ELLE's Editor-in-Chief tries two weeks of running
And not from her problems
Running and I have a fractious relationship. As a child, I was a trophy winner. As a teenager I was a sarcastic bystander. As an adult, well, let's just say it's been a long time since my trainers have seen any more action than a good long walk around the mall. But on the few occasions when I've tried to pick up a running routine, I've been amazed at how quickly I've started feeling better and noticing results.
Plus I know that running regularly could help me handle my stressful job (a fact my runner husband points out regularly). I loathe treadmills, but there's no way I'm running on KL's pot-holed roads or non-existent footpaths, so treadmill it is.
DAY 1: Ate McDonald's last night as a pre-pain 'treat'. Felt terrible afterwards, which made me even more determined to stick to the programme. Decide McDonald's = great idea. And the run is definitely awful. My lungs burn within minutes, possibly seconds; my heart feels like it's going to burst through my chest. And I'm barely even running!
I'm following a modified version of the Couch-to-5k podcast that has worked for me before, but I'm trying to speed things up by skipping straight to week three. Bad idea. Lesson one: don't skip steps. I can't keep up and at the end of my half-hour session I feel like a big fat failure. When I step off the treadmill my legs have forgotten what legs are for, and I have to exit the gym by crawling around the edges with one arm on the wall to hold myself up. Things can only get better.
DAY 2: No run.
DAY 3: Er, still no run.
DAY 4: Run! In the four-minute bursts when I'm actually running I feel like I'm sprinting so fast Usain Bolt would be jealous. But when I catch a sideways glance of myself in the gym's glass walls I am shocked to see a figure more akin to a 90-year-old. A beetroot-red 90-year-old. Plus my posture is mortifying – hunched back, turkey neck and feet barely rising above the treadmill. Lungs still burn, heart throbs worryingly. But by the end of the half hour, I'm actually feeling… if not good then at least okay. Progress!
DAY 5: Rest day. That's what I'm calling it.
DAY 6: No run. But I walk 1.5km to a restaurant for dinner and later dance for two alcohol-fuelled hours, 15 minutes of which are on a table so I count them as altitude training. Bonus points.
DAY 7: Ugh. No chance.
DAY 8: Run, run, run! Have turned over a new leaf. Saturday night's debauchery is in my past. I am a clean-eating, tee-totalling wellness warrior. I power through a session where I run for 20 minutes out of 30, in two bouts of 10 minutes each. But I do drink a strong black coffee first. Is coffee the answer?
DAY 9: Legitimate rest day.
DAY 10: Not feeling as gung-ho as day 8, but still kind of looking forward to today's run. I've found the soundtrack is key. Cheesy '80s power ballads and really unsubtle motivational songs like All Fired Up by Pat Benatar are my poison, and help keep boredom at bay. I've also found a run is a great time to unravel knotty work problems. The most difficult part now is not the run itself but finding the time to do it (even though the treadmill is only two floors from my bed).
DAY 11: I've noticed the pay-off in my sleep quality and energy levels. If I run in the morning, I can skip my coffee afterwards and not even notice the difference. Today I only ran for 21 out of the 30 minutes, but hey, it's still progress.
DAY 12: Three days of running in a row! Who am I? Was a bit sore from yesterday, but managed to repeat the same times.
DAY 13: Final rest day. Strangely, I'm actually missing the running.
DAY 14: After nearly two weeks, I run solidly without stopping for 25 minutes. The distance might not be much – 3.5 kilometres – but in all other ways I'm really pleased with my progress.
LESSON LEARNT: Sometimes the doing is actually as bad as the imagining – but! – the great thing about running is the pain doesn't last for long, and the benefits show up pretty damn fast. For me, six runs in two weeks is amazing. Let's hope I can keep it up.
This article was first published in the January 2016 issue of ELLE Malaysia.