Saturday, 1 December 2012

The challenge is in trying

I finally re-write that post. A better and improved version, if I can say so myself.


"Well, mom.  It IS hard to be good at track but you know, it's harder to START a race than to finish it."


I have been doing quite a lot of it lately, but I don’t really write about it, except to say I’ve been doing it.

A little bit of history. My aversion to exercise is rooted on the fact that I suck at it. This is a fact. As far as I can remember, I have always been ... awkward when it comes to sports. I was always the last person on the race. I was the person who could not play in any team sport because well, having me on the team would guarantee that the team would lose. In fact, I said that my contribution to the “team” is that I stay away from the team and therefore increasing the team’s chances of winning.

And yes, because I suck at it, I avoid it like a plaque. There was no way I could get better at it because I keep on avoiding it. Got it.

So why the fuck am I doing it?

I don't know. One day, I just sort of did it, you know, one day, I started. It helps when you have supportive people who encourage you to do it, who constantly put it in your mind, even when it takes like... err... THIRTY-SIX months for anything to happen.

The day finally came that, if I were to be honest with myself, I actually want to change my own perception about myself in this department. Generally, I think I am awesome, and my unfitness has been, well, something that I accept as a weakness. Come on, no one is perfect, so this was my Achilles heel. Normale, no? I honestly could not even imagine myself to be the person that I am now, the one who ran for a whole hour covering 7km and not die in the process. I wanted to be more than what my imagination would allow me to be; I wanted to be more awesome than I was. I took up what is difficult because I believed (and still do) that what was difficult, combined with persistence, would propel me forward. Pain and discomfort would take me to places that I had never dreamed of. I could be a better version of myself, a version that I like more than what I was before.

So I ran and ran and ran, alternating the days between running and resting. I ran three times a week for approximately 30 minutes each time, building up to a run of 7km two days before the JP Morgan run. That was meant to be a light exercise, by the way, but I was feeling so good that I kept on running for the whole hour. This was at the treadmill. It is harder to stop or slow down at your own will when you are at the treadmill, so you are more likely to stick with the pace. The next day, I walked VERY SLOWLY. The day after, which was the race day, I walked normally.

For the most part, it hurt. Quite a number of times I stopped running because I was out of breath , my chest felt like it was about to explode. The manifestation of my unfitness. Other times, my feet felt like they were going to fall off. Another manifestation of my unfitness. For the remainder of the time that I was not running, I craved carbohydrates really badly. Just to clarify here, I did and do eat carbs, in the form of fruits and vegetables, especially root vegetables. What I craved (and still do) is things that are refined and high in sugar, like pancakes with ice cream, cheesecakes, cannoli, etc etc etc – you get the idea. Out of these three forms of pain, the one that hurt the most is the last one, because it is (a) never ending and (b) has the ability to wake me up from my sleep, while the other two seemed to be more temporary in comparison. I resisted the carb-cravings for two reasons (not necessarily in any order of importance). First, I want to be healthy – excessive sugar consumption is bad for you. Second, I want to maintain my figure, that is, I do not want to become fat. So I am watching my diet that much closely. I want to look good, okay. I am shallow and vain like that.

It was a painful physical and mental experience. Every running session entailed me dragging myself to the gym and hopping on the treadmill. Starting was hard. Running was hard. I resigned myself to the pain that was about to come. I wrestled with my preconceptions about myself – that I had been unfit in the past, and now that I am doing this, am I going to fall off the treadmill and get injured and blab la blabla. It was a very draining battle that was incredibly difficult to win. By the end of each running session, to say that I was physically and mentally exhausted is an understatement. Furthermore, I reaffirmed the fact that resigning to the pain did not make the process any easier; even when I know what to expect, it did not make it easier at all.

Add to all of that the fact that I had to battle a cold, and later on, some serious shoulder pains (the kind that required taping your shoulder), which halted my training. Consequently, there were many, many times during which I thought I was not going to make it. I was openly apprehensive about this and I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive people who were able to see something in me that I was not able to see myself. I am deeply thankful for their kind words and for believing in me.

Persistence, thankfully, is my middle name. That, plus some form of insanity which I think is necessary for survival, or in this case, thriving. Giving up is always the easier option. I don’t want easy, well at least not in this case anyway. Believing the seemingly-impossible-at-that-time? That’s easy too, relatively anyway. Doing something that is seemingly-impossible-at-the-time? Now, that’s hard and because it is hard, it must be worth my efforts.

This whole process has allowed me to discover so much about myself; it allowed me to grow to be a much better version than my old self. As my friends called it, this is Isabelle 2.0. With every progress that I make, usually in the form of being able to run longer distances and not die, I give thanks to the fact that I have not gained weight. Without realizing it at the time, what it really was is this: I needed to do this, for myself. I needed to grow in ways that I thought was not possible. I needed to expose myself to new challenges so that I could go to places that I could not have traversed. It was not just a want. It was a need.

My self-inflicted pain got me to the destination.  I am excited to discover what sort of places it is going to take me to.

For now, I am going to indulge in some fried chicken.

Post script: I promptly caught a cold post JP run and am still battling the said cold two weeks on.  I want to blame it on the weather, but really, it is my fault for not resting properly. What can I say, life got in the way of living. My reward for running the JP includes new running gear!! I can’t find a better way of supporting the global economy.

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