Monday, March 23, 2009


One thing that has annoyed me about my six-month exercise adventure is that after all this time, after all of this strenuous exercise and training, I'm not really any better at running than when I started.  I was sure that after a hardcore fitness regimen I would be in a lot better shape and be able to run much harder and with less trouble.  While I'm certainly in better shape than before, I still have trouble running.  For all my life, I've never been able to run for extended periods of time.  In high school I was running a couple times a week, and while I managed to get to a point where I could jog for half to three-quarters of a mile without having to resort to taking a break and powerwalking (though it was extremely hard to keep going toward the end), that's still not all that good.  My whole chest starts to hurt, I can't breathe anymore, and I get a metallic taste in my mouth.

When I was running in high school, I had a specific path that I'd take that would be one and two-thirds miles, starting and ending at home.  Generally, by the second half of the return trip I would be utterly destroyed, barely running faster than I could just powerwalk.  Sometimes my dad would actually hide up in the trees along the trail, spot me slowing down (or indeed powerwalking, depending on how exhausted I was) and yell at me.  Occasionally there were threats involved, like "no computer tomorrow if you don't speed up," as if I were slacking and weren't actually in horrible physical pain.  I'm not sure if the intention was for the yelled threats to motivate me through self-determination or simply fear, but neither worked; I simply couldn't go any faster.  I knew from experience that once I got to that point where I could no longer breathe properly, pushing any harder would cause me to start to feel that I was going to pass out and collapse.  I wasn't going to do that, so any threats were really rather pointless.

It happens on the treadmill too.  I haven't been running outside or on a track for quite some time now, but I do use the treadmill once a week or so, and it happens there, without fail.  I can set it to do intervals, where the speed changes on a regular basis, and that helps, but if I keep going too hard for very long, I experience the same symptoms and I just can't keep it up.  On other machines that don't directly simulate running, like elliptical machines, bikes, or stair climbers, or even doing other exercises like swimming, I don't ever experience this, no matter how hard I push.

I'm in better shape now than I have been for a very long time, and even when I was in an elementary school and was perhaps in better shape still, I still had the same problems.  I have a doctor appointment on Thursday and I'll probably bring the topic up again then just so I have something to talk about (I've mentioned it before), but I expect it's something that I'll just have to deal with.


Brian said...

Travis, I took up running last year because I absolutely hate it and I'm terrible at it. What I found is two things.

1. If you want to be able to do distance running, start doing interval training. I would find a football field or a track instead of a treadmill and basically just mix sprinting, walking, and jogging each lap. After a few weeks of that, I was able to jog for over 2 miles, when before I coudln't even make it a mile.

2. Slow down and find your jogging pace. The secret to going a long distance is picking a speed where your body is comfortable. I'm really slow, but once I get over that initial half mile to mile warmup, it's smooth sailing for the next few miles anyway.

Tammy said...

I have nothing useful to say except me too! In 8th grade particularly I had this gym teacher who made us run the mile 2 or 3 days every week. (I use the word "run" loosely here, in my case.) You would think that after a year of that I would have improved, but nope. I can only assume there's a technique to it that the teacher never mentioned.

g said...

What's most odd to me is hearing that your dad would spy on you during runs. I think such an invasion of privacy would make me dislike running.

Travis said...

Good thing I hated it anyway...