The Reluctant Athlete…well, I’m not really an athlete (as determined by much discussion with my friends), but I can’t think of a title.
Actually, it wasn’t too much discussion. I posed a question to them. “Am I an athlete?” They all immediately said, “No.” I accepted that, because I didn’t really think I fit that definition either, but what am I? One even said I wasn’t really a runner, but a jogger. “What?!” I took exception to that and luckily the rest of my friends did too. I am most definitely not just a jogger. 😉
I started running in February, 2009 and I have not stopped. This is an amazing statement from me because this is the first time in my entire life that I ever stuck with any sort of physical activity. I just never liked it. Period. Exercise for fitness was never really something anyone in my family did. Not that there weren’t athletics. Both my brother, who is four years older than me, and my father were terrific athletes. I was the little sister who spent my entire youth at the ballpark, but while the men in my family were playing sports, and my mother was a spectator, I was off in la-la land playing on the swings and visiting the snack shack, or as I got a little older, hanging with friends and talking to boys. Countless times my mother would ask, “Did you see your brother’s base hit?” or “Did you see your brother make that touchdown?” As I got a little older, I actually started to lie and say, yes, because I could see she thought it terrible of me not to watch him play. Now I wish I had. He still has a reputation in our hometown as one of the greatest high school athletes ever to play, and since this was long before the video camera, I have only my mother’s big scrap book to peruse. My favorite headline from the sports page of our local paper was, “Anello Makes Good on Boast!” Yes, he could be quite cocky at times.
Over the years, I have made more attempts to stick with an exercise plan than hairs on my head. The best I did was walk the dog every day. I have joined gyms in the following cities: Antioch, Monterey, Concord, Walnut Creek and two in Palm Springs. One would think I would have concluded long before I spent so much wasted money that I am not a gym person. I can shamefully say that I never got my money’s worth at any of these gyms, not to mention how difficult it always was to cancel my membership.
A few months after I moved to where I live now, a switch went off. I was frustrated with myself for not ever sticking to a program and I was feeling out of shape and a bit overweight. I was blessed with good genes and always naturally thin without having to watch too much of what I ate, but at the age of 48, I was feeling sluggish and my clothes were getting a bit too tight. No, I did not join the gym. I had finally learned that lesson. I decided to start running. All that were needed were shoes and an iPod. I had the iPod so I ordered a pair of Adidas running shoes online. I started off at the high school track. That first day, I did two miles. I ran a lap and then walked a lap. My plan was to increase the distance and the running weekly with an every other day schedule. When I could run three miles without any walking, I left the track and hit the streets. Steadily, I increased my distance. I became addicted. I no longer viewed exercise as a chore or something that I hated. I craved it. I joined Team in Training for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society that summer and ran the Nike half-marathon in October, 2009. Through that summer of training is when I became a runner.
And then the runner started cycling. This was not a calculated decision at all. This was having drinks with friends, one being a cyclist, and two of us saying we wanted to go on a bike ride the next day. Well, put a girl on a bike on a gorgeous morning on the roads of paradise in wine country and that was it for me. A new addiction. This wasn’t quite as easy, though. I only needed shoes for running. For cycling, I needed a bike, helmet, gloves, shoes and cycling clothes. To this day, I only own the gloves, shoes and the clothes, though most of those are hand-me-downs from a professional cyclist that I am lucky enough to know. Everything else is borrowed. I cannot thank my friends and family enough for helping me get to where I want to go, and where I want to go is all over Sonoma County…on a bike.
The great thing about running and cycling is that these are sports you can do on your own, but having said that, there is nothing like having friends to train with. I am fortunate that I have very good friends who enjoy the same sports and though our schedules don’t always mesh, connecting with them for a run or ride is added enjoyment during exercise. We may not talk to each other. We may all have music in our ears, but the camaraderie that comes from the mutual satisfaction of a great run or a great ride is priceless. Especially if you race together, which we do. Inevitably, we talk it to death after it is over, boring everyone else around us, but it can’t be helped. It is the best part.
The other vital role that these two sports play in my life is my sanity. I don’t say that lightly. Not that I would be insane if I couldn’t run or bike, but there is very little that can’t be sorted out in your head during the solitude of a workout. There is a very dark quote from Karl Marx, “The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.” I know, so very uplifting, but I totally get that. Having gone through a difficult period in my life, at the same time that I became athletic, I can completely relate to this. Exercise can be physically painful at times, but somehow it makes you feel better. There is a beginning and an end. For me, every run and every ride is an accomplishment.