When I started running, I owned a yellow Walkman that had earphones (young readers, these are foam listening devices, attached to a metal headband, that rested on the outside of your ears… like earmuffs for music). The Walkman had a clip, so I assumed it was designed to attach to clothing. But it was heavy and bulky, so it either fell off or gave me a hip bruise. So mostly I carried it… and it did not fit nicely into a hand. I listened to mixed tapes and discovered that my ears sweat and that foam is a really bad absorber of sweat. During that time, I stumbled upon a Runner’s World book. Like an actual book all about just running, which I read cover to cover and can still call to mind the precise description of good running form which included, sitting back in your hips, landing lightly and pushing off from your toes. So the thing is, I started running a very, very long time ago.
A few years ago, after logging a lot of miles run, some back and hip issues I was having became too painful to keep ignoring. A doctor visit and MRI confirmed bursitis in my hip and degenerative disc disease in my lower back. The doctor said no more running. But I’m pretty sure that what he meant was less running. Because, other than walking my kids to school, running was my only source of exercise. And I know he didn’t want me to turn into a psychopath because that feels dangerous for everyone. And not very doctorly of him.
Over the years, I had tried mixing in other forms of exercising. Like aerobic and/or step and/or dancing classes… but they all ended badly. And by badly, I mean that there were a lot of women on steps, jumping and turning and kicking all at the same time and in the same direction, except for me. I would listen to the instructions and by the time I figured out that what she had just said meant that I had to spread my arms in a rainbow, gallop over the step and kick-box my right leg, the move was over and I was both facing the wrong way and also had missed the most of the parts. Coordination has never been my strength. This is why running has always been a good place for me. It has a lot fewer instructions: Get dressed. Walk outside. Run. Don’t trip on the sidewalk. No complicated moves. No mirrors. No grapevine.
So this Less Running thing was a blow. I couldn’t go back to those step-dance-aerobic classes (by now, they probably had my face up on the wall: If you see this woman, give yourself ample distance– it’s for your own safety), anything dance-adjacent was clearly out of the question and I am not disciplined enough to work out at home. I had the stacks of abandoned, barely-watched Jillian Michals, Taebo and Abs of Steel DVDs to prove it.
At the time, I had friends who had been going to a bootcamp and talked about it with so much reverence– it was that perfect combination of love, respect and a little bit of hate. As in: it is so wildly good and painfully hard that you hate it in the moment, you sometimes want to cry and think you might vomit, but then you realize that you actually love it. Usually when it’s over. Running is basically that exact thing, so I was intrigued. I remember the first day I went— it was in May, it was held outside at a park (Benefit does that on Saturdays in the summer), it involved a deck of cards that made it feel a little bit like a game (and if something is a game or a puzzle, I will automatically like everything about it), it was hard as hell and I sort of thought I was dying a little bit.
I loved it.
I started going with a group of friends around three times a week at 6:00 in the morning. Which is the exact thing I would have told you that I would never, ever do: be the Six-AM-Exercise-Girl. But carpooling, exercising with friends and having the most amazing, kick-ass trainer you could ever imagine will help you get out of bed at 5:30. It’s that good kind of peer pressure.
It was a really hard thing to say goodbye to when we moved and it was the first thing I joined when got to Atlanta. I was careful to join a bootcamp that felt similar and because I am somehow really lucky in bootcamps, I found a place with equally amazing and kick-ass trainers. That happens to have a class at noon, which is a beautiful thing because I don’t have a carpool and so am more likely to be the person I always expected myself to be and not set my alarm for 5 AM.
I’ve been pretty consistent over the years and it has helped to fill the hole that Less Running has left. But these past few weeks have been tough. I was sick for a week. I guess, technically, it was a “cold.” But calling it a cold makes it sound sort of tolerable. It was a virus that was technically not the flu, but I felt just as run over. Ironically, Kate did have the flu that week, so when I wasn’t sleeping or drinking tea or taking Advil, I was bringing her tea and Advil and also Tamiflu… Tamiflu that she couldn’t keep down. And we all know that the only thing worse than being sick is being sick with a sick kid. (And we also know that worse than all of those things is the Man Flu. God help us.)
Then there was the week of Thanksgiving when we were in Cincinnati. And that involved a lot of mashed potatoes and stuffing and pecan pie. And then there is the day-after-Thanksgiving-sandwich that includes all of the aforementioned things plus bread. Because the only thing missing from my Thanksgiving was more bread.
At this point, well over two weeks have passed since my last bootcamp class. And so now the day is here that I am going to hoist myself into leggings and a sports bra and sneakers for reasons other than the comfort they offer for a long drive. And I am slightly terrified, because I don’t have the bliss of ignorance. I know exactly how painful this is going to be.
A few days ago, I got an email from Senergy, my Atlanta bootcamp. The subject line was: We haven’t seen you in a while! So it has been such a long time since I have lifted a weight or performed a squat that the email algorithms had been called into action because they were worried about my lack of exercising and thought maybe my muscles were starting to atrophy and that a friendly reminder would be helpful. And all of those things are true— and this is just the good kind of peer pressure that I needed. So today is the day. And after all of the sleeping through the non-flu flu and the mashed potatoes and catching up with friends (which also involved wine) and all of the not squatting, bootcamp is about to save my whole freaking life. Right after it threatens to take it… because I’m pretty sure that I will perhaps slightly die. But then, it’s totally going to be the thing that is saving my life right now.