It seems like every time I turn around, someone I know is on another fad diet or exercise routine. From the Master Cleanse to the Caveman Diet to P-90X to Cross-Fit, it’s hard to know what works and what’s total crap. So for the next four weeks, I’ve decided to try some of these for myself. I’ll tackle a different diet/exercise routine each week, and then report the results back to you the following week.
Note: I’m not a dietitian, nor am I a fitness guru. So I make no claims here that I’m doing anything properly. I’m guessing a lot of you out there might approach this sort of thing like I do: overhear someone talk about it, do some Internet research, give it a try for yourself. For those who follow that pattern, maybe you can learn from my mistakes. For those who don’t follow that pattern, maybe you can educate us in the comments section.
On my first week of the FIPS Fad Diet/Exercise Challenge, I decided to start with a pretty extreme diet: raw vegan. It wasn’t the easiest (I never mentioned the night I dreamt I was inside a pizza and had to eat my way out), but I ultimately felt good and slept well and lost a bunch of weight so it seemed like a total success.
Week two would prove to be way harder. Now, I was exercising.
Like last time, I should probably start by giving you a little history of my relationship with exercise: we don’t really get along. It’s not that I’m not athletic. When I was younger, I swam competitively and played tennis every chance I got (#CountyClubProblems). College introduced me to team sports like kickball and ultimate frisbee. These days, I basically live on my bicycle, averaging about 150 miles of road-time a week.
But gyms? Workouts? That’s not really my thing. When I first moved here, I had a membership to the YMCA. I'd hit up the elliptical and weight machines, and occasionally try and run on the treadmill. But that lasted for all of two months, and then I just stopped going. I’ve tried yoga classes too (no, not those), but I’m not really the most flexible person out there. Basically, any sort of workout setting just fails to keep my attention, and I quickly become unmotivated and lazy.
So for me to do a fad exercise, I knew I was going to have to try something that wasn’t as structured. Something that didn’t involve signing up for a membership. Something that, like the raw vegan diet, I could adapt and try at my own pace.
Which is why I decided to try running.
Now I know what you’re thinking: running is not a fad. And you’re probably right. But if you stop for a second and look around, you’ll see that people are completely obsessed with running. The gear, the footwear, the technology, the paths – there’s so much involved in the activity, and everyone is participating. I mean, I can’t go a day in the city without seeing at least 5 people running. And since the only time I ever run is when I’m trying to catch the bus or the train, I thought it was about time I gave it a shot.
What follows is a diary of my journey, written after every run.
Here I am! 7AM on Day 1, totally ready to run. Only, I’m not at all prepared. I can’t seem to find my gym shorts at all, I don’t have a good playlist made, and the only sneakers that I have are Converse. That can’t be appropriate. I wonder if this is what it’s like for everyone the first time they start running? Probably not. Most people have their shit together way more than I do. Ugh. Rather than run this morning, I’m going to go after work and buy a bunch of new shit and do it right tomorrow. Yeah, that’s right!
Monday Total: 0 miles ran, $249 spent on running gear
Okay, it’s Tuesday morning. Day 2 of the Running Challenge, only it’s really Day 1 since I didn’t run at all yesterday. Last night, I went to JackRabbit and did the whole “find the perfect sneaker for you” thing and now I have a pair of super expensive running sneakers that apparently will make me run better and won’t leave me in pain. I also finally own running shorts with elastic shorts built in underneath, so my junk doesn’t go flying all over the place. And an armband thing for my iPhone. Go me.
This morning, I set the bar real low. I would run from my apartment (on 11th Street and 7th Ave) up to the park, over to Grand Army Plaza (via Prospect Park West), back around to 15th Street, and then back to my apartment. According to Google Maps, it would be just under 3 miles when all is said and done. Which sounds like a lot for a first run, but besides the run up to the park, its all pretty flat. Besides, I didn’t run yesterday. Have to try and make up for that.
Well, I knew things weren’t going well when I stopped to walk halfway through my run up to the park. That hill is no joke, and I ran out of breath way faster than I thought I would. I think I came out of the gate too strong. When I got to Prospect Park West, I slowed down a bit, and did well – all the way to Grand Army Plaza and back without stopping. But just as I was nearing 11th, I started to get a pain in the side of my stomach. I immediately stopped and walked home. God I give up too quickly. Major fail.
Tuesday Total: 1.8 miles ran, shooting pain in left side of stomach.
Yesterday sucked. But today I woke up feeling especially motivated. I decided to stick with the same route, though this time, I didn’t blow it by trying to sprint up to the park. Instead I did a fast walk. I also spent some time stretching before I left the house – mainly because I always see my roommate doing that before she runs.
Once I hit the park, I fell into a nice pace. Back and forth from 15th to Grand Army Plaza without stopping once. The pain in the side of my stomach was back, but this time I tried to “use the burn” (again, some bullshit I’ve heard people say before but have no idea what it means). Regardless it worked. I even ran back past my apartment and down to the bodega to pick up a banana for breakfast.
The walk back though… that sucked. The second I stopped, all that pain that I was “using” just came shooting back to me. I seriously struggled trying to catch my breath. And I just kept spitting up all this nastiness that apparently lived somewhere in my nose/throat land. It was gross.
Wednesday Total: 2.5 miles ran, shooting pain in side of stomach, shortness of breath, phlegm
I’ve already started to hate my running playlist, and it’s only been three days. A song will come on and about halfway through, I’ve decided that I hate that song and switch it.
Today I did the same route as always, only this time I ran from my apartment! I also doubled my 15th Street / Grand Army Plaza trip – because I was feeling strong/ballsy. I’m glad I did it. I only stopped once, and that was to tie my shoe.
And guess what? The shooting pain on the side of my stomach seems to have gone away. I read up on it last night and apparently it has something to do with me not breathing properly. So this time I really focused on taking deep breaths, and that worked. It also solved the problem of not being able to breathe after my run. Twofer!
Although, I did have a ton of other pain. Mainly in my ankles, which hurt like a motherfucker. At one point, I thought my feet were going to just fly off. Is that normal? Are these the shin splints I hear so much about? Maybe I didn’t stretch enough? Also, the phlegm thing is really disgusting. I spit at least 10 times on today’s run – each time, more than the last. Seriously, where is this all coming from?
Thursday Total: 4.9 miles ran, massive shin splints, more phlegm
It’s pretty clear that I’ve got the Prospect Park West route down. I’ve done it for three days so far, and although it’s still challenging me somewhat, I don’t think it’s enough to actually make any sort of difference. So today, I decided to tackle the loop around the park. Not the big one (there’s no way I’m going up that hill on the first try). But I spent some time researching running paths for Prospect Park and decided I’d do the “Large Southern Loop.” 2.06 miles total.
Holy fuck was that hard.
Here’s the thing – I did fine on the way to the park. And I did fine on the first half of that loop. But the second the terrene changed and I started having to run on an incline again, I got super tired. I basically finished the loop but then crapped out and walked the rest of the way home.
It didn’t help that my ankles hurt like hell all day yesterday from my morning run. I didn’t expect the pain from running to carry over into the times when I wasn’t running. It made every second of my run today hurt even more. These shin splints have got to stop. Must look into a way to end that pain tonight.
Also, I’m finding that I’m spending way too much time thinking about my playlist, and not enough time thinking about my pace. Must make a new one of those tonight.
Researching shin splints and making a new running playlist on a Friday night? Reason #572 why I’m single.
Friday Total: 2.1 miles ran, shin splints, tears
For the past few days I’ve been running at the ass crack of dawn. Usually no one is around to see me. But today I ran in the afternoon, in the brightness of the sun, for the whole world to see. And man was that terrifying.
First, an update on my shins. After googling “How to avoid shin splints” for like two hours, I finally decided that it must be my sneakers. Something about the way my foot was rolling was not getting the support I needed, and my bone was swelling and causing that pain. So I went back to JackRabbit and got a new pair of sneakers. They were really great about exchanging the ones that I had bought a few days ago. And then even recommended some pad inserts I could add to the shoe if the pain continues. Best of all, the new sneakers were on sale. So -- $13.69.
I also created a whole new playlist, made up of slow songs. I figured rather than trying to match the beat of Beyoncé or Gaga or Jay-Z or any of the other dirty pop / dance / hip-hop music I was originally listening to, I’d set my own pace and use the music to calm me down.
I’m not sure whether it was the new sneakers or the new playlist or just the fact that I’ve been doing this running thing for four days now, but today’s run was really great. I did the Large Southern Loop again – this time without stopping. My shins still hurt a bit, but it felt like residual pain. I kept a nice pace throughout, breathing constantly. The phlegm was still there, but really cut back to a minimum.
I also did something that I haven’t done yet this whole time I’ve been running: I looked up. Up until today, I had kept my head down the whole time and just watched the ground go by. Today, I noticed more of the trees, and the birds, and the sunshine. It was different.
I also noticed the other runners more – which wasn’t really a good thing. I noticed plenty of other people running past me – of all different body types – and I pretty much felt worse and worse about my progress as I went along. “That guy is running faster than me?” I thought to myself when an older, fatter dude ran past me. “Fuck.” In normal land, one would probably be motivated to run faster. But in Dave Land, I started feeling sorry for myself and ultimately backed down, thinking that everyone was judging me.
I also started noticing the way I was running -- my back slightly hunched over, my arms doing a weird thing --and decided that I looked like such a homo. This is okay because, as you can guess, I am a homo. But it also made me slightly self-conscious.
So. A good run, for distance, pace, and overall feeling. A bad run for self-esteem.
Saturday Total: 3.1 miles ran, slight shin pain, embarrassment
I ran in dog shit today. It was right as I was exiting the park. I had made it to the park, down and back on my 15th Street / Grand Army Plaza route, and around the full inner loop without stopping once. I was at the home stretch, on my way back. I felt like I had accomplished so much and there it was – dog shit, all up in my new sneakers.
That’s pretty much a metaphor for not only my life, but also my week of running. Every moment I felt triumph, I immediately felt like shit for something else.
But really, I shouldn’t be looking on today’s run with any ounce of negativity. I accomplished a lot. 5.85 miles. Did the whole loop and then some. Sure, the shins still hurt a bit. And the shooting pain in the side of my stomach returned. And I got a new pain – an annoying cramp in my calf muscle. But all in all, it was good.
Whether or not I’ll ever do it again though is another story.
Sunday Total: 5.85 miles ran, slight shin pain, shooting pain in side of stomach, calf cramp, embarrassment, dog shit.
So there you have it: the journey of my running challenge. Looking back on it, I’m glad I gave it a try. But I still don’t really understand why people love this so much. Sure, I had days when I wasn’t in total pain. But I never once said to myself, “I can’t wait to go for a run today!” My interior monologue on every run was some variation of “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.” I kept hoping I would get the “runner’s high” thing that everyone claims they get. It never came.
But I did lose weight. 6lbs to be specific. Which when mixed with the 3.5lbs I nixed on the raw vegan diet brings me up to almost 10lbs! Now, it should be noted that I was still eating 85% raw this whole time, so that could have had something to do with it. But 10lbs in two weeks? That’s nice. Let’s what week three brings…