There is clearly a cycle for me and exercise...periods of inactivity followed by intense devotion to exercise and then a slipping into another period of inactivity.
I've been trying to figure out what makes these cycles start and stop. Unfortunately, it seems, when I look at the patterns, that dissatisfaction with my overall life begins the cycle of exercise. I'm still not certain why eventually I begin to slack off. Maybe, as I become more content with my body, and start to take control of other areas of my life, I don't feel as strong a need to push myself physically. There's something in that...but it's not all of it. I'm still working it out.
But whatever prompts these changes, I woke up this morning and realized that I can control the cycle, if I put my mind to it.
I've been in a period of feeling more sedentary. The urge to run has been waning of the last few months and I've done it less and less. About a month ago I made some changes to my diet, and for a while I felt like it was helping me maintain and continue the physical changes I want enough that I could let myself off the hook from feeling bad about not running. But yesterday I felt paunchy, chubby, flabby all day. I was much less at ease in my body than I had been in months.
So this morning, I got up and ran for the first time in over 3 weeks. I was going to let myself take it slow. Initially, I planned to do a Couch to 5K run. I picked a week 5 run that only had me running in 10 minute intervals. After weeks of almost no exercise, I didn't think I could do much more than that. I even picked a shorter route, because I was tired and wanted to get back home sooner.
Then, just as I walked out the door, I made a change and went for a week 1 5k to 10k run that required me to run for 25 minutes. I really didn't think I could handle it, but also decided to take my regular, longer route. I gave myself permission to walk part of it if I had to. But, I thought I should at least make the effort to try for more.
I started out walking briskly, and when it came time to run, I was a little apprehensive, but went for it and to my surprise, my body just fell into the pace with ease. For 3/4s of the run, I was fine, paying more attention to the music I was listening to (I love Pink's new album) than any protests my body made about being pushed.
I was feeling great, coming down Riverside Drive, the Hudson River and the city laid out before me, the sun shining. And then I hit a wall. It came on me suddenly, and I just could not lift my legs in a run. I shifted to walking. I was disappointed in myself, angry. I walked along thinking that if I had stuck with my program that I would be running 10k by now and instead, after a couple of miles, I was walking. I felt like I had failed my body.
Pink kept me moving (I swear her music is magic) but in my head I was beating myself up. And then the running app on my phone told me I was done. Still about half a mile from home, I walked along, maintaining my pace, and checked my time.
My mouth dropped open. For the first time since I've started running, I broke a 12 minute mile. My pace came in at an 11min 47 sec mile!!! It hit me, as it has over and over on this journey, that I am stronger and faster and more resilient than I ever imagined. I checked back through previous runs and yes, I had run 15 min, 14 min and 13 min miles, but never had I done 12 min, and never, ever, anything UNDER 12 min. But today - when I was feeling tired and paunchy and out of shape, and like I was slipping backwards - I managed to propel myself forward.
And that's my lesson for today that I will carry with me. I am always better than I believe I am. ALWAYS. Not just in running, but in life. Whenever I think I can't do something - chances are not only can I do it, but I can probably do it better than I ever have before. I have to trust myself.
I finished my walk home with my head high and a little extra...sass. Yes, some of that was Pink's "Truth About Love," which I think is going to be one of my all time favorite songs. But most of it was confidence and trust in my body. My body, even though it's still flabby, with its myriad imperfections, is amazing and wonderful and deserves to be treated with love and respect and admiration. I have an awesome body, and I need to trust it and to trust myself.
I don't know what the next turn of the cycle will be. If I will continue to struggle with motivating myself to exercise, or if it will start to become a natural routine again. But whichever way I go, I'm going to trust that as long as I can remember how incredible I am, it will all work out.