Well, sort of. I’m not technically running. I mean, I am, but not exactly the way most people think of when someone says they’re running.
Hold on, let me back up a minute.
Last winter, I got wicked bad bronchitis, which also caused my (normally exercise-induced) asthma to flare up. The combination gave me a nasty hacking cough that stuck around for months. I was eventually able to get the bronchitis cleared up, but my asthma decided that it didn’t feel like going anywhere. Like a little bitch. For reasons my doctor isn’t entirely sure of, it went from intermittent to persistent. Before getting sick, my asthma really only popped up with I was participating in a seriously throw-down workout (and even then, half the time I’d forget to take my inhaler.) But now, my baseline state is for my lungs to be tight and my breathing ragged. With daily medication and a preventative inhaler I’m able to feel more-or-less normal, but it takes much less effort for my asthma to flare up than it used to.
Which, I’m sure you can guess, sucks balls.
In a matter of months, my lungs were basically crippled. Things that didn’t used to be hard suddenly became so, and it felt pretty awful. Sorry, that’s putting it lightly. It felt frustrating as fuck. And helpless as shit. If I wash down an entire pizza with a sixer of beer and the next day I’ve gained 5 lbs, I get that. If I spend a couple weeks sitting on my ass and the only exercise I get is standing up to pick my wedgies, and then my legs are on fire when I try to run 10 miles, I understand the physiological process that’s happening there. But to do my best to eat right and exercise, only to have my body –through no fault of my own– completely debilitate itself…it feels like some sort of cosmic punishment.
So I’m running again.
Sort of. I’m doing run/walk intervals. Because even though I know that I have the stubbornness and the masochism required to push myself through a run, I also know that what’s important is to rebuild my lungs. Because I will be damned if I’m going to let my fucking asthma keep me from doing the things I love. I’m going to keep skiing, and I’m going to keep climbing mountains. I just have to rebuild my lungs first.
And so I run and walk. It started out alternating two minutes of running with two minutes of walking. Push my lungs’ abilities, but then give them a chance to recover. When that felt too easy, I started running for two and walking for one minute. Since then, I’ve slooooowly been upping the amount of time that I run. I’m up to running for three and a half minutes and walking for one. The slow pace I’m taking has been frustrating; I can feel that my legs and heart are strong and could be pushed so much harder were it not for my lungs, but the constant burning in my chest tells me that to do so would be dangerous. And yet, I can also feel them getting stronger. I know that little by little, I can build my lungs back up strong so that I can do all the things I’ve always loved. It’s just going to take time.
And so I’m running again.
But there’s another reason I’m running, and this one’s not for any physical benefits. I don’t want to go into super details, but let’s just say that things aren’t always sunshine and gummy bears for the monster. Let’s just say that sometimes a person’s brain can trick them into thinking that life is harder than it really is, and make their rose-colored glasses red or blue. I’m seeing my therapist now, but there was about two months between when I finally acknowledged that I needed help and when my therapist had an open appointment, and for those two months I was on my own and struggling. One night, while listening to me express my frustration at what I felt was happening to me, Kyle suggested that I start running. “After all,” he said, “I don’t remember you being ever as happy as you were when you were running.” I was doubtful that it would do that much good, but it was that or take up drinking, and I didn’t feel like having to buy new pants when drinking inevitably made me fat.
So I started running again.
It’s amazing how great running has been for my mental health. Whatever fear, anxiety, depression, worry, or anger I’m holding in my chest, running exorcises it all. (Hehe, puns.) Running wipes my emotional slate clean, and leaves nothing behind but exhilaration and pride. After a run, I feel like a superhero. Maybe it’s because I’m too tired and in too much pain to be upset or anxious. Maybe it’s satisfaction of having accomplished something that is by all accounts hard, of knowing that I have the strength to dig deep and overcome my physical discomfort. Whatever it is, it cleanses me emotionally, leaving me feeling like I can do anything.
And so I’m running again.
This time around, it’s not about how far I can go. It’s not about how fast I can run. It’s not about how many calories I can burn. It’s not about trying to lose weight, and it’s not about trying to run my way into a body that will only exist in my impossibly-high
It’s about building myself up.
I’m running to make my lungs stronger. I’m running to prove to myself that my asthma won’t debilitate me, and it won’t keep me from the things I love. I’m running to prove to myself that I am strong. I’m running to quiet that little bitch in my head with my voice that says that I’m worthless and weak. I’m running to make myself happy. I’m running (for now) slower and shorter than I ever have before.
But I’m running again.