October’s Half-Challenge

I just returned from my annual physical. I love my physician–she’s thorough, respectful, and engaged. Routine physicals can sometimes feel, well, routine, with the same questions asked in the same order, year after year. Do you use sunscreen? Do you smoke? How much do you drink? Despite the script, my doctor still manages to make me feel like she cares.

She already knows about my tennis addiction, so when we got to the exercise question, she asked what else I did. I went through my usual spiel. “Well, I really like to run, but I don’t do it very often. And I know I should be lifting weights, but…” I trailed off with a shrug and a smile and looked at her expectantly. This is the point when we normally share a chuckle over my all-too-human failings and move on to other business.

But today my doctor was working off a new playbook. She spun on her little stool to face me, leaned in, and began peppering me with questions:

“So what’s keeping you from running?”

“Do you have good running shoes?”

“Which days do you have free for fitting in a run?”

“What about making a commitment and holding yourself accountable to someone?”

Jeez, Mom. Chillax…

Have to say, I’m not a fan of this new approach. In theory, it’s admirable for her to help me identify the obstacles to exercise, but in practice, it felt suspiciously like nagging. If our exchange had happened on any other day, I might have gotten a little testy.

Coincidentally, though, it’s the first of the month, and I’d been wondering what my October challenge would be. I’m always on the lookout for “signs” to tell me what to do. If there were ever a sign, my doctor’s badgering surely must be it.

So running will be the October challenge, or, as I indicated in the title, the half-challenge. It’s pathetic to start making excuses on Day 1, but I’m afraid I must. LittleYellowBall will be on hiatus all next week–it’s the blog’s first vacation!–and I won’t be doing any running during that period.

Given the hiatus, how much running can I realistically commit to? I’ll say eight runs of three miles each. That’s not a lot, but it’s not nothing, either. Plus, I’m the world’s second slowest runner. Running three miles represents a bigger time commitment for me than it does for normal people. (I used to be THE slowest runner, but I passed an octogenarian on the track a few weeks ago. A proud moment for me.)

How will the running impact my tennis? As coach Erin Reeves said in our interview this summer, fitness can make the difference in a match, just having the ability to run down one more ball. The extra exercise could also help me sleep better and feel more alert on the court. And I might lose a couple of pounds, look better in my tennis clothes, and bring that extra smidge of confidence into my matches.

All excellent reasons to lace up the running shoes, and here’s one more: If I drop more than a couple of pounds, I may even need to buy new tennis clothes.

I’m sure there are plenty of runners out there. Any tips for fitting it into your day? Do any lapsed runners want to join in the challenge???

(Also, everybody go get your flu shot! Every year, perfectly healthy people just like you die from the flu. Last year, two women from my town succumbed to the flu, and one of them was exactly my age. It was a needed wake-up call for me. Your families need you. Go get the shot for them.)

7 thoughts on “October’s Half-Challenge

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  1. Good for you! As you know, I rekindled my running routine this summer — and lost 20 pounds! So I applaud you joining me (but don’t lose 20 pounds or you’ll be way too thin!).

    To get started, I did some walk/runs. I walked and then just ran a little, then walked some more until I could run some more. I ended up running about 1/4 of the 3 miles a few times, then a 1/2 of it a few times, and then the whole thing. You might not think you want to do the walking, but you can run again after a little bit of walking, so you’ll get more done — like interval training.

    I also avoided hills at first or just ran on the downhills (but be careful of your knees for that!). Then I started tackling hills, from small ones to large ones. Today, I purposely went up a huge hill at the start of my run. Woo hoo!

    As for your doctor’s approach: Nagging doesn’t work with most people. She got really lucky with you.

    1. Actually, I hadn’t considered the possibility that some people might want to begin running for the first time. These are great tips! Runner World also offers a more formal 8-week plan for beginning running (https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20853140/the-8-week-beginners-program/

      I don’t do hills at all. I run on the track. I’ve had knee issues since college, and running on pavement is unforgiving. Hills put too much strain on my Achilles’ tendons. And wooded paths are treacherous, what with the roots and rocks. The track, at least the one I use, is made with old recycled tires, so it’s gentler on my knees. (Man, I sound SOOOOO old.)

      Congrats on the 20 pounds! That’s an impressive number! I assume you immediately went out and bought new tennis outfits. 😄

    1. We should start a running club! The Turtles! We’ll run on Saturdays. (We’ll just block off the entire day…)

  2. The “fitness” reason for being able to chase down more balls is twofold. First, your lungs and muscles are more conditioned for the work. But second is the weight loss part. You will be less tired because you are moving less weight around on the tennis court. I mean can you imagine putting on a 5 pound (or more!) weight belt around your waist and playing a tennis match? You will be slower to every ball and somewhat off balance and wiped out after even half the match is played.

    Good luck and enjoy your vacation, whatever it is you are doing.

    1. I wonder if that would be an effective training technique—strapping on 5 pound weights during practice. Then when you played without the weights, you’d be springier and lighter on your feet…

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