Running, Four Weeks On

It's been four weeks since I picked up the Zombies, Run! app and began 5K training. I've ordered my first pair of running shoes, and I've made good progress on all of my original goals, so I thought it was time to blog about my outer and inner processes so far.

Let me start with that list of original goals:

  • To strengthen my knees after a double knee injury in January.
  • To improve vascular and lymphatic function in my legs.
  • To improve my overall cardiovascular health (though as a vegan, this is already rather good).

My next goal is to climb the Cape Split Trail and come back down again without running myself into the ground like I did a couple of years ago. Part of the problem last time was my lack of adequate preparation for the hike, but most of it was my lack of fitness, and I'm working on that now. After that, I'm not sure what my goal will be, though trail running has some appeal, and summer is on the way! I'll see how it goes once I'm done with 5K training and into regular endurance runs.

The Outer Process

I'm treadmill running, which is great for a couple of reasons. First, I can run in any weather on the same, reliable surface while I work on endurance and speed. Second, I can specifically measure increases in that endurance and speed, which helps me better implement the training my 5K app is offering. Right now, I've stepped up both of these and hope to do so again in the next couple of weeks as I get stronger.

This is definitely a 'personal best' effort. I've still got some chronic knee trouble, so I'm careful not to overdo it. That said, running is the best thing I've ever done for my legs. I'm also thinking about beginning a yoga practice on my off days. My upper body is feeling a little neglected, and I would enjoy more meditative body work.

The Inner Process

I had planned to write here about the way an outer story people tell about fat they do not have becomes an inner story people with fat come to tell themselves. I call it the 'fat gaze', and it's a profound, persistent and damaging thing. But I'm not going to do that here because I want very much to say something else. Here it is.

I am an athlete.

What does that mean to me? It means weight loss is not my focus or my goal now, nor will it become so in the future. My focus is on my training; my speed, my time and my distance. My focus is on regularity; three runs a week minimum and four if I can manage it. My focus is on achieving the next fitness goal and setting the one after that.

This isn't a mind trick or a hope that I'll lose weight while I'm not thinking about it. This is a wholesale rejection of the destructive outer story about my body. I'm telling a new story now, and in it, I run in the body I have.

Final Thoughts

Watch these women work it:

I confess a deep and abiding love for this video and not because it's inspirational. I love it because it presents a wholly public, wholly healthy picture of physically active women where the goal is not the manipulation of fat. The goal is the hill, the lap, the ball, the racket, the dance. We are encouraged to look at these women not as people who are traveling from a fat=bad=stigmatized place to a slender=good=accepted place but rather as women on a different journey; to see the top of the hill, to make the lap, to kick the ball harder, to win the game, to enjoy the dance. More to the point, we are encouraged to see these women as they would have us see them and not as any other person, group or industry would have us see them. There is no fat gaze here.

If you're a woman on this journey, maybe we'll meet on the trail. In the meantime, lean in.