twenties. I love it because it relieves stress and gives me time to think. I also love the feeling of moving distances-- purely body-powered. I would say start slow, start with short runs and there is no shame in walking in spurts if you have to. If you have pain, stop and walk, if you are out of breath stop and walk and eventually you'll work up to better speeds and longer runs. Find new places to run.

noel said...

Ha!! Scientific inquiry shows that when assembling furniture, the beast gene is directly connected to possession of power tools. She with the electric drill and power screwdriver gain temporary advantage. But when walking or running in cool locales like Spain, Chile and NYC, no electric grid is required. Stretching + good shoes = massive inner beast unleashed. Have fun!

Ale Gomez said...

I am not a professional runner, but this year I decided to run in the Ultimas Noticias race (probably you remember it). At first, I was pretty lousy but then I found this It encourages me because I was able to know how many time I ran or how many kilometers I made, it was brilliant. I trained myself for two months just because of it.
Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

It gets better. I started walkjogging and then after a while I was real jogging first 20 minutes and then finally 45! Which was sort of where I just suddenly pooped out and would consider calling a cab home.

After my surgery, I had to build up my aerobic endurance all over again because I had lost it all and it came back a little faster this time. After nearly a month I'm back up to 30 minutes with just a couple teensy breaks.

You can do it! I love jogging. Don't give up!