I am, by nature, not a “fitness person”. My parents tried. There was basketball day camp in the summer (I ended up topping out at 5’0″). Softball in the spring (I was a slow runner and had a weak arm- I played catcher with the coach as pitcher). Swimming lessons (which I loved, but could never get past intermediate level, because I refused to jump off the high dive). Gymnastics (my arms wouldn’t support my weight enough to use the bars or do back-handsprings, which ended in me crumpled on my head). They tried. They signed me up for everything. They finally accepted that dance classes were the only place I wasn’t a total flop and invested in leotards.
As I cross into a stage that can no longer be called my “early” thirties, however, I have had cravings…. for exercise. I have no idea where these came from and am no less astonished than if I all of sudden could stand to eat pickles or mayonnaise. I want to move. I would find myself spending hours (on the couch) reading articles about running, scrolling through apps that claimed to know the perfect combination of training to get you from couch to 5k, and even briefly becoming obsessed with the Tarahumara, a Mexican Native American tribe that can run extreme distances well into their 60’s (while smoking and drinking tequila on the trail, no less). I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, about her months-long hike on the Pacific Coast Trail after the death of her mother. I watched movies and read endless blogs about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a 500 mile pilgrimage across Spain. I wanted to read anything I could get my hands on about ordinary people going great distances.
Eventually, reading wasn’t enough. I decided that I needed a decent pair of tennis shoes- nothing fancy, just something more sturdy than my Converse. I also realized that I hadn’t formally exercised in so long that I didn’t own a pair of shorts to move in- just denim and dressy beach cover ups, along with yoga pants that I used much more often for sleeping than for yoga. That excuse kept me on the couch for another month or so. But last week, I stumbled across a clearance sale- at a hospital gift shop of all places. There for 50% off were two pairs of Reebok running shorts and a pair of gray and pink Skechers. I grabbed some socks (because I also didn’t own any non-dressy/ work socks) and headed to the cashier. Then I headed back from my lunch break and took the elevator for two floors, instead of the stairs, laughing at myself.
We had rain and 90-degree days, but that week I woke up one morning with an hour to spare before work (a rare miracle). It was breezy and in the 60’s outside and I had a letter to mail. I looked at my bag, still in the dining room, with tennis shoes, shorts, and socks and decided that this morning, I was jogging to the mailbox 5 blocks away. It wasn’t a major distance, but as I started off, I actually felt… lighter? I also understood after two blocks that I would need to find a sports bra.
Today, after a late night movie marathon in bed with a box set of Tennessee Williams movies, I rolled out of bed and decided to put on my shoes again. Thirty minutes- more of it walking than jogging, but I made it to the end of the river trail by my apartment and back and broke a sweat doing it. It’s a baby step. I’m not shooting toward a marathon or a 500 mile hike yet. But if you see a redhead trotting by, desperately in need of a sports bra, that’s me. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other.