Encountering That Elusive High
To be perfectly honest, like many kids, growing up I could definitely be labeled as lazy. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when it came to me being in the public’s eye, I brought up to project the image of a good kid who did the right thing. But really, knowing myself now, and looking back upon my reflections of the child that I was, I realize now, that in certain areas, I rarely applied myself to the fullest extent. One area in particular was athletics.
Now, granted, I would never define myself as a naturally gifted athlete by any means. In fact, when I think back to my very first basketball game at the tender age of nine, all chubby, four eyed with a wired up mouth, I cringe thinking of myself, ball in hand, frozen to the court. I guess even more so, being that I was most likely oblivious to my total lack of grace or skill (truth be told, I was more focused on the cute boy in my class that was on my team), I feel extreme pity for my parents as they at the end of the day, had to claim me as their own. But brave folks that they were, they never let on as to truly how God awful I was, and so year after year, I played, and eventually I did get better, playing organized ball through high school. Now, compared to most women my age, I look like I know my stuff, and to my third graders, each year in the faculty versus student game, my hook shot proves that I can still down right rock, garnering their awe annually.
Eventually though, you grow up, and long gone are the days of field hockey, basketball, and softball, and soon there is no one expecting your presence each afternoon for your two hours of torture, errr, rather, practice (lest you forget, I did preface this with the fact that I was lazy). During college, sorority intramurals provided more after game drinking opportunities (and cute coaches) than actual physical challenges, and though during summers off I did dabble in weight training, I never really took any of that seriously. Off and on, I’d run on occasion and weight train as I traveled though my post graduate experiences that took me to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and from sea to shining sea aboard a cruise ship, but inconsistent work outs, while thankfully kept me in the athletic loop, ultimately never garnered the desired results, and so it wasn’t until years later that I finally got it. That runner’s high.
What brought it all about after so many years (okay maybe not so many years, but several years later)? At the age of twenty nine I gave myself the best birthday present ever: I quit smoking. Cold turkey. From my teens on, I was more of a social smoker than a fully committed one, but as I got older the reasons for which I always thought I would quit, such as getting married and having children, failed to materialize, and eventually, aided by my mother’s relentless nagging, I questioned just for what it was that I was waiting. And that was that. From then on, I was on a roll.
Early in the year, I had actually conceded to the fact that no, a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee roll, while oh so appealing to the morning palate, was just not quite the nutritionally sound breakfast that my near thirty body needed. Gone were the haphazard lunches purchased out of vending machines or nearby fast food places (just imagine my first year of teaching where in the ghettos of Brooklyn I had to survive on Mickey D’s or pizza. All. Year. Long.) I actually re-discovered this place to which I had been dragged against my will by my mother week after week as she ran her errands with children en tow: the grocery store. The land of fresh fruits and vegetables where one could actually purchase protein with varying percentages of fat, deep frying optional.
But, really, that was just the beginning. Yes, my body did need the proper fuel, but shortly thereafter I started working at a gym part time, and there is where the real magic happened. Not only was I working out productively, with invaluable assistance from my friends that were trainers, but I was making a lifestyle change. An acceptance that while for some, going home and sitting in front of the television was a outlet for stress and a means to relaxation, it was not for me. I began to look forward to hitting the gym, and as I did, I became stronger and could endure more and more as time passed. For me, working out erased my past of the chunky child, made me enjoy my present, and was an investment in my future. I would like to be going strong sixty someodd years from now, and to the best of ability, I can work towards that today.
A couple of summers ago, I started getting into running, up until a hip injury sidelined me for nearly a month. A bit hesitant at that point, I decided to lay off high impact cardio, utilizing the elliptical machines, the rowing machines and the bikes instead. Then this past summer, up on the Cape with my family, I rediscovered my enjoyment of running, as I’d get up each morning for a four mile jog to the beach, ending with a cup of my steaming hot lifeblood, coffee. I told myself while the weather was warm, I’d keep it up for a bit once I got back to Jersey City. Then the fall came and I ended a three plus year relationship with my live in boyfriend, and began a more challenging year of teaching. I adore my kids, but they are a chatty, hyperactive bunch, and the frustration certainly builds during the day. I began running more, throughout the winter, outside in the cold after the treadmill became too monotonous. Then one day it dawned on me that my mindset towards running had completely changed. In the past, it was more of my bad ass form of cardio, more of a “weaklings need not apply” kind of mentality. While I did not dread it like I used to dread running “the mile” in high school for field hockey, it was not so much that I looked forward to the run itself but rather the satisfied conclusion. And then it hit me. I was loving the process. The release. The strength of each mile completed under the pat-pat-pat of my running sneaker slapping on concrete. I loved the feeling of the stress evaporating with each step, and the evenness of my breathing. I loved the time to myself to allow my mind to wander as I processed my day, feeling spiritually enriched as well as physically revived. As the spring is now arriving, and I finally ditched my last crutch, the CD player, I find that I enjoy being part of life in a newfound way as I run past my neighbors on stoops, past the kids playing baseball and soccer in the parks, past the barking dogs gleefully catching Frisbees, and tussling in the grass. I hear the birds, the sounds of the sirens, the laughter of people as I move my way along, exhilarated by my participating in this seasonal awakening.
With that new found excitement, I began to realize that I could achieve one of my goals of running a marathon. Before I had always said that I would love to do one just once in my life, but that I lacked the dedication of training and doubted my mental capabilities. Last month I ran my first half marathon and it was a breeze. Never had 13.1 miles felt so good, without an ounce of pain after the fact, and I am looking forward to the next one in May, on my thirty second birthday nonetheless. So, now I have committed myself, applying to the NYC marathon with Philly as my backup and I can’t wait. As much as I am loving the actual physical training, I am also driven by the fact that me, myself and I together, with the proper work and determination, will achieve this goal, and so with that, I can give one last look back to the lazy child that I was and look ahead to the strong, determined woman that I have become.