As you know, in January, I embarked on a journey to eating healthy and living better (and losing 30 pounds).
I started out in January with a monthly unlimited membership to The Barre Code, my now-favorite workout studio in Austin. Then I got an email blast at work: The Statesman Capitol 10,000 (the 10K race sponsored by the Austin American-Statesman, where I work) was free for employees. I figured I didn't have a choice but to sign up, right? A free race = no excuses.
Then life happened. I was working my butt off at The Barre Code, then I did a Whole30 in February. Before I knew it, the Cap10K was in only eight weeks, and I had yet to run a mile, let alone prepare myself to run 6.2 miles.
So I kicked it in. I searched online for "eight week 10K training plans" and found this one, which seemed doable—I could do 2.5 miles, right?
Y'all, I struggled. Everything hurt. I couldn't breathe. My already-troubled hips and knees screamed at me every second of every day, and I discovered new pains in my ankles and lower back. Every day brought a new ailment. My Fitbit told me my cardio health was subpar for an average 25-year-old woman, which I found troubling (I stayed up until 2 a.m. one night googling what could happen to an overweight mid-20s woman with bad cardio health, thanks anxiety). I went from running 0 miles in one year to running 7.5 miles a week, at the minimum. By the time I made it to week seven, I unsurprisingly injured myself from overexertion.
Leading into week six, I ran my first 5K race. It was exhilarating—I finished with a way faster time than I'd ever expected (I'm not a particularly fast runner) and I was feeling happy, healthy and ready for the 10K. I could do anything. My legs hurt, but my body was strong.
I woke up on the morning after my five-mile run in week six. I felt proud of myself that I'd completed it in just an hour, but I had been a little lazy about it: Instead of going to the hike-and-bike trail on Lady Bird Lake (without a doubt the best place in Austin to run), I just ran around my neighborhood. My very hilly, very small neighborhood. I woke up the following morning with a pain starting in my lower back that led into my outer hip, then radiated down my leg into my knee and outer ankle. I couldn't even take the stairs at work.
I continued my training anyway, thinking I'd just stretch it out. On week seven, the week before my 10K, I set out on my final long run before the race: 5.5 miles. I wised up and ran it on the lake this time, not wanting to risk anything with hills or broken sidewalks that were a twisted ankle waiting to happen. I felt good. I felt strong. I ended up running seven miles instead of 5.5, then collapsed onto my boyfriend's couch while he helped me stretch.
I guess you probably know what's coming next: The next day, my leg was worse. I felt pathetic, limping around and unable to exercise. I skipped five days of working out (the longest I've gone without working out so far this year). I felt lazy and stir-crazy. I didn't run the entire week leading up to the 10K. I felt deflated and confident that I wouldn't finish the race that Sunday. I was, frankly, scared.
The good news is: I did it. I finished with a better time than I expected, and I felt great.
And guess what? The 10K actually helped my leg. It's still not quite the same as it was before the injury—I still have shooting pains up and down my left leg from time to time, and my knee is a little sensitive, but it hasn't kept me from working out (To my boyfriend reading this: Yes, I've been stretching).
I feel so proud of myself. It was hard to keep from crying as I crossed the finish line after working so hard these last few months. It was proof that I can do anything I put my mind to, and hey, did you guys know that running burns major calories and helps you lose weight? Who knew! But the biggest thing I learned is that I don't really think I like running. Yeah, after all that—the runner's high included—I'm not sure this is really my thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm going to keep doing it (I'm still very anxious about that low cardio health score) but maybe running seven or even 15 miles in a single week for somebody whose body has been mostly sedentary for the past 25 years isn't a good idea. Consider this my official apology to my knees and hips: Sorry I did that to you, friends. We'll stick with the three-mile lake loops from now on (until my next brilliant, impulsive decision to run a 10K comes along, that is).