Finding Fitness – How to find an exercise routine that’s right for you.
More than running – An ode to Jillian Michaels and strength training.
How did you get so good at running? Have you always been a runner? What motivates you? Have you ever done any other sports?
Awww…whoever asked that first question thanks for the compliment. I’ll just chalk it up to good (read: athletic) genes and skip ahead to the real parts parts I can answer.
I guess I’ve been running as long as I can recall. I did just about every sport imaginable as a kid (soccer, volleyball, track & field, softball, swim team, etc.) – and being generally athletic – running just came with the territory. However, it was never my primary focus.
Soccer was my life. I started playing on a competitive level at 8 years old (on the Under-10 team thanks to my weird birthday) and continued throughout my adolescence playing for multiple teams at once, including the Olympic Development Program. I had hours and hours of practices daily (hours away from where I lived, too) as well as tournaments nearly every weekend (I’ve been to every square inch of CA…including some of the most remote cow towns that I swear aren’t even on maps). Because of this time commitment, almost everything other sport was secondary (and a distant secondary at that). So as you can see, running was always a part of my life, but never anything I put much energy into, because ALL my energy was invested in soccer.
When junior/senior year of high school came around I was faced with a pretty tough decision…to pursue soccer or academics (not that you can’t do both, but different schools were offering me different opportunities). As hard as it was for me to hang up my cleats, I knew that in terms of lifetime goals the best career move would be to attend UCLA and focus on my studies. It was probably one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make. I often think back on how different my life would be had I chosen the other path. So strange how life happens. Anyways. Without soccer in my life, I had so much more time to spare. Coupled with the start of college, I discovered a whole bunch of other activities (boys). Kidding. The newfound freedom was fun at first, but I found myself a bit antsy. Not only did I miss the team camaraderie and fun that goes along with team sports, but I missed exercise.
It wasn’t too long before I joined an intramural soccer team and was shocked at how out of shape I had gotten in just a few months. How embarrassing! I used to be such a stud on the turf and suddenly I was huffing and puffing after a few sprints. Not cool. To combat this, I started to run around campus (with the So Cal weather, you don’t need to belong to a gym) and improved my stamina greatly.
My moderate approach to running (as a hobby, nothing more) continued throughout my undergrad, but after graduation I had even more time to devote to it. I slowly increased my mileage over days, months, and years, and haven’t stopped running since! Now it’s been nearly a decade and I average 20-30 miles a week.
I love it. I think what motivates me is the energy I feel after I work up a good sweat. It puts a bounce in my step and a smile on my face. You know that rumored “high” people get from endorphins? Yeah, I’m addicted! Sure, I miss soccer, but running is something you don’t need 10 other people to do. Nor do you need fancy equipment, or machines, or a certain court/field/setting. All you need is shoes. That’s it. Plus, you can go as fast or as slow as you want, or as near or as far as you want. There are no requirements for your ability. Anyone can do it. After a crappy day, there’s really nothing that can restore my mood better than a good run. And even on days that I’m feeling off, all I need is a good playlist and my sneakers, and I’ll be set – for miles and miles in my own little world.
Currently, I live in a city that gets frigid in the winter months, so I am forced to rely on my gym membership (and the treadmill) far more than I’d like to. So although running outside is my preference, it’s kinda out of the question once the temp drops below freezing. Also, with my 12 hour shifts at work, there is no way I can run on days I work. It’s just not possible (believe me I tried – and the first few months of work were miserable because of it). Now I’ve found a more balanced (read: less sleep deprived) way to juggle my nursing career with my running career. I will only run on days I have off of work, and I get the best mileage out of those days as possible. It seems to be working for me, and I’m having a blast entering races for fun every once in a while, so there you have it!