You know those inspiring memes and posters and shoe commercials that have a blurred person in the background getting ready to hit the road at dawn, beginning the first day of the rest of their lives, and bold, confident font in the foreground that says something like, “The first step is the hardest. Enjoy the journey.”?
Well, the first step is not always the hardest, and also, don’t boss me around.
I’ve shoved myself into leggings every single day since October 1st, and today, I’m writing this as a reminder to not feel defeated. I’m not Sausage-Legs-Magee out here for my health.
Well, ok yeah, actually it’s absolutely for my health, you know what I mean.
Here’s another quote: “A run begins the moment you forget you’re running.” ~Adidas
Here’s something I said under my breath this week: “Kiss my fat, white, freckled, Irish ass, but I’m still here.”
I am here, and that’s actually breaking news, of which I’m wicked pumped.
Ok, let me explain my excitement.
I’ve started over again about three times a year since I was born. Don’t we all? A new haircut, or a new eyeshadow, or a new razor? Ooh. Or when you *really* clean out your car, or better yet, that one drawer we all have in our house? Then what’s the first thing you say to anyone around you?
“Try to keep it this way.”
And that’s why I paid $45 for a running group that I can’t actually run in right now.
Because I’m trying to clean my internal junk drawer, and keep it that way.
For me, engaging in The Dressing of the Ham <what I call putting on my little Old Navy yoga pants, which requires the following: a drum circle, coconut oil, a portable helium tank, a tall platform, the blessing of three cloistered nuns, and safety scissors>, is more than going for a run.
I mean, I could give an actual shit about the Turkey Trot for which this group is training for.
It’s way bigger, and way smaller, than that.
Three years ago, my life was dictated exclusively by fear and fear alone. It simply wasn’t an option for me to be motivated by health or weight or connection. From when I woke up around 5am as the cortisol hit my system with the beginnings of a panic attack, until I went to bed around 5pm when the exhaustion of fighting wave after wave of fear all day wore me out, my day’s activities were limited to what rituals and habits felt safe enough for my body to stand down from it’s Terror Alert Orange status.
I wasn’t able to take a first step anywhere for a long time.
The thing about panic and anxiety is that eventually all of the things you were avoiding start to become things you enjoy, like your own bed. And it was then that I slowly saw how small my world had become.
I looked amazing though. I lost sixty pounds when I was too afraid to eat.
(I do not recommend this.)
The irony, I realize this week, limping as I’m wiping snot off my face under the lights at the local college’s track this week while listening to my coach scream instructions to the well-spaced group, is that I would have given anything back then to have had a broken leg instead of panic attacks.
At least you can see a broken leg.
Now that I’m actually here, suited up in my Turkey Trot Training armor (three shirts, two pants, thick socks, a headband, and gloves that might be my niece’s), I can barely make it around the track before my shins seize up and feel like they’re going to explode.
My coach and the gin to my tonic is also the owner of my PT group, and someone I’ve known in one way or another for about a thousand years. God bless her and the other PTs that I harass in public and all social media platforms. I flatter myself to think that we’re friends. I have been invited to trivia with the firm group twice, so things seem to be getting pretty serious.
Anyway, not all heroes wear capes, and this one sometimes wears a white branded Northface-esque jacket, which I covet greatly.
She’s been working with me for a couple weeks now to narrow down what could be causing me pain.
I mean, I’m not exactly going to be confused for Kate Moss any time soon, but I’m not *that* out of shape, right?
So here she is, in the 40 degree wind, having me watch her phone so she can bark orders at her runners, whilst she takes off my shoe and fiddles with my sweaty cloven hooves. She stretches my cankles forward and aft, starboard and port, making me want to punch her in the neck, because, ouch man.
She reminds me, so professionally for someone who did a tequila shot with me the weekend before, that things like the shins are really at the mercy of the other things they are connected to, like the ankles and knees.
If you’re in an “unconditioned” state, it just takes a little more oil to get the Tin Man working again, that’s all.
Then she says, “Don’t give up, we have more to do,” as she runs off to be someone else’s guardian angel for the next few minutes.
And this is why I’m ok with my failure at running.
Running itself means nothing to me. I look so good in a casual stroll anyway.
Failure is where the work is.
I love the reminder every time I put on my literal and metaphoric shoes to do the exercises that strengthen the points between the joints: I didn’t give up three years ago, I had more to do.
Three years ago it wasn’t my shins, it was the fear that hurt. But the fear was just the thing that held two joints of my life together. I needed to condition myself by doing the work every single day. I needed coaching, and I needed to build faith in where I wanted to go.
There is a 900% possibility that on Thanksgiving morning I’ll waddle down to the bar where the non-runners stand to cheer and have an 8am beer. I’m beyond ok with that. I wouldn’t have had the conditioning to be in public like that before.
A week ago I found out that a woman joined this group because she wanted to hear someone cheer her on. She works in a neighboring town, but loves the city in which I live. I got to talking this week to a woman who is an English teacher at my sister’s old high school. She reads my blogs which means that we’re going to be getting matching tattoos and a summer home together. Her mom is in the group too, running for the first time. Her hamstrings were really killing her that day.
That’s my first step. That’s the Turkey Trot training I needed. Connection and encouragement and a reason to risk being cut in half by the tightness of my own pants twice a week.
So listen, I’m here to tell you that the first step is hard. And so is the second. The third might not be so bad, and you might miss the fourth and fall down the next five. That’s the point. And if you need to sit there and get your legs under you for a second, take it. But just so you know, it’s the getting up that does all the work.
We will eventually cross the finish line, so don’t worry about that. I’m proud to say that I’m on my way, and I have more to do, so I’m going to keep putting on my good running bra and showing the hell up no matter what.
Strengthening these cankles is cleaning my junk drawer. I’m going to keep it this way