I Can Take the First Step

17 Jun

Yesterday, I decided to run at Lake Miramar.  A five-mile loop that borders a beautiful lake popular for fishing and kayaking, this local gem attracts walkers, runners, and bikers year-round.  As I’ve been trying to exercise more and heal a bad back, I’ve been doing my best to run a few times per week as my body allows. Unfortunately, I’ve put on several pounds since hurting my back, the holidays, and sheltering-in-place.  I’ve been moving a lot less and eating a whole lot more.

A former running enthusiast, I’ve been doing my best to push through any discomfort to get back into running shape. Back when I ran more regularly, I used to run an average of 10 miles or more weekly. But, in the last 10 years, I’ve focused more on high-intensity interval training where I don’t run long distances. Between my different styles of training, injuries, and weight gain, I feel like I’m learning to run all over again in a completely different body - an older, beat-up one.

I picked a beautiful day for my inaugural run around the lake. It was an easy, breezy day with a few cotton ball clouds dotting the sky. I laced up my new sneakers and hit the loop.

As I’m still quite stiff, I usually like to walk a mile as a warmup before I begin running. This gave me time to take in the sights and sounds of nature and the other fitness enthusiasts enjoying the day. The loop attracts all types of people of all ages. From walkers who just want to catch up over girl chat and new mothers pushing their babies in strollers to avid runners and bikers in bike racing gear, everyone was loving the 75-degree weather.

Once I started to run, all I could feel was how hard it still is to lift my feet off the ground. I literally feel weighed down sometimes. Some days it is easier than others to glide over the ground. Some days I feel like I'm peeling them off the pavement as if they were stuck to gum.

As I slowly made my way around the loop, taking walking rests after every 50 paces or so, I could tell it was going to take me longer than I thought to finish the loop. So, to make my run more interesting and motivating, I’d use groups of people as stopping markers as much as possible. In other words, I’d try to run until I reached a group that was ahead of me on the loop before taking a rest. Sometimes, I’d run until I could pass them, then take my rest.

Either way, I had to keep focused and motivated so that I could get home to cook dinner for the family.  And it was Taco Tuesday!  If I'm honest, that also helped to motivate me.

What got me around the lake was to focus on each step as if it was my first. There were times I found myself counting 1-2 over and over again with each pair of steps and other times I counted 10 paces for five rounds before gave into walking again. Sometimes I ran until I hit a natural marker, like a bend in the road or a tree.  I did whatever mental mojo magic I needed to get through the run while enjoying the peaceful lake view.

What I did not do was beat myself up. I’m over that.  Long gone are my college running days when I sailed the hills on and around Uconn campus, where my feet  barely touched the ground.  And, it’s been months since I felt like the fitness trainer I was. In fact, it’s been a very long road to recovery and feeling like my old self. So, after a few months of being disappointed in the process of healing and training, I decided to focus on how lucky I am to move at all. Now, I focus on how I can make each workout fun and interesting, or how being outdoors is a privilege. With so many challenges and changes I’ve faced in the last nine months, I decided to make my workouts about living in the moment instead.

Halfway into the run, I could feel my quadriceps screaming. I guess I’ll be feeling these tomorrow, I noted. But, at least I have an acupuncture therapy appointment tomorrow. Unfortunately, I was also starting to feel my right toes gripping my new sneakers. I could tell they would start blistering on the bottom. Perplexed, I couldn’t understand why they would bother me as I’ve worn them before and they are the correct size. However, this loop does go up and down often and I’ve been running very flat lately. It’s also one of the longer runs I’ve done so far, too.

Even though I had some discomfort and had to rely on walk-run intervals to complete the loop, I finished four miles. That’s the longest distance I've attempted at running in the past few months so far. Before, I was averaging three miles at most. Overall, I was happy with my achievement, even though it was a slow 15-minute pace.

If there is something in your life you want to achieve - whether it’s a new diet or fitness regimen, your own business, or a project at work or home, starting is the hardest part. Making a commitment to start or start over at any endeavor is part of that step, but the bulk of the first step is the actual action you take to pull the vision you see in your head into reality. If you can manage to take that first step, it gets easier from there. Taking that actual step your mind in motion. You can focus on that first step over and over again until you’re ready to take more. But, rest assured, once you take that step, you will naturally want to take more.

Everyone’s first step can be different. In other words, your first step at running might look completely different from mine. Your first step could be to buy sneakers. Your first step could also be to walk around your block. But, for someone else, their first step could be to run the stadium steps at their local high school, a few blocks in their neighborhood, or a 5K race over the weekend.

Even though your goals may be similar, everyone is on a different path. So, try to avoid comparing yourself to someone else because no two paths are completely alike. Two people with the same goal could be dealing with two very different sets of circumstances.  One person might have never run before while the other person has but is now recovering from an injury.  

You can also be in different parts of the path. In fact, you might stay at your “first step” for a while before you're comfortable taking the next step in your journey.  That’s OK. You can repeat that first step as often as you wish to build more courage and confidence to move forward. Remember, movement is movement. And, movement creates more movement.  So, be proud of your first step and be excited about where it will lead you next!  Before you know it, you will cross your finish line!

Whatever you want to achieve, my Pineapple, take the first step today. Taking the first step opens the door for the fresh air of new beginnings to blow in.

Live, Love, and Lead with Aloha.

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