Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
I’ve dropped reference to it a few times on Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve got to expound on my running routine and what it means to me. It’s become pretty important and has definitely yielded results, which has proven both good for my health and good for my attitude.
From an early age through most of high school, I hated running. Hated it. I liked playing sports but I hated the effort needed to run; I barely did more than was necessary because pushing my fat-kid physique past where it hurts was…well, painful. It took a real “ah-ha!” moment in high school to get past that first mental hurdle. Playing rugby senior year I got in the best shape of my life — not just from running but all-around physical conditioning. I felt fantastic.
That shape came and went during college, but my senior year I was again doing well since I was playing soccer pretty often. I still hated running for the sake of running, but I could go out and play soccer for at least two hours and not keel over dead. I weighed about 250 pounds, felt great…and within a few months had let that slip.
Over the following years I tried to go running and stay in shape at various points but with little success. I hit my nadir in the spring term of 2010 during MIM. After losing weight walking around Asia in March, I shot back up – and got as heavy as I’ve ever known. I would be kind and say 290 pounds, but that was through one eye on the scale. I can safely say it got higher than that and I probably cracked 300 pounds. I’m a big guy, but that’s far from healthy.
Big me soaring for a catch in the 2010 Portland Footy season. Image from Portlandfooty.com
It was around that time I got involved with the Australian Football club in Portland, now known as the Portland Steelheads. Aussie rules is a very different sport from any I’d played before but I took to it quickly, enjoyed playing the game, and made friends with others on the team. I have to thank Will and James for getting me into the club, and also all the others on the team for inspiring me to keep with it and get better. I even helped put together an off-season exercise and running game to encourage club members to go running (or to go play other sports), and to do it with others on the club. Despite not being in incredible shape there was never anything but encouragement from the club, and I really miss getting the chance to play having left for Japan.
It was from that running game I started to get the bug to go running in general. I started with really short intervals around the track at the Portland State gym, but after graduating, continued on the trails in the park near my parent’s house. To say I’ve changed my opinion on running is an understatement. I’m now running on a fairly regular schedule, and I’m also running farther and faster than ever. This time last year I never thought I could run 5K without stopping; now, that’s a short run.
This past weekend was my first ever road race. I have to thank my friend, Kim, who’s a veteran JET teacher and works in the next town over. She has been a great help in many regards since I moved to Japan, but she also pushed me to set a goal with my running. As soon as she found out I ran to stay in shape, her next words were, “you should do a race with us.” Kim and other teachers in the area have done running races in Kyushu before, and I was getting drafted into the group with (what was to me) a daunting challenge looming.
But reaching for the challenge proved to be well worth the effort. In August I would never have said I could do a 10K; now, I’m crazy enough to consider doing a half marathon in April. I’ll probably just do a 10K again but the thought exists and doesn’t seem unreasonable. I have the confidence to try and reach that goal, too.
I’m now under 250 pounds and continuing to lose weight and gain fitness as a runner. I’ve found something I really enjoy, an activity that's really easy to do all around the world and that is great for my health. I finished the 10K this past weekend under my goal time, and averaged 10-minute miles. Not exactly Olympic level of running, but for me, it’s an achievement. Sometimes you just need to get the ball rolling.
Japan has plenty of crazy things to drink. Not as crazy as China (snake wine!) but plenty of different flavors and tastes when compared to America. Some are just a little twist on something we know and love back in the States – beyond having the best name ever, Pocari Sweat isn’t really that different from Gatorade.
However, this nonsense is something else entirely. One of my friends in a nearby town spotted it at the grocery store, posted a picture on Facebook, and I knew I had to take the fall. So when I spotted it at my nearby convenience store this weekend, it was fated.
So it’s Pepsi Pink, “Strawberry Milk” flavored, and disgusting. It’s like a diet version of a strawberry Italian soda, but awful. And the milk aftertaste ranges between undetectable and undesirable. As if you couldn’t tell just from looking at it, it should be avoided at all costs. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, whatever. Just know that if you decide to take the plunge and buy one yourself, I warned you.