On Running, Failure, and the Wimpy Bikes

My weight has finally stabilized, so when my dad asked me if I wanted to go work out this afternoon, I was able to say, “YES!” Of course, half the reason that I’ve been dying to go is because I got some really nice workout clothes this summer, and I haven’t been able to wear one of the pairs of pants yet. But, don’t get me wrong, I still do love running.

For those of us who have almost no hand-eye or foot-eye coordination, running is great.  I don’t have to try to hit a large ball with my fist so that it will fly over a net and not into the head of the person in front of me. (Mysterious sophomore-now-junior, I am so sorry for hitting you two years ago.) I don’t have to try to catch a flying disc and then get yelled at when I miss it. And I don’t have to get whacked in the head by a stick with a net on the end of it by overzealous boys. Because when it comes to running, you just keep moving and try not to fall down. Totally simple and doable.

Now, when I say that I love running, I mean that I love running on flat surfaces in the very early morning. Running around the soccer field or around the track during gym class at school is okay. But running on the streets or on a cross-country course in the middle of the hot as blazes afternoon is my idea of torture. (To be perfectly fair, my list of things that are torture is very long and includes other innocuous things like eating meat that has been reheated in the microwave.)

But running at the gym fits into this spectrum somewhat close to flat surfaces in the early morning. The treadmill is completely flat and the controls are so much fun to play with (when you don’t accidentally press the buttons that turn the speed up to ten or set the incline at maximum) while you’re plodding along. It’s normally pretty cool (temperature-wise) in the exercise room, too. If it weren’t for all the noise from the other machines, all of the sweaty, panting people, and the lack of interesting things to look at, I’d probably say that I like running at the gym a lot.

Anyways, I got all suited up in my grey stretch pants and matching tank-top, tied my shoes, searched madly for my old lime-green jacket that I only ever wear when I work out, and hopped in the car. While we were driving there, I made a new playlist that’s got some of my favorite upbeat and/or happy songs. (These playlist always turn out to be a bit bizarre. They always go something like this: Lily Allen’s $%^& You, followed by 5 Years Time by Noah and the Whale, followed by Mr. Brightsides, followed by the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker. See what I mean? Completely wacky.) We found a parking space, I complained about how cold it was when we walked from the garage to the gym, my dad paid for my guest pass, and we headed on into the exercise room.

I hopped onto the treadmill, felt like an idiot because I’d totally forgotten how to make the thing turn on, got my dad to start it, turned on my iPod, and started walking. And it felt pretty great. I was looking at myself in the mirror thinking, This is going to be so awesome. Doing three miles in thirty minutes will be a piece of cake. I turned the speed up after three minutes and started running.

And oh, my goodness gracious was I wrong. I had shin splints that were worse than the ones I would get when I ran cross-country in middle school. But I kept moving, trying to focus on not focussing too hard on any part of my body. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I find that the moment that I start to pay attention to how even my gait is, I start making these strange bounces every few steps. Or whenever I start congratulating myself on not getting a stitch in my side, it appears and hurts like heck. So I started counting by threes, all the way up to ninety-nine and back down to negative ninety-nine. It’s a more intelligent version of “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

So I just kept running. The back of my throat felt a little like I was tasting blood, you know, that way that it feels when you’ve been gulping down air and you’re getting tired, and it feels raw. My shins were screaming and about to burst into hysterics. After complaining to my dad, I turned the speed way down and resigned myself to just walking, but it still hurt. So I finally got off of the machine, wiped it down with disinfectant, and went to look for the locker room so that I could go to the bathroom.

I must have followed the wrong signs because I ended up in the locker rooms by the pool instead of the main ones. The gym is in a beautiful, old, brick building, so the hallways and stairs are reminiscent of a rabbit warren. Then, I had to find my way back upstairs. Of course, there were no signs for the exercise rooms whatsoever, but I’ve got a good sense of direction and was able to find my way back pretty quickly. Then, I got on one of the stationary bikes, the type that you can put on the easiest setting and peddle in a way that doesn’t put too much stress on your shins, and watched CNN Live until my dad was ready to leave.

I feel like a total wimp for not being able to actually run today, but I can’t help my shins splints. I have a theory that the shin splints were caused by all the walking I did this week and last with my heavy backpack (It weights over twenty pounds.) in shoes with no arch support to speak of. But I’m going back again tomorrow, even if I have to cop out and use the wimpy bikes, because that happy-I-can-do-anything-just-try-me feeling you get when you’ve had that really wonderful run, is so totally worth it.