Thanks to Melissa Dawn Lierman, I'm off my butt and running again.
I suppose this past week will mark the beginning of my "7-months-on" exercise cycle.
One of the tricks to making running less mentally torturous, physically painful and psychologically discouraging during your first days of participation in the sport is to distract yourself by think about anything other than running. Sometimes, with my fingertips, I'll drum along with my MP3 player, or I'll mouth the words to the song while I gasp for my last breath. Often, especially during the nighttime runs, I'll reflect on my day as a parent, while my cardiovascular system rids my body of its stress.
While I fought to ignore the numbness in my right big toe (it was -5°C /23°F), I realized how much running has in common with parenting:
1) IT ISN'T ALWAYS EASY:
Especially with each new distance. With your first newborn, as with your first jog, you may feel bewildered and scared. Your body will feel like this adaptation is unnatural. It's important to remember these are the first steps among thousands you will take in your lifetime. That's not a heart attack you're feeling, it's your body and mind being challenged in a way they haven't been before. The heart attack will come when you STOP running; i.e. when your kids have a place of their own and stop calling.
2) EVERYONE'S EXPERIENCE/APPROACH IS DIFFERENT:
Some people hop along like little bunnies in a field. Others shuffle like old folks; yet they still go faster than you for some reason. There are sprinters - short quick bursts; and distance runners - slow and steady. Then, there's you. It's dangerous to assume others aren't feeling the same pain you are. There is no winning formula to running or parenting. You can drown yourself in research, but, your instincts count for more than anything found in a book or online. If it doesn't feel right, change. Do what you need to feel encouraged and validated.
3) REST BENEFITS YOUR MIND & BODY:
Listen to your body. There will come a point when a few days rest is absolutely necessary to avoid injury. The best parenting advice I was ever given was from my cousin. a pediatrician: "Put time aside for yourself. If you wait for your kids to give it to you, it'll never happen. Kids will keep taking, and taking, and taking." Whether parenting or running, fatigue can manifest itself both mentally and physically. Take a day off. Rest, sleep, have a warm bath and a date night. Wash those stinky clothes!
4) YOU WON'T DIE DOING IT:
At its worst, you'll be gasping for breath, fighting a buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, and wanting to quit. Your kids will forget to call, ask you a thousand questions over supper when all you want is to sip you wine, and mention in passing they're going out with a girlfriend you didn't know they had. You will be pulled and pushed. You'll have days you won't feel you can make it back home. Consider it a challenge; to your psyche as much as your quadriceps. The winning mantra is: "This too shall pass." Yes, there will be a 'feel-good moment' in the near future; it's the nature of the beast.
5) THAT PAIN YOU'RE FEELING? IT'S MUSCLES GETTING STRONGER:
Growing pains. Kids get them in their legs as their bones stretch. You'll get them in your shins (and everywhere else) as your muscles are being asked to perform in ways they haven't before. Your kids will challenge every reasonable thought you have as they develop their ability to debate, question, assert themselves, and grow confidence. The pain is normal; it comes in spurts as you push for each new distance during training. As you settle into parenting and running, it's important to remember the pain is disguising a growing strength. Also remember, there are many more days of joy and elation than there are which require Ibuprofen.
FLEXIBILITY PREVENTS INJURY:
It's one thing to put in a workout. It's another to care for those muscles when you're not racing a clock. Flexible muscles have a greater range of motion and are therefore less prone to injury. Kids can be just as stubborn and rigid. While being regimented and disciplined with your approach is a great skeleton for any program, it's the ability to change and adapt that will ultimately save you. Always running the same course will get monotonous. Sometimes pizza for supper, and ice cream for dessert, is just fine.
BONUS LESSON: IT'S A WORKOUT!...but one which benefits everybody; especially you and your family.