There are a lot of people picking up their feet this time of year.  New runners, new walkers. People who are training for the Avon 3-Day, their first marathon, or their first 5k.  They’re your moms and sisters and fathers and sons.  And many of them are, just like us, on the big side. Fat. Hefty. Overweight. Plus-sized. Jiggly. Pudgy. SUVs in a Hybrid world.

New runners from the Fatty McFatterson side of the tracks are nervous, and self-conscious and extra sweaty.  Things move in directions we’re not used to, and it’s not always pretty to watch.  But we’re out there – and we deserve to be runners, and walkers, taking care of ourselves and our health.

But that doesn’t mean the questions go away.  So I thought I’d post a few that I’ve heard lately from people who are just getting started… let you know you’re not alone, and you can always fall back on humor when it gets hard…

Question One: I can’t run for more than 2 minutes. How did you ever stick with it?

Ah, yes.  There you are, filled with hope, vigor, and this morning’s breakfast, and off you go for your first run – thinking “hey, it’s just one foot in front of the other, surely I can do this”.   Two blocks later, you’re panting like Paris Hilton after a sale at Saks and wondering if it’s polite to hurl in someone’s petunia bed.

I recommend one sure-fire way to build your endurance (and keep breakfast down).  Run some. Then walk.  Then run some more. Then walk.

It’s helpful if you have a little watch that beeps at you, and tells you when to run, and when to stop – I have this one from Timex.  I got it after running for about 3 months, and realizing that I spent all my time staring at my watch, waiting for 90 seconds to pass.  It was like waiting for paint to dry.  Those 90 second intervals were the longest of my life, and I couldn’t focus on ANYTHING else – the birds, the trees, the fine-looking folks on the running path.  So I got the watch.  And I set it for one minute repeats, or 90 second intervals, or anything I felt like – but short – and off I went.  Pretty soon, I was clocking 30 minutes of activity. 

An alternative is to run at a local track – or on a path.  Tell yourself you’re going to run one lap, then walk one.  Or that you’re going to run till the next block, or the next tree, or the next time you see a blue car parked somewhere.  Then walk – then pick it back up.  You be low-tech or high-tech – whatever works for you and your budget.

The other thing I did was convince a bunch of friends to run a local 5k.  We’d meet once or twice a week at a friend’s house, and we would run three one-mile loops – together.  We ran slow, but we did it. And after about 6 weeks, we were all ready for that race.  Two of us went on to become half marathon junkies.  One went on to become a true marathoner (that would be our friend David) and the rest just were just regular runners, who run when they can.

But the watch, the race, and the group all helped me stick with it.  It may work for you, too….

Question Two: My mom/dad/wife/sister keeps telling me I’m too big to run, and that I’m going to cause arthritis, or have a stress fracture, or worse.  What do I say to them?

I like “Bite me”.  I also like “would you prefer that my ass remain the size of Alaska?”  Or “I’d rather have a knee replacement in 20 years than a heart attack in five”.

No, seriously, though, our friends and family are well-meaning.  They just want us to be healthy.  But our relationship with food, and with exercise, is personal – and yet, it’s one that everyone who views you assumes they know – because they can see that we are overweight.

But our families and friends don’t always know what’s best for you.  The fact remains, that moderate exercise 5 days a week is the surest way to lose weight – and to become heart healthy.   Again, I’m not a medical professional, but my experience has been that moving more increases your energy, decreases your likelihood of having ongoing medical issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and generally prepares you for leading an active life.

And if you have a few aches and pains along the way, so be it.  That is sometimes the price to pay for being an active person.  But wouldn’t you rather have a tight calf than a sore ass?  I know I would.

Question Three: I feel  like people are looking at me when I run or walk – did someone staple a sign to my head that says “Wide Load, Move Left?”

Actually, the sign says “Move Over Or I’ll Sit On You”.   What?  You didn’t know?

Here’s the truth: they probably are staring.  Because people like us are always kind of a freak show, especially in places where the normal body size is small.  But here’s the thing: while they might be staring, you don’t know what they’re thinking. And if you did, you might be surprised.

I was running this spring when someone passed me (twice in a circuit). She was an average-sized woman with a big smile plastered across her face.  And as she ran by the second time, she waved, and said “Keep running! You’re doing great! I was where you were a year ago!”

At first, I was pissed.  I thought “who is she to tell me to keep running! I’ve been out here longer than she has – 10 years now!”  But the, I thought again.  The fact is, she’s right – I SHOULD keep running.  I CAN be where she is in a year – if I really want to.  And if I don’t, the fact that I’m still running is still a healthier option than being an average Fatty McFatterson and calling it a day.

So my advice is this:  next time you see someone staring, give them a big smile, and think about how hard you’re working, and that they might just ADMIRE what you’re up to.  Makes that stare seem kind of different, huh?

Well, that’s it for today’s mailbag…I’m off to go for a long walk in some beautiful weather!

See you on the path!

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