What We Talk about When We Talk about Running Sitting on One’s Ass

Natalie Leppard

I have been fit for exactly eight months of my life. For two semesters of undergrad I took karate and cardio kickboxing on alternating days, five days a week. I was twenty at the time so that didn’t hurt.

Otherwise, I’ve always been one of those naturally-thin, metabolically-mutated women who can eat a box of doughnuts without blinking an eye and whom most other women hate. I never had to work to be thin. Instead, I had to work to make nurses not slip from exam rooms into the waiting room to privately ask my mother if I had an eating disorder (pre-HIPPA regulations, obviously). But, no matter how effortlessly thin I was or how many people told me I looked like a runner or a ballerina because of my hipless, long-limbed body, I was not fit. One cannot, sadly, get fit solely by reading books or writing essays or whatever else I was doing while sitting on my ass. And one cannot be fit by simply looking the part. Or, I’d also be a kick-ass piano player despite never having touched keys because of long, thin fingers my grandmother incessantly tried to cajole into playing. But, I digress and this is not a woe-is-the-skinny-girl tale.

Because then I turned 33.

And I got a desk job.

And I started sitting on my ass for 11 hours a day

(I’d like to thank Los Angeles traffic for gifting me those extra hours daily).

And I started getting a Depo Provera shot every three months.

And I gained weight.

#FAIL

So, being a project-oriented, Type-A, “I’ll do it myself,” self-motivated-to-no-end, Virgo type person who sets her mind to something and is damned sure going to do it, from teaching myself to quilt from scratch to earning a PhD, I decided I would conquer “Couch-to-5K.” I was already walking a few miles a day and this app promised I could go from the proverbial couch to briskly and gracefully running a 5K like it ain’t no thang. And I was already off the couch (what with the walking miles a day) so this was totally going to work. I even bought outfits.

At first, it was ok because the app starts out with walking. I can walk. Then the jogging. Well, I can do that too but there was no way for me to understand how to regulate my pace so I straight out sprinted. Yep. Couch to sprinting in less than 10 minutes. That definitely seemed the way to go. But I made it through the first week.

Then week 2. I don’t know what the fuck kind of couches these people were sitting on but they must have had elliptical machines built in.

On week 3 day 1, I turned my ankle. Apparently literally turning corners is a skill I had yet to master whilst jogging. Nonetheless, I was going to persevere and on Friday, August 1, 2013, week 3 day 2, I ran. On a sore ankle. No pain, no gain, right? Right? That night I had ice on my ankle. Monday I was getting x-rays and picking up a Vicodin prescription. Tuesday I got more x-rays. By the beginning of the next week, I was at a comically poor facsimile of an orthopedic physician who was more concerned with the weight of my purse than the state of my ankle (thank you, cut-rate insurance). By the end of that week, my left foot, ankle, and calf were encased in a boot. A large, hot, immobilizing boot that I had to wear for 6 weeks.

I obviously didn’t finish week 3.

#FAIL

October came, the boot was off, the ankle given a few weeks to strengthen back up, and I was determined to run. I started over at week 1 and had an easier time, sort of. I was still trying to run faster than my body wanted to but, eh, it worked out. I ran through week 7, took a break for a month (Christmas cookies and vacation time did me in) and picked up in week 7 in January once my schedule was normal again.

I promptly got an upper respiratory infection that knocked me on my ass for a week and left me with a cough for a month.

#FAIL

The whole time I was also gaining more weight. Not just while I was struggling with a boot on my foot or sleeping a million hours a week while not eating much and struggling to breathe. I was gaining weight while I was running three times a week AND walking a few miles a day.

#FAIL

There may be nothing more discouraging than actually trying very hard, succeeding to a certain degree (I did get through 7 of 9 weeks of Couch to 5K), but still absolutely failing. Not only had I not finished the running app, I was not reaping the desired (and incredibly common) benefit, and I was being punished with extra weight. It’s like the running gods were just sitting up there wherever laughing their toned asses off at me.

So I stopped running.

#FAIL

And I wasn’t walking those few miles every day.

#FAIL

And I gained more weight.

#FAIL

To be fair, by the time I’m writing this, I’d gained roughly 20 pounds. It’s a hideable amount of weight and I hadn’t tipped into the “overweight” portion of the BMI scale. But, somehow, that made it worse. When I stopped blaming myself for two seconds, realized that I was exercising despite the setbacks, that I was eating healthy foods and the appropriate amount of calories, that I was doing what I was supposed to do to not only maintain a healthy weight but to lose weight, I promptly made a doctor’s appointment. But, even then, my weight gain wasn’t a sign of alarm because I’m still within the “healthy” range despite the spare tire about my waist. At that point, it was still a question of my “happiness.”

#FAIL

Well, as you can imagine, I sure as hell wasn’t happy. I stopped the Depo Provera (which, if you don’t know, has a side effect of weight gain; as if women making birth control options really need to have to worry about weight gain). While I’m typing this, I think the Depo has finally worked it’s way out of my system. I’m feeling an itch to run again to see if maybe this time, maybe, I won’t fail, maybe. Maybe this time I’ll lose weight. Maybe this time I’ll make it all the way to the end, to week 9. Maybe.

But, it’s going to be 100 degrees this week, my boyfriend is traveling next week, my mother is visiting after that… and that train of thought just sets me up to #FAIL.