Learning to exercise after a lifetime of inactivity was daunting to say the least. The “no excuses workout” is and will always be walking. Anyone of any fitness level can walk. Walking can be done anywhere, including sidewalks, trails, malls, hallways, streets…pretty much anywhere there is a surface. Since people can walk both outdoors and in, walkers can maintain their regimen through all weather conditions. Walking: it’ll get you going.
I came to love walking. I loved the peace and the strength that it gave me. Walking remains my favorite exercise to this day. Unfortunately, my body became very efficient at walking, and it was increasingly difficult to reach and maintain my target heart rate. I continued to increase both my speed and my mileage until I just didn’t have the time commitment to give to walking 20+ miles a day. I turned to other exercises to supplement my cardiovascular exercise plan.
I toyed around with running beginning in 2004. I had a lot of mental blocks with running, and for those of you who do not know, running is about 90% mental. I was living near a lake surrounded by a five-mile paved path at the time. For the longest time, I would just run the first half-mile and walk the rest. I could have gone longer physically, but I never saw myself as someone who could run. The distance of a single mile seemed insurmountable enough. Only real runners might actually run for longer distances.
It wasn’t until I moved back to Wisconsin in 2005 that I began to see things differently. For the first time ever, I had a gym membership and exposure to all sorts of machines that I had never used before. I loved that gym, and I eventually gained the confidence to get on a treadmill and run for an hour or longer. While I have run outdoors since, I never achieved the same feeling of nirvana as I did on a treadmill. This was a controlled environment, one where I could blur everything to the background and get inside my mind. The treadmill has been my therapist for many years now.
While surgical wounds were healing—a process that lasted at least six months—I was unable to run. I began using an elliptical trainer in earnest. I loved the ProForm trainers at the gym because it was essentially the motion of running but without the impact (or the strain on my dressings). The experience at the gym prompted us to invest in our first piece of exercise equipment in 2008: a Sole E95 Elliptical Trainer. Only, the Sole was not the same “ride” as the machines at the gym. There was no “easy” setting on this machine, and the tracks were not worn slick from hundreds of users; it’s complete drudgery from start to finish. I thought I was having a heart attack after 10 minutes.
I saved up my money and bought a treadmill later that year. The elliptical, which certainly wasn’t cheap, has been a dust-catcher for far too long. The machine makes me feel sluggish and unfit, which is an obvious ding to my ego. After dedicating last year to running (outside and on a treadmill), I accomplished running speeds and distances that I would never have thought possible once upon a time. I suppose the victories won in running have given me the confidence to finally win over that HARD machine. I won’t say that my ego is alive and well (because it’s pretty bruised that I nearly vomited after a 30 minute workout)…but I am ready to face my foe.
I had lunch with my cousin today. She house-sat for us while we were on vacation and regularly partook of our home gym. She gave up on our elliptical after five minutes and switched back to the treadmill. I told her my plans to conquer the elliptical this year, and she sucked a breath through clenched teeth before responding, “You’re brave: THAT THING SUCKS.”
HARD isn’t necessarily bad. Asking myself to circle back to the elliptical will help my body grow stronger. It’s not torture, it’s a gift.
At least that’s the story I’m telling myself to get through the next few weeks.