Saturday, January 26, 2013

Running in Heels

It's standard movie fare: a gorgeous gal runs in heels for a day and a half and not only looks fabulous, but climbs walls, crawls, pulls herself over ledges, and somehow survives with shoes intact. We all know that's unreal. Yet it's easy to harbor unreal expectations about ourselves and our own physical capabilities. Run around the block? Piece o'cake. Until you try it for the first time in 10 years. Do 50 squats? No problem. A week later you're still crippled. A major hurdle when starting to work out after an extended break is the big, fat reality check that slaps you in the face your first week. It's demotivating, to say the least.

original image by duygu at
credit: duygu

We all imagine we're stronger than we are, faster than we are, healthier than we are. While it is important to image or believe those things, at the same time one must have an accurate picture of where you're starting from in order to reach your goal. It's absolutely necessary in every area of life, and just as hard to take every time. Who wants to see how broke they really are, how lost, how weak, how flabby? But no journey begins from where you aren't, and I learned this the hard way.

The first time I tried exercising as an adult was with my new boyfriend, Bodybuilder Boy. He had me do 10 sets each of 30 reps (!!)  of lunges, push-ups on knees, squats and God-knows-what-else. I can't even remember what I did, just how I felt. Following that we went outside where he asked me to run from the mailbox to the front door. I told him my legs were feeling awfully shaky and really, really, I Can't Do This. His glowing positivism was unreal and I couldn't say no. I hit the ground on my first step.

I shimmied up- and downstairs on my backside for two weeks.

I was mad. Of course, I blamed my boyfriend. Deep inside I was angry at myself. Angry that I couldn't do it. Angry because I knew I should have stopped sooner when my whole body kept screaming, "That's enough!" I'd hit my limit but I wanted to be strong -- Now. And I was embarrassed. James had set up what he thought was an easy program and I couldn't go anywhere near it.

The pendulum swung and I tooled around with baby weights and easy routines for years. But the opposite of one extreme is merely another extreme, with the balance always in the middle. Eventually I found the right information and learned from my mistakes. I picked a challenging program to follow that would constantly progress, yet started with an honest evaluation of myself. The eval indicated I'd have to dial down even the easiest program in the book! So I scaled it to half the time, half the reps, and even then my elbow would tweak out, my legs burn for days, and my abs hurt when I laughed. It was frustrating. I worked out to my maximal effort but not beyond. Challenged enough to grow, not break, I had the ability and the desire to continue the program and make real progress. Everything I've accomplished so far is the result of that balance. I'm excited to see where I'm headed, because I run in sensible shoes.

What shoes are you wearing?

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