If you have the misfortune of coming under my evangelistic gaze, I’ve probably bored and annoyed you once or twice by now with exhortations to go running, to start a running schedule or to work out X times a week. [In fact, I am so adamant about it, I now counter the “yaesu jaengi” (jesus freaks) who assail me on the streets of Seoul with antagonistic shouts of “yaesu mideusayo!” (Believe in Jesus!) with my own exhortations, “undong mideusayo!” (Believe in exercising!)] This “benchmark system” is something that I feel a passion for unlike few other things in life. I mean, I think meditation is great and all, but I know it isn’t for some people and might do more harm than good without the proper context, training, guidance, etc. But working out a certain time or length a week? It is quite simply the best thing that anyone, no exceptions, can do to immediately improve one’s life, cheaply and immediately, without buying any equipment or doing anything special. And so, whenever I encounter a friend, acquaintence, or random stranger who looks in need of a pick-me-up, I always suggest embarking on a workout schedule where they pledge themselves to a certain level of working out that they will never again fall below, ever.
I got started in this because of the impending metabolic changes that occur during the late 20s. No longer could I eat whatever I want and stay the same weight. Having realized this, I had begun working out semi-seriously, about 10 years ago, but it was always sporadic, something that I’d try to fit in if time and energy allowed. Of course, time and energy rarely allowed, because, like almost everyone else on the planet, I “was busy.” What followed were a series of workout spurts, interrupted by workout lulls that would only end with the drastic realization that I was once again growing whale-like and in immediate need of a serious course correction lest I become Homer Simpson, Jr. It was these course corrections, and the horrible pain they caused, mostly mental but also somewhat physical, the aching, the burning lungs that are inevitable for the first month of trying to get back in shape, that really impacted me. Eventually, I got pretty steady about working out, and thanks to Domincia, bless/curse her soul, I even started doing some races, including the 2002 L.A. Marathon. The race itself was interesting, exciting, some parts fun, some parts torture. I finished under my goal time of sub-4 hours (3.58.48!), but only because I got lucky (I stopped checking my time around the time I sat down on the curb at mile 23 and asked a spectator for a beer…). What I found out during the whole experience, however, was the fact that the training was what was really fun. The Saturday morning long runs with Dominica will never be forgotten (and just searching on the links for these makes me a bit verklempt, sigh): Lafayette Park, Lake Merritt, Coyote Hills, and the 15 miler through the rough and tumble Redwood Park mountains as a winter storm brought sideways rain for some two+ hours! The problem was, though, that even with those great experience behind me, I would still have these lulls now and then. The low point came in Spring 2003. The Christmas season had passed, and with it, the annual inevitable 10 pound weight gain. I was busy with graduate school, and low and behold, this spring the weight wasn’t coming off. Too busy, too tired, too tired, too busy. I missed whole weeks at a time, with no running at all, summer was coming, my biggest shorts were tight, and I was straining to get through 3 milers without much pain. So, one day, I just made a strange decision. I’m not sure why or how exactly it happened, I guess part of the credit certainly goes to Dominica who got me logging my running on an online journal called coolrunning.com, but I said to myself, I’ll never drop below 10 miles of running per week again.
As of yesterday, I just passed a milestone – 4 years in a row of running at least 10 miles every week. Now, for some of the hardcore folks, such a milestone is really laughable. There are the ironmen and ironwomen out there who haven’t missed a DAY of running for over 25 years. But for me, it’s made a huge difference in my life. I don’t need to make excuses any more, because there simply aren’t any. It’s like making excuses for not brushing your teeth, you just don’t, you brush your teeth instead cuz it’s simply what you do, part of life, something you can’t go without. So, I’ve rearranged my sense of normal, permanently. Through sprains, world travels (I’ve kept up the streak in France and Korea), colds, flus, and mild depression brought on by life’s inevitable setbacks, every week I’ve done at least 10 miles for some 200 plus weeks now. The fewest miles in a week – 10 (I ran .5 miles in my hiking boots and street clothes on the streets of suburban Chicago at 10.30 pm on a Sunday night ((my weeks start on Monday and go through Sunday midnight))). The most miles in a week – 35.2 (helping Dominica with her training for her second marathon ((I quit marathons after one, but thoroughly enjoyed helping D train for her second))). Now, I’m in the process of amping it up a little bit. Come September 10, 2007, I’ll have done one full year at 15 miles a week and I’m also throwing in a minimum of 100 situps and 100 pushups, too.
Given that I’m a bit superstitious, I hope this post won’t jinx me. Ah, whatever. I’ll start a new one if I must. I just wanted to save for prosperity this little (10)milestone of mine… and, if I can get just one more person to take up some lifelong weekly benchmark, I’ll consider my evangelism a success.