What it Takes
It was Monday. Sometimes waking up is hard. I was groggy, reluctant. There was only one driving force that brought me to my feet: food. Good lord, I was so hungry.
It was Monday. Someone left 2 teaspoons of milk in the carton. I let it drip onto my cereal. I added water from the tap. Gross. Mondays are hard sometimes. No, they're just like any other day. It's in my head.
The best part of the day was over. Breakfast was done.
Now the gears were shifting. I knew what was coming. I had two hours. The countdown began. But I felt so clean. It was so hot outside. I had a lot of other things I wanted to do. No, I just didn't want to run.
But I must. Unless I died or severed my limbs before 9:00am, I would be running.
I checked my training schedule. It was circuit day. The schedule read:
800m run (3 min bike)
30 sit ups
Oh that wasn't so bad. I could do that, anyone could do that. But then...
20 pull ups.
Repeat in reverse order.
Dang it. 20 pull ups? Who were these Crossfit people anyway? Who came up with these workouts? Normal people would not, in fact could not lift the girth of their entire bodies into the air not once, not twice, but twenty times by the sheer strength of their arms and back. Madness. Utter madness.
I also checked my milage for the day. Only four miles. Good. That was do-able. That, I could do.
Fast forward two hours. It was time to go. I gathered my things, preparing for the gym. I opened the door. The air felt thick, almost sticky. I sighed, looked up...
My older brother must have taken it. Oh. Too bad. I could't go. Bummer.
I went back inside. I started taking my shoes off. My sister was home. I pretended to be upset.
"Nate took the car, I can't go workout."
She didn't flinch. "Take the truck."
Take the truck? "Take the truck" is basically synonymous to, "Go kill yourself."
"The truck" was an enormous, precariously threatening piece of machinery. I didn't drive the truck. Ever. I was not a dangerous person. The truck was not necessarily dangerous either, but combined? We were deadly.
So I took the truck.
I made it out of the driveway. Miraculous. I was so adept. I was James Bond. I was a master at the wheel. The road looked so strange. So tiny. The truck seemed to swallow it. I winced every time cars whizzed by, convinced they were going to side-swipe me.
At four-way stops I was completely composed. In charge. I made eye contact with other drivers. "Yes," I said with my eyes, "this is my truck, fear it."
I parked the truck successfully at the gym. Another miracle. A guy pulled up next to me in a tiny little car. Sucker. I thought.
The following sequence of events are flash backs from the gym, as I complete my workout, to the road, as I run.
First, I'm in the gym. The workout has begun.
Biking first. I can't figure out how to adjust the seat. It's too high, I can't reach the pedals. So I just float, bobbing up and down as my legs go to work. The handle bars seem low, I have to bend over really far. My back is to the giant mirror lining the wall. I glance over once, the reflection of my butt looks huge, like I'm trying to stick it out really far. I'm not. This is ridiculous. I think.
Second, I'm running. The beginning of every run is the same. I am fresh, clean, poised. I imagine I could be on the front of Runner's World magazine. Movement is effortless. I am invincible. Also, I am running on a sidewalk! Ah! The glorious sidewalk! A perfectly paved road, just my size. Just for me. No cars, no dirt or mud, just beautiful, flawless pavement.
In the gym, the biking is done, thank God. I dismount. My legs feel unstable. Onto squats. Squats are fine. I add 30 pounds extra weight. I think maybe I should add more but I don't. I notice there are a lot of men on this side of the gym. Women do the cardio machines, men lift the weights. It's an unspoken rule here. I decide that I won't feel weird squatting in front of these men, but I feel a little weird anyway.
Back to running. My body already feels disjointed from the Crossfit workout, my muscles are uncoordinated. Up ahead are two runners. I will pass them. There is no question in this matter.
They are both girls, maybe my age. They have noticeably long, blond pony-tails that swing back and forth. They are tall, slender, with colorful outfits. I think they remind me of prancing ponies maybe. Yes, definitely like horses, with blonde tails. Their arms are tucked close to their bodies, with their hands almost inside their armpits. Their arms look like wings, yes, little wings that sway back and forth across their body. Horses with wings. I think there's a name for that. I can't remember. They're talking. They don't seem to hear me coming closer. They take up my entire sidewalk. I also notice there is long grass on either side of my sidewalk. I cannot slow down. I have no choice, I make the plunge.
They hear me now, directly behind them, bounding through the long grass. They stop talking. They look a little startled. I smile and manage a "hi" before passing them. I did enjoy passing them. I really do enjoy passing.
In the gym, squats are over. Sit ups are easy. I decide to come back to the pushups later and go straight to the pull ups. Oh, these dreaded things! The inhumane, impossible standard I will undoubtedly, unquestionably fail to reach! I cave. I cheat. I use the fancy little foot thing that helps me weigh less. Oh, the humility of it. One day. I tell myself. One day I will not use this crutch. Now thirty pounds lighter, twenty pull ups still hurt. I try to muffle my groans. Nobody in a gym ever wants to sound constipated. Yet, somehow, often we do. Maybe it's a good sign, maybe it's because we're trying so hard. Good or bad, I definitely sounded constipated by pull up number fourteen.
Still running, with the pony-tail runners left far behind, the glamorous Runner's World cover image is now forgotten. My facial features are distorted. I am hot. My form is breaking down. I am disgusting. I am sweating. I sweat too much. If "sweat is fat crying," as inspirational Pinterest quotes would have me believe, the fat in my body screams bloody murder. It wails uncontrollably. It nearly drowns me with its tears.
The first set of pull ups are done. Now my favorite: pushups. I love them, only because I am good at them, and because they don't make me sound constipated. I count them off in my head, 5, 10, 15, 20.... I think maybe I should do more but I don't. I tell myself I could do more if I wanted to, that satisfies my conscience. Great. My first set is done. Now I just have to do everything all over again.
It was supposed to be an easy run. I remind myself of this as I plod up a hill. However, I've always believed "easy" to be subjective. I don't really go easy. I could see the top of the hill. I was already there. I could feel it. Everything inside me, my mind, my spirit, my very soul were on the top of that hill. Now, I was just waiting for my body to catch up.
Running is not like flying. When you fly, you glide through the air. When you run, your legs pound on the ground. There is no similarity. Now over half way done, my brain has sort of shut down--or zoned out. I think most of the oxygen is going to other parts of my body. I now only think about two things:
One: Keep moving.
Two: It will be done soon.
Don't let anyone tell you running is glamorous. It is not. It is hard. Even if you're an Olympian, it's always hard. Yet, it is beautiful, and this is why:
Running is freeing. With patience, your mind overcomes your body.
Your body forever desires to be still. To be at rest. To be comfortable. When you are running, you are none of those things.
Your mind is always going. Always working. It never sleeps.
Two worlds--your body and your mind--are always at war within you. When you run, your body submits. Your mind becomes master. The two merge together, they work together, and it's beautiful. When you stick to it long enough, your body not only endures, but engages, it performs. Your body is able to do something impressive.
In the middle of a run, obviously, you are moving. It's almost as if kinetic energy in your brain propels you forward. You don't have to think about moving forward as much as you have to think about stopping. Your body has accepted the motion, and will continue to be in motion, until you decide to stop. It is your mind, not your body, that carries you. When I am healthy, when there is no pain or sickness to slow me down, there is no other feeling I find quite as freeing as running.
Wow. This was a really long post.
Happy Monday to everyone!