Off and on over the last four years I've tried jogging. I've tried Couch to 5K. I've gotten to week four or five, jacked up my knee, lost my motivation, found it boring and painful on the treadmill, and managed to talk myself into walking instead, or just not working out at all for month long stretches. But it's different when you run outside. It's different. Really. I can't believe I'm saying this. It's harder physically, but it's better somehow. The monotony of a treadmill placed smack in front of a TV is gone. I don't feel like a hamster on a wheel. Though I still tend to lick the top of my water bottle like a dehydrated rodent now and then.
There are things happening out there in the world, early in the morning, when I'm jogging. Things to look at and pay attention to: People in bathrobes, and cars headed right at me, and foxes slinking across front yards, and baby deer, and cats (Jesus, my neighborhood is overrun with cats lounging in driveways or on the hoods of cars dismissively glancing at me as I jog by) and other runners, and swirly orange sunrises and cool breezes, and potholes filled with gravel trying to sabotage me, and huge sticks that I like to jump over like a very klutzy hurdler, and cicadas leaping from trees to drop on my head. There's stuff happening out there, and I'm in the middle of it all.
This morning I nearly ran smack into a baby deer. Not in a car. On my own two feet. I was starring off into the woods just listening to some awful Maroon 5 song (I might have been singing that I had moves like Jagger, I do, I really do) and then about 6 feet in front of me, as I came around the corner, was a baby deer, her mom and sibling across the street yards away. They all froze. I stopped short. And we stood there for 10 seconds looking at each other, before this little spotted baby ran off with his mom and equally spotted sibling. I like that about jogging outside. I like nearly plowing into baby deer.
I also had a bit of a jog epiphany this morning too. I've been reading a few articles online and glancing through a couple of running books, looking for some advice on running form. My form feels awkward and harsh and tight. Basically I feel like Rachel running on Friends. No idea what I'm talking about, stop, go here. Ok, I feel all uptight and strict, shoulders held too high, face frozen in a grimace, fists clenched, like I'm attacking the run or myself. But when I'm running I want to feel like Phoebe running, loose and fun and a little flailing limbed garnering curious stares, like I've been let out of the asylum on a day pass.
My epiphany was simple, and maybe that makes it less of an epiphany and more like a common sense realization brought on by basic reading and research, but I'm going with epiphany, because it sounds more dramatic. My epiphany was two fold. First, I shouldn't run like I'm about to defend myself in a bar fight. Clenching and holding those sparring fists up in front of my chest as I ran made my shoulders tight and raised them up near my ears. So I simply unclenched my fists. I let my hands and wrists go floppy. They just dangled around like my hands were made of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. Hanging and bouncing and flopping about as I ran. I'm sure it looked ridiculous. But my shoulders immediately dropped. I felt suddenly lighter and looser. It was fun to feel liberated, to not take all this running and training so damn seriously like I have a tendency to do, ready to make a mistake at every turn. There are no mistakes. I'm out here. I'm moving, more and more every week. So suddenly running was fun-ish.
Second part of the amazing dramatic epiphany, think about my thighs more often. Oh yeah, you're thinking about my thighs right now, aren't you? My knees and calves and ankles were doing too much of the work of running. But the minute I actually started thinking about my thighs, I changed my leg position just enough that those beefy thigh muscles started working more efficiently and gave my knees and ankles and calves a break. I bent my knees a bit more, I used my thighs to propel myself forward. It felt better.
I don't want to give the impression that I like running yet, I don't, but I hate it less. It helps to listen to cheesy throbbing music and dance along and smile and give in to the music. I danced. I shook my butt. I made up silly hand moves that I could see reflected in my shadow on my warm up walk. It was fun. And those floppy hands were fun. So maybe I'll like running next week, or the week after, or the week after that, but at least I'm out there. And quickly memorizing the words to all songs by Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Flo Rida, Rhianna, Lady Gaga and Carly Rae somebody or other. I need to make some new playlists and stop listening to Pandora before I turn into a 13 year old girl.