I can walk forever. Even swiftly. I have no problem whatsoever with endless walking. However, the second walking breeches brisk and becomes even light jogging, everything goes to shit. Suddenly I can’t breathe. I’m sucking on air like it’s a blocked oxygen tube. I begin to turn a Care Bear shade of pink and red and purple and I lose control of my faculties. Rather than gazelling gracefully towards an unknown destination I start to claw at the air and throw my body forward in twitchy gestures of desperation. And that’s usually just the first 100 yards.
Unlike most exercise programs where “just getting there” is half the battle, running (or jogging if we want to be all specific) is a constant state of terrible suck. Just getting there is the easy part. I can lace up my sneakers and put on some Bieber and get all #gocarolinego with no problem at all. It’s when my legs begin to carry me forth and my thighs start trying to start a campfire that shit gets serious. There are stages to all fat kid jogs that are universal and well known, but for those who are in shape, I will document for you.
To begin: The initial leap.
I can imagine that there are fit people who LOVE this moment. It’s no longer acceptable to casually walk along, it’s time to commence the jog. THE MOMENT HAS ARRIVED. I usually try to pick a point at which I have made a blood pact with myself that I will start jogging. If I don’t, I can happily meander along for miles listening to high-impact tunes that feel incredibly motivating but don’t keep very good tempo with my nature walk. For me, the issue is that I have never come to truly accept that there is nothing buoyant and light about me. I think that transition to jogging is going to feel empowering and freeing, but instead I feel like a hippo trying to get going on a trampoline. Everything heaves. I can feel every extra ounce rise up in solidarity and then come crashing down against the pavement. Never, ever have I thought “YES! HERE WE GO, SELF!” I immediately begin a subconscious mantra of “fuckthisfuckthisfuckthis.” Remember ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.
And then: Bartering.
I have been jogging long enough to know that you do have to “jog the kinks out.” I have not been jogging long enough to remember how that can sometimes take 2-3 miles. (Seriously. Sometimes you have to jog the first 2-3 miles just to get past the suck, then it gets easier. Or so I’ve heard.) Unfortunately, when I’ve gotten jogging tunnel vision I can’t think rationally, instead I begin to barter. Get to that tree, lard ass, and then you can walk for three steps. Get to that fence post and you can pick your underwear out from the clutches of your hungry labia. One more lap and then you can listen to As Long As You Love Me on repeat on the way home. What generally happens is that I can barter my way through the first mile and then when it doesn’t INSTANTLY become the most magical jog of my life, I begin to get angry.
The Anger Period.
I recently started pepping myself with a chat about progress. This doesn’t happen all at once, Caroline! You’re doing great! This is only day two! You are such an inspiration to yourself! Your brain makes you beautiful! Unfortunately, in the moment, I believe approximately zero of this and instead of powering through with the knowledge that I am a warrior princess, I cruel argument ensues between my two selves.
Warrior Princess Caroline (WPC): You’re amazing! You’re out here doing this at night! In the rain! Against all odds! Phil Collins is singing TO YOU.
Regular Caroline (RC): You’re an asshole.
WPC: You’ve got this. Just a little at a time. Make it to the tree and then reassess. Breathe in through your nose. YOu’ve got this!
RC: Get to the tree and you’re still an asshole.
WPC: Getting here was half the battle and you’re here. Do this. You’ll feel so much better after you’re done.
RC: You’ll feel better. But you’ll still be an asshole.
WPC: Eye of the Tiger, Caroline. EYE OF THE MOTHER FUCKING TIGER.
RC: If you stop we can sit. All the pain will stop.
WPC: Just make it to the trashcan. You can make it to the trashcan. GO!
RC: Or make it to that bench so we can sit. Asshole.
The False Sense of Security
I cannot speak for real joggers, but for me there is usually about twenty feet in there (usually after about 6-8 minutes of jogging) where I become invincible. Suddenly I realize I am not going to run four laps, I am going to run six. And then I am going to do some arm dips on the park bench and then some high knees across the common to cool down. It’s usually in those twenty feel that I make a fatal error: I allow my hallucinogenic state to increase my speed. That is always the beginning of the end. Like a total asshole I increase my pace from fattitude appropriate faux running to ambitious prancing and within seconds I am panting, gasping for air, and telling myself that I have to stop due to legitimate medical concerns. I don’t want to stop, I have to stop. I need to listen to my body.
The Wind Down
In the end I settle for trying to run between 1.5 and 3 miles, no matter how ugly. If I can’t do that, I at least sit on a bench for the equivalent amount of time so that Corey doesn’t get suspicious. Then I have to Carl Lewis the half block to my house so that I look good and exhausted when I walk in the door. (An all out sprint for 8-10 seconds can take me out of the game for 3-4 hours. I’d like to blame it on my age, but it’s actually because I’m disgustingly out of shape.) The real issue with jogging is the 2-3 hours after I get home where shit just isn’t right and what I think could make it better is cheese. Which, oddly, isn’t listed as a medically sound recovery tactic. My half ass attempts at stretching out are a disgrace to my yoga background. I mostly just writhe around on the floor and yell out to Corey about the cheese, which he refuses to bring me.
When you have a baby, everyone tells you about this magic phenomenon where you forget about how terrible child birth is. I didn’t believe it because there was no way I was ever going to forget about awful that whole experience was. I actually did think I was going to die. Instead I shit all over some poor nurse and survived to tell the story. Turns out you really do forget. You convince yourself it really wasn’t that bad. The exact same thing happens with jogging. No matter how terrible, you begin to romanticize. The beautiful moonlight jog, a light, late summer rain, a breeze from the ocean. You’re an asshole, but it’s not your fault. You can’t remember that you looked like John Candy on a pizza run. So you sign yourself up to do it again. And, if you’re anything like me, you go online and spend a couple hundred dollars on some legit new gear to subsidize your efforts.
Because you’re an asshole.