Couch potato trades TV marathons for 5K program

You know that scene in “Forrest Gump” where Forrest decides to go for a run and doesn’t stop? That was my summer. But instead of running for three years straight, I tried out one of those Couch-to-5K programs. And I didn’t grow a beard.

Some days it felt as if I’d run coast-to-coast though.

When I initially pitched the idea of doing some light jogging, my friends and family were shocked. Being a known sloth, I couldn’t blame them.

To put their reaction in context, I once jokingly told my brother that I wanted to come back in my next life as a koala because, besides being my all-time favorite marsupial, koalas sleep 18-22 hours a day.

“Is that going to be enough?” he asked, with the trademark Shernisky smirk.

So yes, I enjoy a certain level of laziness. A jar of Nutella and a “Gilmore Girls” marathon don’t mean I’m depressed. That’s any old Wednesday for me, and those closest to me know it.

They were supportive yet doubtful. So was I. Despite that, I gave the program a shot. I went to my local park for my first 30-minute session, which alternated between periods of walking and jogging.

The first few minutes were bearable, but I soon started gasping for air. My sides cramped, my calves burned and my heart was beating so fast it felt like it was going to fly out my mouth.

I tried to keep my suffering discreet. The people around me were at the park to enjoy a peaceful walk and playtime with their children, not watch a horribly out-of-shape college student wheeze. I looked less like Forrest Gump and more like a reality TV contestant. It was twice as embarrassing because in a tiny hamlet like mine, every other person I passed was a former teacher or neighbor. Nevertheless, I stuck with it – even when it rained, even when I didn’t want to, which was most days.

No one was more shocked than I was to see real improvement. I felt healthier and more relaxed overall.

The strange thing is that when you make a lifestyle change, even a positive one, others expect a reason. Even stranger, it seemed that the reasons I had weren’t good enough.

I started running to lose a few pounds and strengthen a heart whose workouts usually came as a result of “Grey’s Anatomy” cliffhangers. But that logic was apparently too vain or boring, so I lined up a more unusual response: I’m preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

The most concise argument I came up with – besides the fact that I didn’t actually need one – was, well, why not?

I’m not a runner. I don’t have the petite, wiry build or taste for low-fat yogurt inherent to runners. But I could definitely reap the benefits: decreased anxiety, extended lifespan and a reduced risk of cancer.

Now I have to figure out how to work the running into my class and work schedules here at school, which isn’t too daunting. If a slug like me can start running at all, anything is possible.

Still, I think I’ll stick to “Gilmore Girls” marathons.



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