Another Run Geelong has come and gone and I was, once again, a virtual runner rather than an actual runner. And, once again, I had that pang of another year gone and my plans of getting fit having wobbled away.
Running has never been my thing, but I have for a long time wanted it to be. I’d love to feel the exhilaration of my legs eating up the road - to just keep running. To be honest, I would get a buzz out of being able to run more than 500 metres before pulling up in a red-faced and exhausted pile of breathlessness.
But hey, anyone can run, right? So I did what all the learn to run advice seemed to suggest. Start with daily walks of increasing length, then start intermittent walking and jogging. It was going along well, and I started to hit those small moments of exhilaration where it felt easy, even fun. This is what I remembered from those post-school, pre-babies years, when hitting the gym was my go-to me time … when shopping never came with the question, ‘does my bum look big in this’.
Ha! For a moment there it sounded like I used to be really healthy, but the truth is I’m probably far healthier now. My previous daily breakfast of black coffee and cigarettes (it was all the weekend bender stomach could cope with) have been replaced with probiotic rich morning shots and super greens. At 7am on the weekends I can be found sipping a quiet morning cuppa and reading before the kid-tsunami strikes (a.k.a. THEY wake up) rather than emerging from a last-stop club, blinking in the light and staggering into the nearest café for coffee, hash browns and bacon, trying to ignore the small furry animal that had not only taken up residence in my mouth, but was, by the smell, farting in there as well. Never mind, I could always sleep it off in a solarium session or two during the week… Honest proof that the appearance of healthy living can be anything but.
So there I was, reminding myself of the joy of fitness, and I could feel myself getting stronger, in between the puffing, moaning, and stoic nods at the people going the other way – most of whom were at least two decades older and light years ahead in cardio capacity. There is one gent that reminds of my granddad, with a penchant for running shorts and the kind of stringy fitness made famous by Cliff Young and his gumboots all those years ago, that is still running after I’ve staggered back to the house, my face with that pulsating red glow that is the special gift of ginger-ninjas the world over, collapsed on the tiles, drank a litre of water, had a cold shower and stretched on the couch in front of the TV.
I actually started looking for excuses to pull on the compression pants and runners, and turned into one of those people for whom this is acceptable day wear. Then, one gorgeous Saturday morning, I had a really good jog / walk / jog / walk / walk / moan / walk / collapse and then promptly fell off the wagon into a pile of donuts …
Not long after that ignoble tumble off the fitness track I think I managed to pull a hamstring watching one of my boys play basketball. I can’t explain it. Is there such a thing as sympathetic exercise injuries?
That was the last straw, and it wasn’t the one that I’d pulled out of a G&T. With my leg still warning that the running track would have to wait, I did what all women should be doing to stave of osteoporosis, heart disease and all those other indignities of ageing, I started weight training.
Many years ago, I found myself inexcusably lied to about a writing assignment. I was to undertake exercise bootcamp and write about my experience. This was during the gym years, so I was unfazed. Huh, I’d crush it. And I might have, if it hadn’t involved getting out of bed at the crack of 5am to climb ropes (two-feet was my record), pull car tyres loaded with another bootcamper along a beach (I couldn’t even pull the tyre, let alone a man or womaned one), and run the steps of Simonds Stadium while a short be-muscled bald man bellowed at me to embrace the pain (I bellowed back some of my best work, so effectively he actually paled under his ridiculously orange tan and tattoos). It was six weeks of soul-sucking hell, but I did learn how to use everyday park benches, steps and my own admittedly low bodyweight to train outside of a gym.
So I pushed aside the painful memories and pulled out the ‘how to start weight training at home’ ones. It was way better than trying to run and felt a little like my desk-atrophied muscles remembered what to do. Sure, having to stop every couple of minutes to explain to your concerned children that Mummy wasn’t having a seizure, she was just exercising, was slightly off-putting. And no, doing sit ups on the bedroom floor with my feet up under the bed frame could have been more comfortable.
And definitely, digging out the old yoga mat would have been a wise move. Because what started as a slightly warm sensation on my butt turned out to be third-degree carpet burn, courtesy of my what-I-was-wearing-to-bed leggings, right where nobody wants carpet burn.
My dearly beloved thought it was hilarious. I had nappy rash.
The next week, in between limping around on my dodgy hamstring, sitting on an improvised hemorrhoid cushion made from a blanket rolled into a donut, and incredibly awkward regular application of Curash power, I seriously started to question the wisdom of exercise being good for you.
Embrace the pain? I think I’ll take the donuts!