On Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 2:00 PM, just nine days ago, I was going through my usual routine of being a “man of constant sorrows” regarding my fitness level and weight. I am unequivocally my own worst critic and this was proving to be especially true on that hot summer afternoon. As I sat in my chair berating myself for not maintaining a previously attained high level of physical fitness, I made a decision. With the temperature soaring at 97 degrees, I put on my running shorts and shoes, my favorite running shirt and my stopwatch – I also strapped on my identity bracelet that has listed several phone numbers in case of emergency – and I stepped out my front door on a journey back into fitness.
As I said, the mercury was stretched to 97 and there was no wind. It was flat out hot, no two ways about it. But not to be deterred because, after all, I am a runner, I began hitting the pavement again on a 3 mile run. I ran the first mile complete and then began walking/running in 2 minute intervals until I was finished. Normally I would have been absorbed in self-pity for having to walk any at all (runners are fairly well convinced that walking is for wimps and old folks – no offense intended) but on this day just finishing the course was all that mattered. Besides, I had gotten off the “L” train, uh, that would be “Lazy” train, put my money where my mouth is, put up rather than shut up and made happen what had needed to happen for months – I was back on track with a true “Fitness Recovery Program” (FRP for short).
In 2002 I became convicted that I needed to take better care of myself physically so I did what most guys do, I started lifting some weights and running. I had exercised for a few weeks when a friend of mine asked me to run a marathon with him. It was late summer 2002 when he sprung the question on me and the date with destiny was January 17, 2003. I laughed and made some excuse about killing myself in order to train for a marathon in that short a time but we agreed to just run together and if I didn’t think I could do the whole 26.2 miles in January, I could always opt for the half marathon.
We began running 3 miles together at first, most of it on a ¼ mile track at the high school in Evadale, Texas. Many long hours were logged on that track in the next 8 weeks. It was cushioned and therefore didn’t take a toll on my knees and my ability to run progressed. I will never forget in October of ’02 when I ran 10 miles for the first time without stopping. It was beyond thrilling as I for the first time felt like I could actually be good at this thing called running. Then, in November my friend asked whether I’d decided to run the whole or the half marathon in January. I figured since we had run over 10 miles in training on more than one occasion I might as well run the full 26.2. We continued to train and on January 17, 2003 I completed the Houston marathon in 4 hours and 54 minutes. I was pumped!
The following year we again ran the Houston marathon and I completed it that day in 4 hours and 28 minutes. Life was good and I was enjoying being a runner. But as life tends to do, change entered the picture when my family moved from Southeast Texas to Odessa, Texas in July 2004. I continued to run but my routine was totally changed and the long runs gradually became shorter and shorter.
Long story short, due to inconsistency and riding the “L” train, I gradually lost the level of fitness I had been so pleased having attained. My long runs shrunk to an occasional 5 miles, with most runs being a 3 mile loop from my front door. Due to demands at church, studying to complete my doctorate, and increased activities with 3 teenagers, I neglected doing what I love so much and my running became increasingly intermittent. With inconsistency comes injury and last April I was attacked by an acute case of Achilles Tendonitis, something I had never suffered from before. I nursed the injury for some time with little improvement and finally decided to take a full 3 months off from the sport… and here I am today. The 3 months expanded to 9 months and my waistline expanded accordingly. I gained 20-25 pounds and lost the zip I felt in my step when I was running on a regular basis. So welcome to the first edition of my Fitness Recovery Program.
My plans are to update you on my progress on a weekly basis. If you are interested, and want to respond, please feel free. If you aren’t, no need to respond because you’ll find something better to read than a few words from a plodder who decided to tell others about his efforts.
Tomorrow I will tell you about my diet and how my running has fared for the last two weeks. In the days ahead I will give information on the type shoes I run in, my strategies and goals and will update you on my Achilles issue and how it feels. Stay tuned.
Now listen – if you have been sedentary for quite some time, I do not advise the strategy of personal tail kicking that I employed above. I felt confident (not smart) running in 97 degree heat because I have been to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas and have received a great report from them. So be wise.