I apologize for the delay between the deed and the blog. I guess I didn't feel like it was really worth celebrating (ridiculous!), and now I am ready to reflect and celebrate. (Also, I promise never to ramble on this much again. Just this one time )
I completed Week 9, Run 3 on June 10, 2012. I envisioned running a full 5K with my entourage of supporters and a victory banner along picturesque country roads with the sun smiling down on me. As it happened, I ran 30 minutes (and about 3K) on a treadmill, avoiding a downpour. And then collapsing in a sweaty heap after 30 minutes. I had this secondary goal of running however long it took to get to 5K, which I did not complete. But my cumulative total for the program is just over 100K.
Still and all, I have a lot to celebrate. Especially when I look back on where I was before:
1.5 years ago: I could barely walk, and needed a cane. Stairs were a special challenge - I leaned heavily on the bannister and walls to support myself as I slowly climbed and descended. I tried to avoid activities that required taking even a single flight of stairs. I worked 5 blocks from the nearest subway stop, but often took a shuttle bus to the corner where my office was, because the walk was too arduous and long. I was in pain all the time.
October 2011: Life had really been kicking me in the teeth. I decided that I wanted to be healthy enough to participate freely in my own life. I completely changed my diet, and began a very modest resistance training regimen. I was a size 24, with a BMI of just over 40, and therefore morbidly obese. I had to buy clothes from plus-sized stores, and I hated it.
April 2012: With my new diet and exercise plan, I had lost about 40 pounds in 6 months, and lowered my BMI to about 33, and wore a size 14/16. My weight loss was definitely slowing, and I wanted to do something more to boost it. I could walk unassisted, with physiotherapy and orthotics, and could even use stairs without leaning on the bannister.
A good friend of mine had successfully done the C25K program many months before, and was still running and loving it. I thought perhaps I would give it a try.
I was frankly terrified that I wouldn't even be at the "Couch" level of fitness. I tried some practice laps around my living room to see if I could run/jog for 60 seconds even once. I could, although it was tough. I told myself I would do the program at my own speed. My goal was to finish in 15-18 weeks, allowing me lots of time to do the same weeks over until I was actually ready to progress. I expected it to be ugly, painful, jiggly and slow, but I determined to do it.
I had some very bad days. My first couple of runs nearly killed me, I was wheezing so bad. My chest ached. I had joint problems. I had anxiety and mood issues. Sometimes I couldn't even complete the runs, no matter how slowly I went. A couple of times, I slunk home defeated and in tears. I got the flu early on and had to postpone about a week.
But most of the program was wonderful! I got stronger, and my knees hurt less. I got an inhaler for my exercise-induced asthma, and my chest stopped hurting. (Then, sometimes I would forget the inhaler, and was delighted to find I could still run without keeling over.) I spent more and more time enjoying the scenery. I met more of my neighbors. I discovered beautiful, tree-lined bike paths winding around my neighborhood and into the hills and parks. I got lots of sunlight, and listened to the birdsong. I picked wildflowers. I felt like I really "won" every time I conquered a new challenge.
And I really did win. In spite of my poor health and low confidence, I progressed regularly, week after week. I ran veeerrrrryyyy slooooowwwlllyyy, but I could keep going through almost every run. At the end of week 6, I ran 30 minutes because I felt so good. At the end of week 7, I went 48 minutes, and 4.88 km. (I really wish I knew at the time how close I was to 5K, I would have gone the extra block!)
I was unhappy that I wasn't losing weight, with all the extra exercise and dieting, but my doctor advised patience. She said that it was common to have an "adjustment period" when adding a lot of cardio where weight loss slows or stops, but after the adjustment period, it would come off again even faster. For the first 7 weeks, I lost a whopping 3 pounds in total. (Less than I was averaging before starting C25K.) Then in weeks 8 and 9 I lost another 2 pounds - for a grand total of 5 pounds.
At the same time, I lost a full dress size (now size 12/14), and started getting a lot of supportive comments from people. It was funny. They seemed not to notice the first 40 pounds, but the next 5 apparently made all the difference!
Jun 10 2012: I can run for 30 minutes on a regular basis. Over the previous nine weeks, I have walked and run just over 100 km, which is especially awesome since I am pretty sure I would have literally been on the couch instead of out walking/running during that time. I lost a total of 45 pounds, and have a BMI of just under 32. I can wear clothes from regular stores, and often fit into medium tops and large bottoms (rather than extra-large). I no longer feel silly wearing leggings and running tanks. My asthma is well-controlled. My legs and joints are in good shape and hardly ever hurt. I can do squats (squats!) without serious knee problems. My mood is better. I look healthier than I have in many years. I've become totally addicted to running, and get grumpy when I can't go out, even on rest days.
June 22 2012: After completing my graduation run, I made a decision. I would significantly increase my strength-training regimen, while continuing to run 30 minutes 3x/wk. I lift weights for about 45 minutes, rest a few minutes, and then go do my week 9 podcast. Doing a major workout before the runs has certainly made it a challenge! I am not getting any faster, and sometimes I can't even run 30 minutes. Twice in as many weeks it has been more like "run 5 min, walk 1, rinse and repeat for 30 minutes". It may seem like a step backwards, but I can tell that I am working hard and getting stronger. I haven't actually run 5K yet, not even once, but I will get there.
And my doctor was right about the adjustment period. After losing 3 pounds in the first 7 weeks, I lost another 7 or so in the next 4 weeks, with no signs of stopping. I am down a total of 50 pounds now, and it feels amazing.
I tell pretty much everyone who will listen about how much I love this program. It has really changed my life in a short time. I am even hoping to enlist a friend to begin the program. I would go with her in addition to my normal workouts, and then I would have a running buddy!
I am not planning to disappear, so this isn't a goodbye. But I also want to thank the amazing community here. You are all so kind, so supportive. You kept me on track, lent me strength and perspective when I needed it, cheered me on, and made a huge difference in how I experienced this whole life-altering challenge. You guys are amazing. Thank you!