The one activity that provided me with stress release, was stressing me out. Each and every time I went for a run, I would come back feeling a defeated. I would run like….2km and be exhausted. It was mentally draining to run around the same circle over and over and over again.
To pass by the security gate and the barbwire fences over and over and over again. I tried a few things (the MG Run Club, for one), but I couldn’t get into running. First, I was bored, and second, it’s MOTHER F&CKING HOT AND HUMID HERE!! It can get up to 44*C (111.2*F) with humidity. At night. That’s the temperature where you sweat just by breathing, never mind running.
Also….I couldn’t get it out of my mind that it wasn’t that long ago running 16km on a Saturday was the norm, and that running less than 5km seemed like a waste of time. I was NEVER a fast runner, but had a respectable half marathon time of around 2h15min? And I always enjoyed it.
Before I moved to Madagascar I was usually training for some kind of run. I had a schedule and tried to stick to it. While working 40 hours a week, going to school part time, I would sign up for half marathon races. More often than not, I gave up on the training because it was too much work and I started to feel too much pressure (mainly from myself). Pressure to run x kilometres in the week, pressure to run at a certain pace, pressure to constantly improve that pace…the list goes on….
When I was in Canada, I was an active member of the Running Room. It’s basically a group of people that go running together. Everyone is always asking, "What race are you training for? What is your goal? What was your last race time?" Etc. This kind of mentality did not help me obsess about my “training” any less.
I never thought anything like, How about going running…..to clear your head? To get rid of the day’s tension? To keep your heart and lungs healthy? (I'm not even going to talk about the weight loss aspect of exercising. That is a topic far too complicated for me to get into on this blog!)
It’s great to have goals…but it’s also great to have a hobby where IT DOESN’T MATTER how good or bad you do, you just to do it because it’s good for you and you enjoy it.
Finally - I can say that I have a hobby where it doesn’t matter HOW fast I go or HOW many kilometres I run or HOW well I do. For the past few weeks (or maybe even before Christmas?) I have been running three times (most) weeks. It all started when I downloaded program called Couch to 5km onto my iTouch. It’s a basic program for someone that has limited running training and wants to be able to run 5km.
Each week the ratio of running versus walking increases.
Week 1: Walk five minutes as a warm up, run 60 seconds, then walk 90 seconds, then run 60 seconds, then walk 90 seconds. Repeat a bunch of times.
Week 2: Walk five minutes as a warm up, run 90 seconds, then walk 2 minutes, then run 90 seconds, then walk 2 minutes. Repeat a bunch of times.
Week 3: Walk five minutes as a warm up, run 90 seconds, then walk 90 seconds, then run for 3 minutes, then walk for 3 minutes. Repeat a bunch of times.
You get the idea. The program is nine weeks long, but since I’m here for a long time, I figure I’ll repeat each week twice.
At every interval change, there is a voice that says, “Run”, or “Walk”, so clock watching isn’t necessary. All you do is whatever the voice tells you to do, while blasting your favourite tunes into your ear. (I’m currently on this Dixie Chicks kick…)
However, since I could easily run 5km even in my current “out of running shape” state, I use this program to help me do interval training – just to keep things fun and not boring.
When the voice says, “Walk” - I jog.
When the voice says “Run” - I sprint as fast as I can.
So it alternates between a jog and a sprint. Jog/sprint/jog/sprint/jog/sprint/jog/sprint. Depending on the week, the runs are anywhere between 29 to 45 minutes.
Here’s the best part:
I don’t pay attention to how many kilometres I run.
I don’t pay attention the pace that I run at.
Some days my jog is a little bit slower than others. It’s more like a walk with a little hop in it.
Some days my sprints are super-fast and I’m sure some days my sprints barely qualify as a hard run.
I’m not counting kilometres.
I’m not tracking my pace.
I’m not looking to improve my running pace.
I’m there to go for a run, exert myself as hard as I can, get rid of the day’s stress, get the benefits from exercise, that THAT IS IT.
When the weeks start getting harder, I’ll adjust my pace accordingly. For example, Week 8 is a run for a full 28 minutes. Uhhhh….I can’t sprint for 28 minutes, but I can definitely run at “my” fast pace (of the day) rather than a jog. When I get to week 9, I’ll probably start the program over again.
I’m not saying that each and every time I go out running that I’m SO PUMPED about it. There are days that I just want to climb into bed and go to sleep (and there have been days where that’s what I’ve done). But for the most part I look forward to my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays because I’ll get in a run (good or bad) and there is zero pressure to do well, to get better, or to anything. I also know that I'll get the benefits of exercise (like endorphins and all that science crap) all week long.
The one and only objective of the run is to finish whatever time my iTouch tells me to. (I should add, there is a second objective, and that’s not to fall while running….I haven’t always succeeded at that one….).
Expatdom brings along with it A LOT of stress. Well – LIFE can bring along a lot of stress. There are always a million balls in the air at one time and most of them are outside the realm of my control. Running has proven to be really effective for me in helping relieve stress, so I’m thrilled that I’m back at it again. Since I’ve started running again, I feel great. Some runs mega suck. But at the end of each run – even the mega sucky ones, I’m always happy and there’s something rewarding about hearing the guy on the program saying, “Workout Complete”. After 29-45 minutes, I come home looking like this:Yes, I get that sweaty after a run. But yes, I'm that happy after a run.