You typically can spot a bad idea from a mile away. I spotted it from years away, and apparently have spent the meantime building up the “courage” to battle its legitimacy as actually being a bad idea–bad, as in “people die from doing this.” I know age is supposed to bring wisdom, and I have had the following wisdom since I’ve been old enough to, you know, feel temperature and know that “hot” hurts but that “cold” doesn’t feel too stellar either. “If there is a triple-digit heat index, don’t exercise outside.”
Without even needing to know the science behind this, I learned per experience at the age of 3 (this is my earliest memory of deciding that I wanted to go outside or stay inside based on temperature and weather conditions) that if it’s too hot, we probably won’t go outside for Phys Ed or recess, but if it’s cold and clear, we can at least layer clothing and stay warm. I learned at the age of 6 (maybe 7? I don’t remember when my first year of being involved in forced social interaction known as “Summer Recreation” was) that running around in the heat makes you thirsty, sweaty, and that by the end of the summer program (early-to-mid August) that the same 90 degrees that was terrible in June was less terrible, eased mostly by aid of lots of water activities. At the age of 14 I noticed this phenomenon as well—endless hours in the summer heat, throwing a ball as hard as I could, felt less awful by the end of the summer, and I could throw said ball just as hard but for a longer time by August. This concept was further explained, and apparently even had a term, as I learned when I was 20: heat acclimatization. Everything your body does during exercise adapts to exerting energy and competing in a hot environment. The same applies to cold weather (“cold acclimatization”).
I went to college to learn that.
I thought summers in NY could be kind of nasty—4 days of temperatures over 90 degrees straight were major talking points and sources of stories for the next year (or three) until I went to college. Liberty University is in Central Virginia. I know the South has a reputation for being hot in the summer, but I thought the Southern Coastlines were the only places that got truly hot AND humid. That myth was quickly dispelled as my family and I hauled a minivan and pickup truck worth of clothing, furniture, and family for 500 miles to the small city of Lynchburg. It was hot and more humid than anything New York had delivered that year. I really thought that the heat would soon dissipate and by the beginning of September we’d be comfortably into the 70’s and 80’s again. False hope. To make matters worse, I had done NO running or strength training during the summer. After all, we didn’t “run” in softball—we “sprinted.” Why did I need to sprint longer than 60 feet? We didn’t “lift weights” in softball–we “swung bats” and “threw balls.” How would working out help any of that? (I was the oblivious athlete that understood nothing about exercise physiology. I didn’t know how to work out or why I should-—I knew nothing about weight selection, the names of exercises, proper technique, training energy systems, etc.) Early in the summer, we were informed that we would have “testing” during the first week of classes to evaluate if we had done any workouts or conditioning work over the summer. I thought they were joking until it happened. I remember my roommate doing some running, but I could barely run a half-mile without stopping let alone the mile we were required to. (I’ve learned a lot about pacing since then..) I don’t remember my time, but I do remember that it was really hot, someone who had finished significantly before me ran a sympathy lap to finish with me, and that my calves hurt for days afterward.
Fast forward to today. I am 26, having completed my Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology from Liberty (I have since gained a slightly better understanding as to why it is beneficial for athletes to train (in my education and personal experience), competed for four years as a Division I Fastpitch Softball player, and ran my PR mile (6:30) during my Junior year at 5:30am on a frosty January morning, ironically enough. I had acclimated to the heat rather well during those years, but also to the cold as my Christmas break running was done in Western New York during the winter. and even improved my conditioning to the point that I was okay running sub-7:30 mile repeats in the heat and was training to run an Ultramarathon. I have since moved to and from NY, during which time I ceased running training. Moving back to Virginia has moved running back into my life, however I am far less conditioned than my mind would like to admit.
I’ve been reading “Start” by Jon Acuff, and it’s challenged me a lot professionally and personally to identify what matters, what my passions are, and start doing them. Running, while not something I have the ability to do profitably, is something I enjoy but have been afraid of doing by myself. Today I intentionally left home in running gear to eliminate excuses to not do what I needed (and sort of wanted) to do. I sat in the sun from 12pm-2:30pm, basking in the warmth and rejoicing in the presence of the sun while I read this gem of a book, mustering up the motivation to run. At 3pm, I was GOING to run and nothing would stop me. At 3pm, I set out. This is my internal dialogue over the course of the run, from start to finish. I need you to feel like you’re there with me so you’ll genuinely appreciate the cost I paid to be able to write and share this nugget of wisdom:
“Come on, crosswalk light. I have a run to get on! I’m on a schedule!”
“This is a bad idea. Dangit, I cannot handle the bouncing of my messy bun.”
*fixes messy bun*
“Ugh..there it is again, and my shoe isn’t tight enough. Awesome.”
*fixes messy bun and shoe*
*recognizes the messy bun situation will not improve and transitions to ponytail*
“This is a bad idea. I know better. I’m not acclimated for this—neither exercise in the heat nor distance. It’s so hot, and Hospital Drive is long. I finish with 2 miles uphill. I’ll probably have to write a Facebook post about this later—or a blog post. If it’s epic enough, it gets a blog post. It’s hot. Wait, no one is making me do this. No one is telling me how to run. I should do a sprint workout. It’s more metabolically efficient. Who said I have to run distance, anyways? Psh, I’m not really on a tight schedule. I do what I WANT! I’m going to run this route at my pace because I can. This run doesn’t feel so bad, and this breeze is nice. Oh hey, honking guy, you wave like you know me. Maybe I should post on Facebook about that and see if I actually know you. No, if I know them they’ll contact me. This run isn’t too bad, I must be using my aerobic energy system a bit more now. That always feels so much better. I could run down Hospital Drive, but then I have to run up J.D. Highway and Cowan, and that’s worse. Cowan isn’t too bad. There are so many cars out right now. What are people doing?! Oh, they’re probably just getting out of school. That guy who honked was probably a high school kid being obnoxious. I’m so public right now. I am being mocked by these drivers for being stupid and running in the afternoon sun and heat. I’d be mocking me if I were these drivers. I DO mock these runners while I’m driving. I guess I’m justified…or am I less justified and more hypocritical? That pool looks so wonderful right now. It looks like it might be open. No no, I can’t stop. Which one of those is Hospital Drive? That one has a sign for Emergency Trauma, that must be the right road. Let the uphill begin. Who did this landscaping? They must be short, because this is most definitely not friendly for tall people. Why am I dodging tree limbs? What is this?! This is the most cruel trick a short person could play on a tall runner! Why are these trees growing out onto this sidewalk?! It’s so hot. I don’t have the energy to be dodging vegetation.”
*suddenly becomes angry enough to have an outburst of expletives*
“*$%& you, trees!”
(Back to internal dialogue)
“I really want to tweet that right now, but I would be disappointed if someone I respected tweeted that, so I probably shouldn’t. What is that guy doing with a shirt on his head? He probably thinks I’m crazy out here running. Just keep running…what is that?! Mowed grass?? Dear God, don’t let me start asthmatically wheezing. I wonder why hospitals are on hilly terrain? It’s a good thing they’re here in case they have to save my life.
Oh no, That ambulance slowed down. I bet I look like I’m going to die. I’m so freaking thirsty. Okay, they kept going. It’s flat now, I’ll be fine. Okay, maybe it’s more uphill. Whatever—I run to develop and practice character, (see my “Life’s Tough, Get a Helmet” post) and this will make me stronger! The first time is always the worst time! The excessive heat will make you adapt more quickly! IMMERSION!!”
*pace slows to nearly walking*
“Just…keep moving. If you don’t stop, you didn’t quit. KEEP MOVING. Legs, don’t stop moving. If you stop, you won’t start again! Oh..wait..they started again. Okay. Disproved that theory. So you have a benchmark. Run further next time. Walk until the next light and then run again. You’ll be ready.”
*Walks to next light*
“Time to run, but these cars saw me walking. They’ll know I was weak! I’m just going to cool down. If I keep walking, they’ll think I’m cooling down. I’m not cooling down! I’ll just wait for them to pass and be out of sight and…we’re good! The only person who saw me start is the lady ahead of me with the dog. She’s more focused on her pooping dog than on me.”
*starts running again*
“Well, this is slow, but it’s better than nothing. What are these little bugs? They aren’t crickets, and they aren’t cicadas, but…”
*mystery insect attacks shirt as two others swarm off*
“I bet people who are being attacked by small insects look ridiculous to people driving by.”
*begins running uphill*
“I cannot quit this one. It’s short. Just keep moving. Just keep running. This is a manageable pace. You’re doing it for the kids. Soon it will be hotter and you’ll be outside longer. You can’t be the one to drop!! It will be over soon. There’s the top…nope, just kidding, it keeps going up. Just keep running; it flattens out soon. There’s McDonalds, and Panera is close. You’re almost to your car. You are almost there. People who are in your condition do stupid things. Don’t do stupid things…don’t…okay, just get out into the middle of the intersection at the median and wait for the other half of the traffic to clear so you can go. They won’t hit you. They…well, they could. Dangit, Sarah, you did that stupid thing! Don’t do this again! Just WAIT for the little running man to light up! And…wai..GO! GO! SPRINT! Okay, back to an easy pace. Barely breaking a sweat..so close to my car.”
*Gets Panera cup from car*
“Oh my gosh if a car gets in my way, someone will die.”
*Old man stops for no reason in the middle of the road in my direct line to hydration*
“That old man WOULD stop for no one RIGHT in my path! WHAT IS THIS?!”
*Stares down car as it drives away*
“Why did I just stare down an old man?! I wouldn’t have done that when I was more spiritually-sensitive. I need water. I need Jesus more. What is wrong with me?! I’m dehydrated..”
“Why are there people getting drinks? I need water. They’re just standing there! MOVE, PEOPLE! Do you not see that I am presently covered in sweat and in running clothes? Oh..wait..they saw me. I just got the most pitiful look—do I really look that bad?”
*Gets water and sits in chair*
*Begins to sweat profusely*
*Has to wipe face with napkins*
*Leaves restaurant because an exorbitant amount of sweat has released from pores*
Seven hours later, I am still completely wiped out.
Today’s run was a bad idea.
I will probably give it another shot next week. It’s for the kids.