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I Ran Today

I ran today. Weird way to start a blog, I know. But I ran today. Well okay, I did five minutes on the treadmill at a 12-minute mile pace. After three minutes I slowed down and walked for a minute before running another two. That wasn’t my plan, but honestly, gasping for air after three minutes wasn’t exactly what I expected either.

I’ve always considered myself relatively fit and athletic. Even when I had Lyme Disease and I could hardly function, I still competed as an adult figure skater. There were days where I spent 20 minutes on the ice, and I was DONE. Like crawl home and lay on the sofa done.

So how did I end up here, ten pounds too heavy and so out of shape that I could hardly move? I had two babies after 40, took a job with unforgiving hours, and honestly, I just had bigger fish to fry. But when I had the opportunity to change jobs last fall, I swore I was going to get back in shape. I NEEDED to get back in shape to keep up with my very active little boys.

But it didn’t really happen. I did some Beachbody videos but would have a day where I couldn’t get the workout in, so I’d be “off” on the days or have to skip and it was just so easy to say “I’ll start again on Monday.” I did get out and walk around the block with my mom and my kids in tow… until the Minnesota winter arrived in force and put me into full hibernation mode. Ugh, I hate being cold.

I made getting back into shape one of my New Year’s Resolutions (anybody, anybody?) and on January 2nd the boys and I tested positive for COVID, courtesy of an exposure at preschool. But let’s be clear – COVID is in no way responsible for my subpar treadmill performance. I was fortunate that none of us were sick more than stuffy noses and slight coughs. But ten days of house arrest with a one-year-old and a three-year-old was unpleasant to say the least. We were deep in a cold snap, one of those streaks where the guy on TV tells you that the temperature isn’t going to get above zero for… DAYS…

I digress, but you’ve been there, right? It’s not that you don’t want to exercise (ok maybe it is, but I’ve always liked being active). It’s not that you WANT to stay out of shape and a bit heavier than you’d like. It’s just that life gets in the way. In other words, you don’t want to do it badly enough to overcome the obstacles. So what made me get on the treadmill today? And how do I KEEP getting on?

Rewind to three days previously. I complained about my inability to find even 10-15 minutes a day to exercise, even though I desperately wanted to get back in shape. Now let’s be clear, it’s 10-15 minutes. If exercise had really been a priority, I could have found the time. But there was nothing strong enough pushing me to overcome the sedentary inertia. Although workout videos were an easy routine to follow and I certainly wanted to have the flat abs and toned limbs of the trainer, I couldn’t find anything to pull me enough to go through the discomfort of getting back into shape.

I thought back with longing to the days before I had kids, when I would get up and run five miles in the morning before work. And I realized that I’d never been successful at video workouts, even before babies and adult obligations entered my life. But why?

Shortly before I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I had opened my own private clinic to do lifestyle and functional medicine. I wrote a lot of patient handouts for that clinic. Including one on “getting moving.” In that handout, I talked about how finding the right activity often made all the difference. The one that didn’t feel like a chore, an obligation, a SHOULD. I hate the SHOULDs – all those things that you know you ought to do but really don’t want to do.

So what was it about exercise that it used to be a happy choice, and now it was a SHOULD? Cuz that’s the million dollar question. How to make exercise enjoyable again, even through the discomfort that getting back into something resembling good physical condition would require. And I thought about the activities I’d done in the past. As a child I’d done ballet. Still love to dance. Finding an hour and childcare to go take an adult dance class somewhere once a week? Logistically tough. As a teenager and college student I’d played tennis. Still enjoy tennis, even just hitting a ball against a backboard. But the nearest backboard was… not so near anymore.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the activities and sports that I’ve played in the past. Most of them I still enjoy and would love to take up again. Some of them I probably will. I made it as far as purple belt in tae kwon do. Not taking my brown belt test was a huge regret. In a year or two, I may restart martial arts as an activity to do with my older son. But for now, I’m focusing on running.

Although I’d dabbled in running in college and medical school, I really got into it because of a song. On New Year’s Day 2007 I was driving home alone in the wee hours of the morning. It was raining, and Melissa Etheridge’s song “I run for life” came on the radio. By the time it was over, there were tears running down my face. A few months previously my teenage cousin had been diagnosed with leukemia.

As a family medicine resident, I had added insight into the medical system and definitely more knowledge than the average family member. But despite my medical degree, there was nothing I could really do to help. And that drove me nuts. As someone who went into medicine to help people, not being able to do anything for my loved ones really bothered me. Sitting there in my car in the dark, I realized that I could do a run and raise money for leukemia research. The breast cancer people and the heart association people and tons of other groups had annual walks and runs, I figured the leukemia society must have one too.

What I discovered the next morning gave me pause. The Leukemia Society didn’t have a 5K… they did marathons. As someone who’d never excelled at running by speed or distance measures, that was terrifying news. But I wanted to help, and that why was bigger than my fears. So I signed up and I started to run.

Somewhere between those first few huffing and puffing miles and when I sprinted across the finish line of my first half-marathon in Nashville five months later, I found an unexpected gift. I found freedom.

Music has always touched my soul, and when I laced up my running shoes and put on my headphones, I was free. It was my time to think and dream – to imagine crazy things like skating in the Olympics and not so crazy things like a first date with Prince Charming. (Well, fifteen years later he’s still MIA so maybe that one was crazy too!) Running was when I got my best ideas. Once I logged those first few weeks and the physical ACT of running stopped being such a struggle, it became the best gift of all.

And THAT’S why I stepped back on the treadmill. I knew it would probably be ridiculously unpleasant at first – after all, I’m more out of shape than I’ve ever been in my life. But I wanted that feeling again. I wanted to let my imagination run wild as my feet thudded rhythmically on the pavement, wind in my hair, sun on my face, music in my ears. I wanted creation. I wanted possibility. I wanted freedom.



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These pages are filled with blogs about things I'm passionate about - from archaeology to zen!  My goal is not to convert you to my idea of a "perfect lifestyle" but rather to help you identify and create your own.

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