Runner Life.

“Man, do runners love running. They love everything about running. They especially like talking about running. After running, talking about running is the #1 thing runners seem to like. Also, is it just me or are runners crazily cultish about their running? Like, if they find out you’re a fellow runner, there is nothing you could do to sever the relationship. You could murder an elderly man and the only reaction would be, “See you at Red Coyote this weekend!” In summary: though very clearly insane, runners are sort of adorable and infectious in how enthusiastic they are.”

via JustRun via The Lost Ogle

Remember a little blog post called The Road? This is your update. I was concerned being only on week 2 of Couch to 5k when I took off to Bangkok to pick up my Mom. Turns out, running while traveling can be pretty freaking awesome. The constant change of scenery and overzealous enthusiasm for life led to a constant renewed energy for my hobby. I never got bored because there was always a new route to explore and things to take my attention away from the fact that my mind and body were still getting re-used to the idea of running again.

First of all, the Couch to 5K program. In a word, impressively-doable. The short intervals were easy to keep me in gear, but enough of a challenge that I felt the improvement (ie pain) each week. There was only one week that I needed to scale back and do a repeat of a run, but it was my own fault (running in Thai heat late morning without breakfast and being properly hydrated, not a good idea) not the program’s. It helped that you only run three days a week and are encouraged to take off days/rests when you feel is necessary.

And a side note to myself/any other PCVs thinking about how weird the locals will find you for running… they already think you’re crazy. It might as well be for something that’s good for you. My Thais were surprisingly chill about my running. Mostly a lot of encouraging thumbs up and ‘strong, strong’ comments as they passed me on their motorbikes. I’m pretty convinced the people on The Road were a different species of Thai as no one, not once, called me farang or gawked annoyingly. Which only made me wish I had discovered Road and the people occupying it earlier in my service.

A side note from the side note is how amazing it was to run before the rest of the tourists come out from their hotels and to see a city come to life like a regular citizen of such a place. Even if you’re not running, I would definitely encourage travelers to get up at least once at the crack of dawn to experience a new place this way, like the locals do. One of the most memorable parts of my visit in Chiang Rai was running by a little old Thai granny doing aerobics in her front yard and her telling me how ‘strong’ I was. I invited her along for the rest of my run and her booming laughter had me smiling until well after I finished exercising.

Ok, one more side note and I’ll get back on track. The blog track that is. Running while traveling has to be one of the coolest things. Ever. Over a two-week period, I was running in the fields of Isaan, the streets of Chiang Rai, the mountains in Ban Rai, and the beach in Cha Am. Each time it felt like there was a completely different personality to the run. It was almost like getting to know a fascinating new person at various parties. You might run a little slower getting to know one another at first, but the renewed vigor you feel at the end makes it seem well worth the effort.

I was so amazed and proud of myself for actually finishing C25K in Thailand that I decided to jump into the next step of a 10k with Suz’s 5K to 10K. I liked my C25K electronic/club music, but Suz keeps you motivated with 90s hip-hop/R&B classics like Big Poppa, Baby Got Back, and Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It. There were times this program felt a little inconsistent in the jumps of intervals you were supposed to run week to week, but it did help me get to running a full hour. At this point, I was starting to get a little obsessive, running every other day, and like most new converts to running, took things a little harder than I probably should have. It started with my first bad cold in nearly two years time, then after pulling a hip muscle slipping on some wet concrete and the following severe lower back pain, I fell out of shape a bit as my time in Thailand was coming to a close.

With so much to do before I left and the subsequent transition time in America with family and friends and things to do almost every day, it wasn’t hard to lose my lungs. Well, the cold weather didn’t help either. I was struggling with a puny fifteen minute limp along session on the treadmill and was not happy about it.

Luckily the weather has steadily improved and so have my running times. And there are also these wonderful things called apps and real roads that help me figure out how far I’ve been running and what my mile pace, things I couldn’t quite take advantage of when I was on the dirt roads cutting through rice fields. I’ve been nerding out a bit over it. Enough so to dedicate an entire post to talking about how much I’m enjoying running again.

I don’t know how or why, but running has become a constant in my life as I make my way through segueing myself back to life in America. It’s become a time of meditative reflection that I never look forward to until I’m knee-deep in things and realize how necessary it is for my sanity. Maybe it’s an addiction to the endorphins, but I totally understand and nod enthusiastically at the above quote. It’s amazing the people you connect with when you’re out and about exercising in the world. Maybe even yourself?

With the Pittsburgh marathon a few weeks ago, I saw many former classmates and friends have been taking the plunge into long distance running. I’m hoping to join a race sometime in the fall, fingers crossed for a half marathon! For now, I’ll keep lacing up and taking in the scenery in this Runner Life.

Friday Five

Resolved: These are my resolutions. Deal with it. I read or heard that something to the effect of only eight percent of Americans actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions, especially when they are fitness or health related. Oops. To combat this staggering possibility of failure, the writers at your local online self-help websites suggest to make yourself publicly accountable. So this is me. Doing that.

Couch to how many k?
I wrote about the starting of the C25K program a few months ago, right before I started traveling. I was really nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. And I killed it. The day I got back from traveling, I downloaded a new set of podcasts, the bridge to 10k. My goal is to run a 10K race, with my sights set on a possible half-marathon. I realize it’s normal to train for a marathon in this amount of time, but goals are meant to be attainable. Until you set the next crazy one.

Improve My Posture
I’m over six feet tall. I’ve been over six feet tall since I was twelve years old. I’ve been stooping over people for more of my life than I haven’t. And now I really want that to change. I need to build up core and back muscles and be generally uncomfortable for a long time. One exercise suggested envisioning squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades and ‘make some orange juice’ has become my new mantra. The days of the ‘shrimp walk’ are over.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Before I came to Thailand, I was an April-October runner. Then I wasn’t a runner or an anythinger because of a multitude of factors with life in Thailand. Now some of those are working in my favor as the cold weather isn’t stopping me from keeping up with a running schedule. In 2013, I would like to maintain a year-long program of exercise.

Can’t Take the Heat then Deal with it and Learn to Cook
I’m not a foodie that enjoys cooking, watching other people cook, or waiting for food. I don’t have a large appetite either. These factors generally conclude that I eat whatever is tasty and quick, which usually means pretty shitty health wise. To nourish my body properly for exercise (and, life), I need to learn how to cook. Nothing elaborate, rather a development of taste and how to prepare food to satisfy my tongue and the needs of my body.

Communication Nation
I’m not very good at making new friends or meeting new people. I’m one of those terribly shy people who suck immensely at small talk, especially in large groups. And then when the one poor soul that initiates a chat, I get awkward. Even if I do manage to gimp along, hide my racing heat beat, and survive until the natural end of a conversation, my follow through is weak. What do you say to those people you just met? Clearly Thailand hasn’t really helped in this department as it is totally normal to discuss bowel movements, what I ate for breakfast, and the current weight of your conversation partner within minutes of meeting. Mostly, I think I need to practice, practice, and practice some more. Force myself to be uncomfortable to cast my net and hope for a good catch of a friend or colleague. In 2013, it is my resolution to be better at talking to people I don’t know yet and develop more meaningful relationships afterwards.

The Road

One year from today, you’ll be happy you started today. That’s what I’m telling myself this evening. You see I made this little discovery last week. Discovery is too intentional a word, more like stumbled clumsily upon. After lamenting for nearly my entire PC service about a lack of roads deemed suitable for running and resorting to biking aimlessly for school break exercise, I took a side road. A side road that cut through rice fields I took on a whim. Then I realized it looped back around to behind my house, just a hard to see turn from what looks like a dead-end.

I’m a shy person and an even shyer exerciser. Thais are not the type to hold back their exclamations about your activities either, whether walking down the street or doing something so peculiar as exercising. It gets to the point that walking out of the house can feel like a burden, much less exposing yourself in the vulnerable state of out of shape exercising.

I had pretty steep qualifications for a road. It should have very few houses so there aren’t many spectators, but some people on it for safety reasons. Shade would also be nice because lets face it, this is Thailand, it’s really fucking hot and the sun is very strong. Dogs should also be minimal because it is much harder to put the Mario super star power when running for the first time in well over a year rather than on the bike. To be honest, I had given up on finding this elusive road and had decided to wait to lace up my shoes back in America.

The scouting mission I went on with my bike. First sign I came across and it seemed a little out-of-place on this tiny rice paddy road.

 

But all this time, it was right there! ‘So much time wasted!’ I thought at first, until I realized I wasn’t in the mental state to keep up any physical regiment as my sporadic attempts at yoga demonstrated. This feels different though, like the cosmos all aligned, and I don’t want to run, I feel a need to.

I had heard about a nine-week program called Couch to 5K that starts you off very slowly with interval training. Once I had found my road, I did some more in-depth research. It looked a little easy to me as someone who had been doing competitive athletics for more years than I haven’t, but my body has also steadily declined to mush in Thailand. I had my road, I had a doable program, I was ready to go.

I tried to put my enthusiasm on ice. Traveling, in my opinion, can be seriously debilitating to running. With my month-long trip with my Mom planned, it would be better to start once I got back home in December and could establish a routine. But I worried by then I would have lost my need and put it on the back burner again until I went back to the U.S. in March. Combine that concern with a kick in the butt from Manfriend and today I took those first (painful) steps.

Within the first five minutes of a light warm-up, muscles in my legs that typically aren’t used during bike rides were politely voicing their concerns. After the first run interval, they became more along the lines of angry pro-life protesters outside of an abortion clinic. This continued until I hobbled through the last bit as my jelly legs eventually cut off communication with the rest of my body. It hurt, I’m still feeling the effects hours later and it was fantastic.

I hope to keep this up while on the (metaphorical) road with my Mom and keep the excuses down to a minimum (I am a little nervous to run in urban areas) because this is something that I want, to be in running shape again. There is no perfect time to start something that is not easy, only right now or putting it off until later. Out of those two, now is the only viable choice.


Love this fake commercial from the movie, What Women Want.

I’ll keep you updated with my relationship with my road and experience with the C25K program. If you’re interested in the idea, I got a lot of information from this website and a good overview from this one.