I don’t know if it was the boredom that this summer brought, my hiatus from my “get the hell in shape” plan, or turning 31 and deciding to try something new, but somewhere in the last couple weeks I decided I wanted to start running.
Earlier this spring I had been working out, mainly using the Wii Fit nightly and walking two to three miles about three or four nights a week. While I had gained some weight after becoming vegetarian a year ago, my main goal was to get into shape regardless of the number on the scale. I stuck with it for several months, but then I went on vacation several times this summer and never got back into my routine.
But then, a couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to get back into a routine. Except that instead of sequestering myself upstairs with the Wii, I wanted to spend time outdoors. (Yes, despite the fact that it was 95 degrees at 8 p.m. still.) So I decided maybe I’d take a stab at running. However, knowing myself I knew I’d never get my ass off the couch unless there was some sort of gadgetry involved, so I ordered a Nike+iPod kit, an armband for my Nano and a little pouch to attach the sensor to my shoe and headed out into the neighborhood.
And I promptly almost died of exhaustion.
Now, I’ve never been an athlete. Even in high school when I could run the required miles without stopping, I was never anywhere near the fastest. I never played sports, and I never had any desire to challenge myself physically, except maybe to see how much junk food I could consume in one sitting. So why I thought I could run 2.5 miles without stopping after not having run since high school—at least 13 years ago—is beyond me.
I realized quickly I’d need to do a combo of running and walking if I wanted to make it back to the house alive, and when I did make it back I saw I had racked up a 12:59 mile. Ian laughed his ass off at me (as former marathon runners are wont to do), but the next time I reduced my time to an 11:11 mile. And then I realized I was counting my warm-up and cool-down walks in with my run time, which made me feel a little better.
So this past Friday, after a long and stressful day at work (complete with crying in the bathroom and freaking out the male co-workers), instead of drowning myself in a bottle of wine like usual, I decided to channel my rage into running. And I did. I only improved my time by 7 seconds, but I felt good. My lungs were holding up better, and I ran for an entire block without stopping (this is big for me).
And then my knees gave out.
About 15 minutes after I returned from my run, I could barely walk. Shooting pain on the inside part of my knees and a general stiffness of the kneecap hit, and it was over. I took a shower and wallowed on the couch like an old lady. However, complaining on Facebook doesn’t require kneecaps, and after posting a brief update about my predicament, I had several helpful commenters suggesting I go to a specialty running store to get fitted for shoes.
So Saturday afternoon I took a break from work (have I mentioned it’s been busy lately?) and Ian and I headed over to Fleet Feet to see what was up. I explained my knee insanity to Charles, who kindly did not tell me I was just old and to suck it up. Instead, he measured my feet and analyzed my walk, and it was decided that the root of my knee problem was most likely my old-ass shoes. The shoes I had been running in were about five years old, and while I hadn’t worn them too much, I had worn them enough to break down the cushioning to where they weren’t providing any kind of shock absorption. I wasn’t over-pronating and didn’t have arch collapse or any other big problem, I just needed a neutral pair of running shoes that provided the right kind of cushioning.
I hate to be “that guy”—the one who buys all the fancypants equipment the first day he decides to take up a new sport, but I knew that if I didn’t try something I would just give up. So he brought me a few pairs of moderately priced shoes to try on (both butt-ugly—WTF, running shoes makers? Can you lay off the pastels in women’s running shoes please? Fuck.), and while they were much more comfortable than my current Nikes, I wasn’t totally convinced.
And then he brought out a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus-12. They were a bit more expensive than the others, but as soon as I did my little test-jog in them I knew I had to have them. It was like running on fucking clouds. My knees hurt less jogging in those then they did just standing still on the bare floor.
And of course it rained yesterday, so my knee-saving shoes are still sitting at home in their box, unused. But my knees have had a couple days off, too, and I can actually walk up the stairs without almost dying from the pain, so the break can’t be all bad.
The plan is to start again tonight, slowly and paying attention to the pain. Hopefully the advanced cushioning system and whatever crazy technology is in those things will help. Because I really am not ready to admit I’m too old for the first sports-resembling activity I’ve ever been remotely interested in throughout my entire life.