Summer is the best time of the year for me to try and get back in shape, only to gain it all back during the school year. It’s kind of cyclical, really. For some reason during the first two months this summer, going to the gym to work on cardio equipment was too gargantuan of an effort for me to leave the apartment. As a result, I pretty much did nothing but watch TV.
On my trip to Lake Tahoe with the USC Band, I stepped on the scale at my homestay’s house just to see how much I weighed, even though I had already made “plans” to work off whatever calories I consumed while at Lake Tahoe. The scale read 213.5. First thoughts were, “Um…holy crap. This is only going to get worse if I don’t do anything about it.” That was July 28.
I was flipping through all the photos from Tahoe when I came upon the photos of me on the tube behind the boat. That’s when I realized, “Oh man, I’ve really let myself go.” Now, I’m not saying I have a worse weight problem than most people. Not at all. However, the most I had weighed up until Tahoe that I can remember was 210, so I was at a “record high.” That’s not a distinguishable accomplishment, in my opinion.
Fast forward to July 30, in the middle of watching a terrible Rangers-Angels game–and those of you who know me well know I get easily frustrated when my teams don’t do well–I get fed up after the Angels scored 9 runs in an inning and decide to try something I’ve always wanted to do: run laps around USC. I didn’t know how long it would take me, considering one lap around the campus, excluding the apartments north of Jefferson and the buildings east of Figueroa, is two miles. The longest distance I remember ever jogging nonstop was one mile, so this was kind of a big challenge for me. And to run it multiple times? Wasn’t sure I could do it.
Faced with the choices of either being very stubborn and sitting through a terrible baseball game and potentially feel more angry over sports, or go do something more productive and address my lack of preferred fitness, the choice was remarkably easy: Turn off the game and go run.
Not even two-tenths of a mile into my first run, however, I already started to feel tired. In fact, my pace afterwards was so slow, somebody power-walking around campus could have passed me. Thirty minutes later, I finally finished that first lap and had to rest for about ten minutes before I mustered the courage to run a second lap. Roughly thirty-two minutes or so later, I finished a second lap, and I was absolutely beat.
The next day I could barely walk, which I expected to be the case. Yes, I did stretch after my run, I’m not stupid. But now I was presented with another challenge: running before I had to go to my internship in the afternoon. I had to run four miles in the afternoon in the scorching hot 82 degree Los Angeles temperatures? Oh the humanity! God forbid I try that in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix, Las Vegas, or Death Valley during the summer. But I digress. I couldn’t run four miles this time because I simply did not give myself enough time to run four miles, shower, eat, then drive in LA traffic to Studio City for my internship, so I settled for three. The distance I ran isn’t what’s important. What was important to me was that I made sure running around campus would be a staple into my weekly routine in an effort to get in healthier shape.
It was at this point that I began to realize the benefits of running laps around campus. The obvious and most important benefit is that my cardio health will improve dramatically, and hopefully I’ll eventually get into the best shape I’ve ever been in since before I started high school. The second benefit is that I don’t have to rely on other people in order for me to accomplish my goals. What I mean by this is I don’t have to rely on a gym to be open to accommodate my schedule, which is rather fluid right now, but it won’t be once school starts up again. I can do this on my own time whenever I want to. Third and final benefit is campus is not far away from me at all, so I pretty much have no excuse to blow off running aside from running-induced injuries that come about. For some reason, I considered the gym “too far” to skate to on a daily basis. Once I move to my new apartment, campus will be half a block away from me. If I consider half a block to be “too far” in the future, I hope I am 300 pounds or so because that’s nothing.
The first week I started running, I set the bar to an acceptable four miles per day. I didn’t reach the “per day” aspect of that standard, but I was able to make four miles a reasonable accomplishment.
The next week, however, I increased the “standard” to six miles, or three laps around campus, just to see if I could do it. Sure enough, the first four miles were a breeze and I ran the distance at a considerably faster pace than the previous runs, but then the fifth mile came up and I hit a wall, so it seemed, so I had to dramatically slow down my pace. I ran this distance in the evening, so the temperatures were pretty comfortable.
The next day I didn’t factor in how warm Los Angeles has gotten over the last week and a half, and tried to run that distance in the afternoon. When all was said and done, I had to stop after the first two miles to go for water and use the bathroom, except I forgot to do the drinking water part and ran another mile on the track. That was a very difficult mile, ladies and gentlemen, and I was risking dehydration. After I finished that mile–which took a long time, I don’t even know how slow I was–I finally got water in Heritage Hall, since it’s nice and cold. I was probably at that fountain for a solid minute and a half I was so thirsty. I ran one last lap around campus, and after an hour and a half, longer than it took me to run six miles yesterday, I was out of gas. It didn’t help that I didn’t give myself enough time to recover from the previous night’s run, so my knees, which I now know weren’t properly stretched out after the six mile run, were just a tad sore (SARCASM). Oh and my clothes were drenched.
Work was a lot of fun that day.
I skipped Wednesday’s run, but ran Thursday okay. Meanwhile, I weighed myself after 9 days of running, and I got down to 202. While I’m still over 200 pounds, 202 is a lot better than 213, and my body’s changed a lot in the process.
I plan on yet again increasing that mileage increment to 8 mile runs this week. I’m sure I can do it. How my knees will fare remains to be seen.
On another sidenote, you know who I have a lot more respect for now? Olympic sprinters. I knew they ran fast times in long distances, but I never truly appreciated how fast they were actually running until I started running myself. Let’s take Mo Farah for example. The British sprinter ran the 5,000 meter race in 13:41.66 to take the gold medal in front of an electric Olympic Stadium in London. He ran the 10,000 meter race earlier that week to take gold also in just a little bit more than double that time. You know how fast it takes me to run two miles? Probably 24 minutes at best if I keep a consistent pace. Mo Farah could lap me three times if he and I ran around campus together. Disregard the notion that he is in prime long-distance running shape and just say, “Damn.”
The broadcast does not do justice how fast these Olympic track stars are running. During the 4x400m Women’s relay finals, American, and USC Trojan, Allyson Felix sprinted a lap time of 40.82 seconds to set a world record. It takes me about 1 minute, 45 seconds to run a lap around a 400m track on a good day. I don’t know how long it would take me to sprint that distance because I’ve never been in the shape to do it without getting tired 200 meters in my attempt and slowing down.
So, all Olympic track athletes who competed in London these past two weeks, you have all the respect in the world from me. I’ve never truly appreciated how fast all of you were running in any of those races until now. I have respect for all Olympians who compete in these games, but I have the best perspective of runners out of all Olympic athletes after running on a semi-consistent basis for the last two weeks.
I don’t plan on becoming the next Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin and compete in the Olympics for Team USA in Rio in 2016 by any stretch. However, I do plan to continue running long distances to improve my physique and remain living an active lifestyle. Band Camp will interfere somewhat with this, however, and I can’t realistically run long distances during days when I’m on band time from 8 am to 10 pm every day next week. That would require me to wake up at ungodly hours to run, and believe me, I want my sleep when I can get it during that week. I’m not here to suggest Band Camp is a more challenging physical week than football two-a-days, but it’s certainly not a cakewalk either. After Band Camp, though, I can guarantee I’ll get back to running laps around campus.