Prior to my ‘man, I am out of shape. To Couch to 5K, Zombies Run! edition I go’, I could sprint a little. Maybe a sixteenth of a mile. Maybe.
I’ve finished Couch to 5K. I am now trying to build up my stamina and hope to do another one, then a 10K.
Now, I have been told so many times that exercise will help with depression and anxiety-and I understand being unable to take that advice.
It feels like being told you will feel better if you learn to breathe underwater.
There are steps that have to be taken before running is a reasonable thing to attempt. Five years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible for me to keep up, much less attempt.
I was constantly terrified, so exhausted that I could sleep twelve hours a day or more, and self harming.
Telling that version of me to start running would have been a bad attempt at a joke.
But now, when I’m not shaking, when I can get out of bed, when a new day is a new start and not dragging out my agony, starting to run has been a gift I gave myself. My body, my heart rate, how my muscles move; these things that have not been mine, are suddenly under my control.
I can slow down or speed up, test myself, see how far I can go. It gives me something to focus on. A physical outlet that isn’t harming myself. A personal achievement. Something that is mine, that it for me, and I am the only one who is accountable for it.
And there are moments that make it seem like everything in the world has slotted together and is glorious. I forget my aching calves and my doubts and escape anything dragging me down and I am powerful. It’s a rush. It makes me want to train to run faster, even when it seems like I have physical limits.
So, that’s the love. Try Couch to 5K if you want to try. (Zombies, Run version plug here, it’s so much fun.)
The hate? If I am already past a certain personal anxiety point?
Running makes it worse. My brain picks up on my faster heart rate, translates it as danger approaching, and I have to stop running, because my vision blurs and I feel so terrified the only thing I can do is go home.
And I feel frustrated. Defeated. Kept from doing something good for myself because I’m afraid, because I feel weak and scared.
Because I’m not strong enough.
But then I realize. I may not be invulnerable-but I’ve run before. I’ve had terrible days. And then I got back up the next day, and then I went back out.
So there is some strength there. More than I would have realized that I had, at one point.
So I love my little jogs more than I hate them.
(Except for when I’m cozy in bed. Then I am not a jogger, I am a cozy sleeper, and I stare in wonder at the 5 AM runners.)
I may never run a marathon. And that’s fine.
But I have challenged myself. I have grown stronger. That is something that I can always say to myself.