Thursday, November 15, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Run, Cheat, Win

OK, I'm in better shape than this
As always with FTT O-T, not really sports and you've been warned.

One of the things that I've been able to do, as I've gotten older and managed the great luck and curse that is a work from home job for the past 18 months, is more time in the gym, and a slowly increasing count of miles on the treadmill. And I'm just enough of a record-keeper to note the work I do there every few days, mostly because keeping score is the only way that anything ever gets better.

Now, here's the fun part: I'm really not very good at running. I'm slow and short and squat, and pretty much always have been. You put me on a bicycle, I can do some distance and even manage a fair amount of speed and enjoyment, but on my feet, stuff just breaks down. Usually my knees, which just lock up and bark a long time before my wind dies. There's also some wrongness in the feet, and once I get into higher miles, the shoulders and back start to go as well. Cardio-wise, I can hang, but this just isn't something I'm good at, or have ever been good at. And when it's over, I'm pretty much a wreck, and hurt for a while.

I also don't particularly enjoy it. Maybe once the second wind kicks in or there's a particularly good song on the iPod, but the whole exercise is really just a continuous internal monologue of hectoring myself to get to a goal. And when I reach that goal, there is no carryover of good feelings or accomplishment; there is just relief that I've bought some time away from having to do this again.

The goal at the start of the year was 6 miles in 60 minutes, and 80 miles a month. From that plateau, which I failed to reach in 2011, I can decide to go after a goal of completing a marathon, seeing if I could get my speed up, and figuring out what my target weight should be. (As a 5'-4" unapologetic hobbit, BMI stats say I should be 130; most of my adult life has been closer to 150. My current 140 is roughly what I weighed in high school and college.)

The sad part of Life In Your Forties is that you must do more to just stand still.  I'm up to 15+ visits a month now, closing in on 10 hours a week. The intensity of the work has gone up; I'm a mess whenever I finish, and the amount of laundry I'm doing is getting kind of staggering, and pretty repugnant. And when I look in my mirror, I see... the same thing as always.

Part of this is, of course, that I haven't gone the last mile and modified my diet, added the protein powders, nutrients and vitamins that I should be giving my body. I don't eat a lot of fast food, but I drink way too much diet soda; that should go as well if i want to Get Serious. I also don't work out with a trainer, or put myself at real risk of injury. I maintain, rather than exceed.

But here's the last dirty little bit of it: I cheat.

Last weekend, when I finally broke the 6 in 6 barrier, I actually did 7 in 70... but only from hanging on the treadmill during the high elevation periods, sprinting down the close to flat parts, stopping to relieve myself at 60 minutes, and running a constant lying little dialogue in my brain. If I can get to this mile marker before the end of this minute, I can quit. If I hang on the treadmill, it doesn't really count as cheating because I'm still doing the running. And yet, I know that I am cheating... which is how I punish myself to get to 7 in 70 instead. And then hurt and limp for days afterward.

Next year, I'm going to shoot for a thousand miles (current total: 540). I'm also going to try to go past lifting my weight, which I've never done. Maybe I'll get back to swimming laps, and I swim even worse than I run. And I'll likely do my reps sloppy, hang on the treadmill, and cut every other little corner that I can to hit my little goals.

It seems to be working. But there's no way I'm going to admit that.

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