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Ms Hillel

I’m having a moment over here. A “If not now, when?” moment.  That would be a famous quote by the sage Hillel, who is also famous for saying “Build a fence around the Torah” and for eating a matzo and bitter herb sandwich, but we’ll skip those bits for now.

Back to me. For the vast majority of my life, I’ve been spectacularly unfit. Thin most of the time (a notable three years in college being the exception), but not fit. I had one good year in college when I walked and rode my bike a ton, and things were tolerable in San Francisco because I walked all the time, often up and over literal mountains. For a year or so, I even climbed the 483 Filbert steps three times a week or so. That was the peak of my fitness.

Then I moved back home. Between age, a baby, winter, and the more spread-out nature of my hometown, whatever modest fitness I ever had began to erode. I’m not proud of this, but the truth is that I was mostly ok with my deterioration so long as the scale stayed at a certain point and I still fit into a certain size.

Then last year happened, and both the needle on the scale and the fit of my clothes changed. I’m sometimes up a size. I’m usually up a few pounds. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice and dislike. I haven’t been on speaking terms with my scale since September, and a few of my smaller pants have grown uncomfortable. I hate it.

Something has to change. And I need only look at Simon, my running-loving bundle of joy, to see what that something is. I have to get in shape. Really get in shape. Now. To that end, I have spent the last 3+ weeks on my elliptical trainer five to six days per week. Those first few days, I could only go 25 minutes and I was exhausted the rest of the day. I said I was unfit! By last week, though, I could go 6-7 miles in 40-50 minutes and get off feeling good. Great even.

Which made me decide to up the ante. I just signed up for New Balance’s “No Boundaries” running program for couch potatoes. They promise that they can get anyone from the couch to a 5K in 10 weeks. There’s a running group and a walking group; I signed up for the running one. My life history to this point would suggest that this is folly, but I bought shoes and signed on the dotted line anyway. I also bought two tops and a light jacket, something I swore I would not do until I proved to be neither quitter nor failure. But the program leader insists that cotton is no good, and he was having none of my argument.

“But I promised myself” I explained Tuesday night, “that there would be no shopping other than shoes until I dragged my sorry ass across the finish line. Then I can get something cute.”

I have a history of shopping more than doing, you see. Of playing dress-up and then quitting. He remained unmoved.

“I have your email address and phone number. You signed up; you’re family now. I’ll make sure you do this. But if you try to run in regular clothes—especially cotton ones—your sorry ass either won’t cross the finish line or will feel so bad when it does that you’ll never run again.”

I didn’t have a rebuttal for this, so, you can guess how this ended. Ca-ching! Conveniently and not coincidentally, winter gear was on sale. It’s as good a rationalization as any. Can I tell you how cute the hot pink, hooded pullover is?

My first run, really more of a walk, is Tuesday. I have cleared my calendar on Tuesday and Thursday nights from now until mid-May to accommodate the group training sessions. I’ll be missing Whitworth family dinners, but my in-laws are understanding and supportive. Matt has had to reschedule band practices, but he’s on board, too. And when/if I do finish what I’ve started, I will have a fabulous booster in my oldest brother, who happens to be an intensely competitive and dauntingly ectomorphic marathon-runner.*

I was feeling an all too familiar wobble just yesterday when I ran across this Q & A with Andrew Sullivan:

Q: What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail?

A: I only try things I can fail at. Anything else is no fun.

I’ve of course heard riffs on this before, but usually with the angle that the potential for failure and/or great fear makes something “worth doing”, never that the specter of failure adds to the fun factor. What a perspective! I’m in.

There’s one other sign that this time might be different. Despite healthy eating and increased exercise, my scale isn’t budging. In fact, at the two week mark it had gone up! Now, I’m back to the regular set-point of the last year or so with one major difference: All my jeans, and I do mean all of them, are a little tight in the thigh. It would appear that my muscle-averse chicken legs are putting on a bit of muscle. Rather than freak out, I’ve decided to make this my new goal: A year from now, I want all my jeans to be tight in the legs.

*My brother Steve is like me only about ten times more spastic and even more chicken-legged. When he started running, it quickly became serious and competitive, thus the marathons. He’s not getting wind of this until I cross the finish line—and maybe not until I’ve settled into a regular routine after that—because soon enough he’ll be banging on my door at 10 p.m. to see if I want to go for “a quick 10 K” or, worse, trying to get me marathon ready.

2 Responses to “Ms Hillel”

  1. Amanda says:

    I really enjoyed running when I did it. I was never going to be fast, but I did enjoy the “runner’s high.” Unfortunately, my feet and knees did not. “Some people are runners, and some are not,” Bonnie Bayne, Dr. to the Michigan grad students said, “And you are not.” So I walk, alot, yoga, swim, and do the elliptical when I can. I do miss running though.

  2. Amanda says:

    And d’oh! Good luck! when you’re ready to run that marathon I’ll be there in my lawn chair egging you on.

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