Tuesday, August 26, 2014

About not running.



For six weeks of my life this past summer, three days a week, I got up at sunrise and laced up a new pair of running shoes and strapped my iPhone around my upper arm and went out to pound the pavement on a Couch-to-5K program.

(Note: the program is eight weeks long. Feel free to do the math.)

Surprisingly, I didn't hate the running. I have never, ever, ever been a runner; my running memories consist of being pushed and prodded around and around the park that was across the street from my junior high in the mid '80s. Maybe the memory of the requisite green-and-white zip-up one-piece short gymsuit we wore has tainted my recollection of those days, but I'm pretty sure I loathed every second of those runs (during which I mostly walked, anyway). If they were trying to turn us into athletes---or even into people who didn't abhor the very concept of exercise---the PE programs of the '80s were an abject failure.

Now it's a few (!) years later and apparently everyone is running! My Facebook feed reads like a communal running log; I'm impressed by my friends of all ages (some of them even older than me, if you can imagine that ;) ) who have Couch-to-5K'ed their way from walkers to marathoners. They get medals. MEDALS. On ribbons, like at the Olympics! It's inspiring, and the "I started off just like you" stories are abundant.

So for six weeks, I repressed my old green-gymsuit memories, and I made a playlist, and I ran.

The first day, the C25K app I'd downloaded told me to run 1 minute, then walk 1.5 minutes, and repeat. And I quickly became convinced I was going to die and that some hyperfit Marine drill sergeant would drive by on his way to work and have to stop to peel me off the sidewalk.

But I ran. And the second day I was pretty sure I wasn't going to die. And by the fourth week I could run 5 minutes straight. And by the sixth week I was creeping up on 10 minutes.

Sounds like a success story, right? The truth is, it felt like a success story. I actually felt proud of myself; I loved my app, because I could scroll back and see my progression from 1 minute to 10. I am not sure I have ever in my life been proud of myself for a physical-fitness accomplishment.

Which made it really, really difficult to quit. There may have even been tears when I finally made the decision.

So why quit, then, you may rightly ask?

For practical reasons, like school starting and mornings staying darker, and sheer tiredness from getting up so stinking early all the time. For meteorological reasons, like living in a place with 95% humidity and early mornings that felt like running through soup.

All problems (excuses) that could easily be remedied by running later in the morning, or in the fitness center on a treadmill.

But then I got honest with myself and admitted that there were also personal reasons, like a dramatic increase in migraine headaches during those six weeks (which may or may not have been related to the running, but started making me anxious every running day in case I might have another; those of you who are migraine sufferers will be nodding your heads, knowing that adding further anxiety into the migraine mix is totally counterproductive to minimizing the headaches).

Then there was the reality that I never felt that "runner's high," the adrenaline rush or the energy spike. In fact, I came home proud of myself but utterly trashed. A relatively short 30-ish-minute workout was wearing me out for the entire day, and in six weeks' time it got worse, not better. More than once I came home and melted down in tears, not from emotion but from exhaustion. I was feeling good about the running, but frustrated by the slow, slow recovery from each day's workout.

And there's the fact that I am not now (nor have I ever been--I refer you back to my comments about junior high PhysEd--) particularly competitive. Sure, I'd love to show my kids a medal I earned... or, heck, even the free tshirt... but I'm simply not motivated enough by the promise of a race. I started running because I knew I needed to do something for my health and my heart and my weight, and thirty minutes three days a week sounded like a pretty good deal. I never ran to complete a course.

It's been two weeks now since I've been running, and honestly I'm still not 100% sure I made the right choice to stop. I'm glad I ran. I'm glad I improved. And I'd consider doing it again. I would love for my story to be one of those "If I can do it, you can do it!" exhortations.

But for now my story is this: From not completing the running program, I learned that I like to move. I even like to sweat, and to feel my lungs and heart working. So I am not quitting movement, or sweat, or breathing hard. Instead I am choosing to move, to sweat, to huff and puff and to enjoy it. To let it energize rather than deplete. To take anxiety and competition off the table. I'm choosing to listen to ABBA while I pedal down bike paths through old growth trees dripping with Spanish moss. If I feel like walk/run/walking with a knitting podcast to enjoy and no countdown clock to measure my progress, I'll do it. Or I'll pop in a dvd and step in place and do lunges and bicep curls in my living room. Or I'll drag out my sticky mat and practice warrior and child's poses.

That's not quitting. (I am going to keep telling myself that until I believe it.) It's not quitting. It's choosing a way that is mine, that serves my body and maybe even feeds my spirit. There may not be a medal at the end of it... in fact, there can be no end of it. And there won't be any celebratory Facebook statuses (you'll have to wait for my knitted Finished Objects for that!). But there can be pride; and, even better, there will most certainly be wellness. And who knows---there may even be joy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

From Pinning to Making: DIY Handlebar Bag

I could spend all day pinning DIY ideas on Pinterest. Daydreaming about all things I could do can become a hobby in and of itself! Every once in awhile, though, I am glad I took the time to pin... when I realize there's a project I could actually use, AND I have the supplies on hand, AND I have time to sit down and make it happen. Yesterday was one of those days; it was the first day both of my kids were in school all day, and I was in a clear and present danger of piddling the entire day away between Facebook and Ravelry and Pinterest and on and on. I finally thought, "I should go for a bike ride!" but remembered that I don't have a good way to carry keys/garage door opener/phone. Pinterest to the rescue!

I found this tutorial for a handlebar bag. I have a small stash of oilcloth (thanks to a bargain bin in a shop in Fredericksburg, Texas; now I wish I'd stocked up more!). I have a sewing machine and somewhat rudimentary skills, and I have a tub of random buttons and a Ziplock bag of random ribbons. I put them all together, and this was the result:


I took some liberties with the instructions, and I fudged here and there due to the lack of convenient craft-supply stores in our area. Definitely some of these moments:


I made the bag longer than the instructions indicated (and would have been happy if it were even longer and wider, but for my needs it will do). I had to use ribbon for the edging, which gives a bohemian look I like, but was fussy and uneven to work with. With no little girls in our house I didn't have cute colored hair elastics to loop the two buttons together... but we do have a significant collection of rainbow loom bands, including pink ones that never see the light of day. And it could be a long while before I have a chance to shop for hook-and-loop tape, but we had a bundle of mismatched Velcro electrical cord ties that were the perfect width and length to attach the bag to the bike.

My next project will a phone sleeve so I can toss both my phone and my keys into this bag together!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Someday is Today.




Today is my "someday." Forty.

I've never thought I was the type for a midlife crisis. Maybe I was allowed to think that, because I couldn't imagine myself being "midlife" in the first place. I'm low-maintenance (to keep the Harry & Sally theme going) and have never been particularly bothered that I'm not twenty anymore. But forty. Forty is serious.

The past few days I've been puzzling over why this feels like such a Big Deal. What is so different about forty? Thinking back on my previous "big decade" birthdays, I had an epiphany.

When I was 10, I got my ears pierced. I was about to be a teenager; getting pierced ears was The Big Sign of getting older, not a little kid anymore. (All I remember about this is the noise of the "gun" shooting that tiny hole in my earlobe... and me bursting into tears! My mom and aunt finally talked me in to getting the other ear done; thanks to them, I have not gone through the last 30 years lopsided.)

When I was 20, I got engaged. I was about to be a spouse, a partner. I was finishing up a college degree, experiencing a call to ministry, preparing for a move and a wedding and a home and a life together. I was looking for a job that might actually put at least part of my education to use.

When I was 30, I was massively pregnant. I was about to be a mother. There's a not-so-lovely picture of us having afternoon tea at a fancy estate in England on my birthday, about three weeks before the birth of my first child. I was puffy everywhere (and, as I recall, putting away scones like they were going out of style). I was on the brink of the event that would change me more than any other.

Now I am 40. I'm way past teenagerhood (and though I went through a brief double-pierced phase, the original two have stayed with me). We're nearing 20 years of marriage, and our oldest child is celebrating his first decade in a few weeks. All of my old "about-to-be's"---all the anticipations, those shifts of relationships and personhood---are by now well-settled. At forty, I am not "about to be" anything new; there's no grand transition around the corner of this birthday. Maybe it's no wonder that forty feels like a bit of a disappointment; it's not a signpost to a new direction, just another milemarker on this established route.

I am really good at "about-to-be's." But "so-what-now's"? Not so much.

So---forty. What now?

Maybe forty, with no Major Life Transition looming, is the time I get to remember the person I've been all along. Maybe at forty I'll rediscover the fearful-but-being-brave-in-spite-of-tears child. Maybe I'll unearth the student of words and languages; perhaps I'll write poems again, and study up on my French, and re-learn the things I might have learned in school (had I been paying attention).

Maybe at forty I can daydream again, and begin turning the dreams into realities. Maybe I'll pore over travel websites the way I once did over booklets and brochures; maybe I'll even price airline tickets and tour companies, and start planning a budget to get me there.

Maybe forty is when I'll find my voice and my vocation. Maybe forty is when I will finally begin to feel comfortable in this skin.

If so, then maybe forty is the someday I've been waiting for my whole life.