The Stirring of the Stumps

So, it has been nearly two months since I told my doctor I was going to do a Couch to 5K program. School started, and I didn’t get off of the couch. I used my surgery as an excuse to stay on the couch a little longer. Then I got a cold. It’s difficult to run when you’re on the couch with a cold. (I’ve got the couch part down. Funny how I think about running only when it’s impossible for me to run. “Tra la la. I should be running, but it’s tricky when the anesthesia is wearing off, so here I lie. Fiddle dee dee!”)

My sister is a runner. When I told her that I was toying with the idea of running, she started calling to encourage me to put my shoes on.

Jen: So. How’s the running going?

Me: Well, I’ve got that surgery in two weeks and right now I need to shave these legs of mine and…

Jen: Ang. I think you’re okay to get started.

Me: I can’t hear you.

I set my start date for Tuesday. The day after Labor Day. My running day. Yes. Tuesday. And then I had to take Henry to the vet and get through some paperwork for school and figure out what I was going to wear for a meeting, and damnit. I finally reached the point where I was getting sick of my own excuses. SO, I watched this video again.

(It makes me cry Every Time I Watch It. I’ve watched My 120 Pound Journey about 25 times now, and I can barely think about it without my lip quivering. The most recent Shrek movie made me cry. Glee does it to me fairly often. Toy Story 3? I was a mess. I have no idea what’s happening over here.)

Yesterday morning I got out of the shower and put my “running” shorts on. I call them running shorts because they’re slippery. I then reached into my Drawer o’ Underpants and pulled out two sports bras. The first one was a nursing bra that was purchased to hold my lactaters back, and it always seemed to come unhooked at unfortunate times. (This is not an option at the track.) The second one? I purchased it during my sophomore year in college. Because I was really getting into the Jane Fonda workout. The year was 1990. My sports bra is 21 years old, and I am no longer the same shape that I was  when I was 20, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wrestled myself into the thing and immediately felt an uncomfortable tightness in my chest. (I then said a little prayer that the bra would be the ONLY cause of tightness in my chest.)

Confession: When I think about running, I am terrified of two things: 1. That my heart will explode. 2. That I will pee myself.

I found my athletic shoes, loaded my running app onto the iPod, ate a banana while telling myself that the extra potassium will hug my heart and prevent it from exploding, and drove to the gym.

The first thing the app does is choose a tune from your iPod. Then it says something like, “Ding! Walk!” So, I walked. And as I walked, I watched the program count down to my first sixty seconds of Run. And when I had less than ten seconds to go before Run, I started freaking out. It’s happening. It’s happening.

Three.
Two.
One.
“Ding! Run!”

I took off running like someone was chasing me, and it didn’t take long before I realized that I didn’t really know how to handle running. Three other people (who knew what they were doing, as evidenced by their cute running clothes) were running, and if I would have kept up at my “Someone is CHASING ME HOLY CRAP!” pace, I would have lapped them repeatedly. I slowed down to a jog and immediately felt a lot less frantic. “Ding! Walk!” Yes.

Because I’m a huge fan of experimentation, every time I got the “Ding! Run!” I practiced a new style of running in order to figure out what was the most comfortable. Do I use my heels? Do I run on the balls of my feet? Do I kick my legs backward? I tried everything, and sadly, I never found a style that felt right. (I *do* know that the heel-to-toe method felt very wrong.) If anyone was watching me, I’m sure I provided great entertainment as I sweated and panted and snorted and hopped and repeatedly replaced the ear buds that kept falling out of my ears.

When I noticed that I had only one more run followed by a five minute cool down walk, I got really excited to hear if I would be congratulated when the workout was over. I ran a little faster. I walked with a bit more bounce. And then the vocal track went out on my iPod, and I immediately knew that I was having a stroke. I was sweaty, my right leg felt like it was about to separate itself from my torso, I was seeing a few spots before my eyes, and I could no longer hear Cee Lo Green. It’s all over.

And then it WAS all over. Week One, Day One. Completed.

Tomorrow is Week One, Day Two. And just typing that makes it seem like a plan. I just need to figure out  HOW to run. (Do you use your heels? Do you kick your legs up? I would hate to think that I’m running the exact way that will surely lead to a heart explosion or a bladder failure…)

Don’t look at me. ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

31 thoughts on “The Stirring of the Stumps”

  1. I am a somewhat reluctant runner. I’ve had to start from scratch several times, either after a pregnancy or a long stretch of laziness. In my experience the only way to run in the beginning is very, very slowly. So slowly that you kind of hope no one is watching you. (Once I was passed by an old man *who was walking*). You’ll get faster over time but the only way to start out is super-slo-mo.

  2. hooray! I’m a bit of an evangelist for C25K. I did it a year ago and again this year after a slump in activity around Christmas. (The cookies held me down and forced me to eat them. It really wasn’t my fault.) I ran my first 5k in May and have another one coming up in a few weeks. Let me tell you something: I could NOT run or jog or anything when I first started. I would look ahead at the weeks where I would have to do 90 seconds of jogging or FIVE WHOLE MINUTES of jogging and think, “How am I ever going to do that?” And then…I just did it. And a few weeks into the program I had to run 20 minutes in a row. And I did that, too. It was tough, no doubt, and I’m not setting any records, but I can DO it now. Two years ago I couldn’t. That always amazes me.
    As for running form, I’ve read that the heel/toe strike is not the way to do it, that you should aim to hit the ground with your toes or at least a flat foot. I have not been able to do this and still do mostly heel/toe. I’ve also read that most mainstream running shoes encourage the heel/toe strike because of how they’re shaped and that’s usually when they start talking about barefoot running and I’m just not at that level yet. But as you get further into it, you’ll figure out what works for you and a good pace and all of that stuff. My big advice is this: when you get that urge to stop, just push through and keep going. You’ll amaze yourself.

  3. As one who has started and stopped before she started the C25K program maybe a dozen times, I am over here wildly cheering for your success. Because you’ve already inspired me into thinking about … thinking about … doing it alongside you. Virtually, of course. I mean, on pavement, in running shoes, earbuds in place, but virtually with you.

    21 days make a habit, right? You go, girl!!

  4. I am a graduate of the C25K program…it works! I promise! It does get hard, toward the end there were weeks that I had to repeat until I could do the full run…that was at the beginning of last summer. And I’ll admit, I started as someone who hated running. And now? Have run a half marathon and training for a full. In terms of a “right” way to run…that’s tough. I guess whatever feels most comfortable. Foot strike will differ at different paces…this article was helpful. http://runninginjuryfree.org/2008/09/foot-strike.html
    I am an unabashed heel striker. Or, toward the end of a long run, a shuffler-huffer-puffer.

  5. The guy in the video is a cutie-pie!

    I used to run (SLOWLY) from when I was 30-35 and then stopped. At a few weeks before 39, I’m trying to start again. I also squeezed into an old sports bra this morning! I felt like I was getting dressed to pass as a man, squashing the chest down like that.

    I don’t have permission to see the picture of your shoes, sadly.

    Good luck with the running! I’m not hopeful for myself.

  6. Wow, what an inspiring video!

    I have already told you that I did the C25K, and am signed up for my third 5K on September 25. And I am really looking forward to running with my boys.

    Also, on those days there is squish over the top of the jeans, or I don’t fit into something quite the way I hoped I can look in that mirror, look myself in the eye and say, “Yes, but this body can run three miles without stopping. So there.”

  7. I hate to run but a few weeks back I fell and bruised/sprained/hurt my foot. I felt a sudden urge to restart running – I must have the same issue you have. I tried doing the ball of the foot running and it feels weird to me – I even bought special Newton shoes supposed to promote that kind of running. I do try to lean forward and land more on the front of my foot than to reach out in front of me with my foot. However, I know I can’t look more goofy than my boyfriend when he runs at softball. He’s over six feet tall and he windmills his arms and legs like a child running in for cookies. Cracks me up every time.

  8. Good for you! I am not a runner. I walk everyday though. I’m a decent walker.

    And Toy Story 3? I saw that in the theater and I will only see it that one time. I left that theater a snotty wet disgusting mess. I mean I was ugly crying through that movie. WTF Pixar?!

  9. Here is my advice about running…go to Fleet Feet and get properly fitted for a pair of running shoes. It is worth the investment even if you never run again after your 5K. Your feet (and the rest of your body) will thank you. Make sure that you stretch before and after running. This is the most important thing that my running mentors taught me! It makes a huge difference in staying injury-free. Do not skip this step. Finally, I’ve also found that once I’ve started running, I don’t stop to walk even for a few steps. It is easier to just keep running than to stop and have to get the momentum going again. And when you get discouraged, think to yourself that if Linda can run, ANYONE can run. Proud of you!!!

  10. Hi! I don’t think I’ve ever commented on here before. I love your writing, though. Anyway, I recommend you try to find a Good Form running class near you. They videotape how you run and then suggest improvements (don’t be nervous – they are very, very nice people). Here’s the website: http://www.goodformrunning.com/
    Hope you keep it up and have a great time with the 5K!

  11. So back when you told YOUR doctor you were going to do a Couch to 5K, I decided – hey. I could maybe do that. So I looked up the app and I started. I’m on Week 5 of the C25K App (Ding! Walk. Ding! Run! Biddyboom! You are half way). I am still waiting for that Cannot-Live-Without-Running feeling to kick in – pretty sure it’s not coming.
    BUT! I am doing it and seeing as several things in my life right now are very much out of my own control – this feels like something I can control. And also use as an excuse to eat second helpings (running sure makes you hungry) and Peanut Buster Parfaits (I need to have the peanuts to convert into energy when I run).
    Also, I am sure people are looking at me – only I can’t tell for sure from the boobage thwacking into my eye…

  12. POISE PANTILINERS for the pee thing. No lie. They are really thin and comfortable and they work! I’m too old to be embarrassed to tell you that I wear one whenever I run. Or do any other exercise that involves jumping around. (I’m looking at you and your 30 Day Shred, Jillian Michaels.)

    Supposedly the ideal is to land on your midfoot. It took me forever to figure out how to do that in a way that felt natural. I am more of a shuffler/glider than a leg-kicker, but that’s because I run almost exclusively on a treadmill. You don’t have to pick up your feet on a treadmill! I am lazy even when I’m exercising!

  13. I started running using one of those kind of plans. I weighed 210 when I started and could only run for about 30 seconds without having to walk. Now, I’ve lost 65 pounds and ran my first half marathon back in March.

    I second the poster who said go get really good running shoes. Then, I would suggest just focusing on landing lightly on your feet. I have a big problem with taking strides that are too long, and that can make you pound down really hard when you land. Just try to land with your foot under your pelvis, instead of out in front of you. It’ll take a while to find your natural stride. Don’t be afraid to run slowly! I still do, and that’s just fine.

  14. I have a friend who runs but who had to give it up for several years because of health issues. She just told me she’s started again and I said I could never do that because all I think about the whole time is how much it sucks. Her response, “well, yeah. the only time it feels good is when you’re done and not dead.”

    I think that tomorrow you should try a little skippy stride.

    And wear a headband.

  15. I have to tell you, I had never heard of the couch–to-5K before reading about it on your site, and now, I’ve got it loaded on my iPhone, and am on week 2! (I actually started it a few weeks ago, but I was on week 1 for a l-o-n-g time, so that tells you a lot about my feelings about running, and how this whole thing is going.) Anyway, I’m so glad you posted about this. I was wondering how you were doing with the program. Good luck in your endeavors; here’s hoping we’ll both stay motivated (and figure out pacing and the whole shuffle/glide, heel/toe, leg-kicker business….I totally get that, btw). (Oh, and the whole stroke/heart attack business? I get that, too. I usually wait to do my workout until my husband is off to work, and my kids are off to school. But then I think, Should I really be doing this when there’s no one around to dial 911??)

  16. That is an awesome video! Still looking for my inspiration. However-today we did an exercise at work where we had to share 10 things we like to do. My first was laugh. So your post made number one on my list today…..that’s something, right?

  17. I don’t believe in formalized exercise in the way that others don’t believe in organized religion, but I’ll encourage you to the moon and back cause I like you.

  18. When you said you were experimenting with different running styles, all I could think of was Joey on Friends saying, “I think I need a new walk…”

    (I’m probably spending too much time on my couch.)

  19. Yeah! I started running again after a 10ish year absence. I found that I just had to acknowledge I was gonna come up with ALL kinds of excuses, but was going to ignore them. Even if it meant I went for a 15 min slow run – I still did a run that day, and that was enough. Just keep going! Yeah you.

  20. Woohoo! you did it! And you didn’t pee your pants…(that would be my worry). The way you described it, it sounds do-able. I could handle that….
    Go Ang!

  21. That video KILLS ME. And I sobbed like a BABY during Toy Story 3. We should probably never hang out.

    Hang in there. The first day was the hardest for me. Some guy once told me once if you don’t want to do a run, just put on the clothes and get out the door. Chances are you won’t come back inside at that point. I’ve been applying that for months and he was right, I’ve never come back in. As long as I make it out the door, I seem to be too stubborn to come back in ;)

  22. Weirdness. I have been following your blog for a-a-a-ges, but you just finally prompted me to stop lurking.
    Yesterday I also did my Day One of the Cto5k (Only I did mine in private, in the fields with the dog. Holding my trousers up with one hand. The dog laughed a lot.).
    Also – a friend pointed me at chi-running as a running style to stop injuries (Try youtube for demo’s)
    See you in 12 weeks – or 5k’s. :)

  23. Here’s my advice: do NOT drink a pot of coffee and head out the door for a run, particularly if it’s after Labor Day and the bathrooms at the park are closed for the winter. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

  24. Those are two of my biggest fears, also. I wish you all the best with your running goal – maybe I will get motivated (one of these days).

  25. I totally understand your fears.
    I never run – unless it’s for the bus.
    With a G cup I would need to bind my breasts with concrete for anything more than a fast walk not to be painful.
    I tried sport walking. I prefer outside so it included the steps near my home. I now have such enormous calves I can’t wear tight jeans or boots higher than ankle-length.
    I’m considering taking up voice-training as it gave me aerobic exercise and tight tummy muscles without damaging the rest of me.

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