Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Jogging Thread


If life is a tapestry with many, varied threads, jogging is the errant fiber that runs through my fabric, never quite blending in. I grew up with athletic siblings—they were both involved in track and cross country activities, fit, in-shape and earning their letter jackets. I was the somewhat fluffy younger sister who loved reading, singing, playing piano or guitar and an occasional game of Scrabble with my mom. I was not athletic.

I took up jogging in college, along with an eating disorder, and while my body slimmed down, my self-esteem plummeted. I eventually quit the eating weirdness, but jogging stuck with me. Somehow, through bearing babies, weight-gains and losses, jogging remained an activity in my workout repertoire. When I turned 40, I decided to tackle the decade with a commitment to participate in a half-marathon. You note I didn’t say compete. My goal was merely to complete the entire race without collapsing.

I learned a whole host of new terms like fartleks, intervals, lactate threshold, negative splits and other foreign sounding words. I bought expensive shoes to help my natural foot pronation, and clothing made of wicking fabric to keep sweat off my skin. I started visiting a local outdoor gear shop and talking running with the owner, an avid and, in my opinion, somewhat crazed runner. He loved talking running lingo with me. And for this brief six month period of my life, I was no longer a jogger. I was a runner.

It was amazing to me the number of people who suddenly wanted to talk about my recovery runs and split times. I always felt a bit like a fraud, like they would discover I wasn't really a part of their club. I was just a woman trying to defy my 40th birthday. You may be thinking, sounds like you were a real runner to me. But that’s the beauty of deception and here’s how I knew I was a fake, a wannabe: Every time I talked to one of those crazed-runner-types, they’d get this far-away look in their eyes and a slight smile on their wind-chapped lips and ask me in a dreamy tone, “Don’t you just love that runner’s high? The endorphins… man, I’m addicted.” 

I’d stare at them with complete lack of comprehension, my mind racing to come up with a response. The truth is, in all my years of jogging and even racing 5ks, 10ks and the infamous half-marathon, I never felt a runner’s high. I had no concept of what it was like to feel addicted to working out.  Each and every run was an act of discipline, a goal to be achieved.  

Now I’m not saying I never derived pleasure from a run. I liked getting lost in my head, listening to my footsteps and breathing, a hypnotic syncopation keeping me company on a long outing. I liked that I could train my body to move intensely for 13 miles. But I never really liked running. I was a fraud.

Years after I completed the race (and I did complete it within my goal time and earned my t-shirt), I quit running quite so much and following the strict diet. I could almost see the disappointment in the shop owner’s face as he asked me if I still ran, probably noting the ten pounds that had since crept back on my body. “I jog,” I told him. He nodded and dismissed me. Eventually he quit asking.

I still jog a couple times a week, three slow miles. I savor the time outside with my dog, enjoying the lovely scenery. I still have to talk myself into going each and every time. But I do it because it’s good for me, good for the Dog-Dog and it’s still a great head-clearing time to think and process. 

I may not be in the company of running enthusiasts anymore, but I have a feeling I’m in the very fine and friendly company of people like me fighting the middle-aged bulge, trying to stay healthy without knee replacements. That’ll do just fine.

17 comments:

  1. I so get this. I had a pretty decent ankle surgery a year ago and just put on weight as I was trying to recover. I'd like to get back on the treadmilll (I really like the treadmill) and jog, listen to audio books and get back in a healthier weight range. My family competes and it just isn't something I love. Maybe that's why I like the treadmill - we are all running the same pace even if we aren't.

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    1. Yay us, Tasha! I vary my workouts now--elliptical (our splurge this year), jogging, hiking and hope to add biking to that soon, but that excludes Dog-Dog. I really like the elliptical because I can watch a TED or something, but jogs are great for just getting lost in my head.

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  2. Can I tell you a secret that will end up in public view? I H A T E running/jogging. I really do. I was on the track team in HS, never got the runner's high. Ever. But swimming? That is where my high came in. I'm still addicted and miss it, daily. Hopefully soon we can start going back.

    Even if you don't get the "runner's high" you still get a great thing out of it. And that, my dear friend, is what counts. Period. It doesn't matter that you don't participate in marathons, or compete, or have the endorphin rush. It's the peace it helps bring to your mind.

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    1. You know, this really is a testimony about finding an activity YOU love to do, and that's what you'll stick with it. Yes, you talk about swimming the way I heard the runners talk about their highs. You love it! And I've reached the same conclusion, what matters is getting my butt out there. I probably need to go more more intensity sometimes.. I'll work on that. ;)

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  3. I'm a "jogger", too. But I do know that runner's high. While I run I'm hating life, but I feel so good and proud of my accomplishment after I'm done. (Even if I just plodded along). I think, for me, that is the runner's high...And, I totally want to keep my knees...and hips in healthy shape. No abusive running here.

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    1. So do you get that euphoria feeling? The endorphin release? I get that more when I'm hiking-- maybe it's more a mental than chemical thing with me.

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  4. I've never been into running, but I sure do enjoy a good brisk walk, especially when the natural surroundings have so much to say to me. No head phones or anything. I listen to the birds, watch the critters and observe the plants. And of course, I take the dog as often as possible. Best of the day to you, Julie:)

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    1. I think my favorite is hiking up the mountains behind my house with my dog. Like you, I don't like headphones-- I like to hear the world and my thoughts clearly.

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  5. I enjoyed this, Julie! I started serious exercise (aerobics and weight-training) when I was 30. My program developed further with walking, and now at 68 I find that keeping it up is even more necessary than ever! My favorite walks are hikes. We have some beautiful places for that here in NC. Keep up the good work, Julie. It keeps the years and the cobwebs away!

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    1. Yay Mary Ann! You are my hero. I have dear friends in their 70s who could kick my hiking butt. That's what I aspire to be!

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  6. I can relate to your post. I started running a couple of years ago in order to keep eating cheesecake and potato chips without ballooning in weight. It was a means to an end, and not something I greatly enjoyed. I always felt I could happily give it up if I didn't have the weight to contend with.

    Now, in light of recent health issues, I've cleaned up my diet considerably and the weight has dropped without the help of exercise. I could stop running, but I haven't. I've found that I do, actually, enjoy it. It's no longer a means to an end, but rather an extension to a health-committed life. I've never gotten "runner's high", but I do enjoy seeing improvements in my body, of discovering my boundaries. With the recent changes I've made, I've discovered those boundaries are shifting, and that's pretty exciting. So I guess that's my high. :)

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    1. Hi Sara-- So what have you done to clean up your diet? The obvious? (sugar, white carbs and the obvious empty calories?). I still jog and hike- my favorite and yes, I love the head-clearing time of it and appreciate what I know it's doing with my health, especially as I get ready to have another birthday. I really appreciate your thought to quit thinking of it as a means to an end-- very wise and good to remember. :) Thank you for stopping by.

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    2. Hi Julie - Yes, I've stopped eating sugar and white carbs (they were the first to go). I've also increased the amount of vegetables and fruits I eat considerably. My diet mostly (I'd say about 75%) consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. I try to keep whole grain consumption in moderation. Fish and eggs on occasion. Low salt, low oil. Such a long answer to such simple question. :)

      Thanks for the warm welcome, I'm happy to have found your blog. :)

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    3. I appreciate your answer --trying (ohhhh trying) to make similar changes. Thank you. I'm inspired.

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    4. Glad to hear it. Best of luck to you. :)

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  7. It had never crossed my mind before, but I can now see where wearing shoes like that while jogging could greatly contribute to the overall effectiveness of the workout. Of course, people, with torches and clubs, chasing you down the street could become rather tiresome, I suppose. (LOL?)

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    1. Fortunately those torches slow them down a bit....

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