I’m starting to get excited about this.
Some parts have been easier than others, though. Like, I’m not having any problem at all with believing that I’m an athlete already. But I’m struggling with turning off the diet mentality.
Also, because I have a (stupid, stupid) shin splint, I can’t do the intervals I had planned. Because walking 3 mph hurts my leg. So I need a new plan, and that’s throwing me off a little.
I was thinking today about when I was a kid. I can remember the first time I really considered myself an athlete. I was already a swimmer–and I had been for two years. But it was more something I did, not something I was. I was a good swimmer–but I hated running. Really, really hated running. Everyday in seventh grade PE, we had to run a quarter mile. Once around the track. And every single day, I came in last.
Then my PE teacher told me that she knew I could do better, if I tried. She also asked me where I got my clothes, because she liked my purple suede boots. So I was half in love with her. I don’t remember her name, but I can picture her. She was a young, pretty blonde. And she was a rower. I ran for her–working my way up until I started coming in first on that lap every day, even ahead of the boys. My dad vandalized the sidewalk on our street to mark off a quarter mile for me to practice on at home. By the end of the year, I was recruited into track.
I started playing soccer that summer. It was the most fun I think I’ve ever had in my life, still. My dad gave me a Beach Cruiser that summer, too. Oh, how I loved that bike. It was true freedom, even more than my first car was. I rode to soccer practice and to swim practice. Also the library, my friend’s houses and anywhere else I could think of.
But it was that first quarter mile at a dead run that made me an athlete. I still remember how it felt. Exhilarating. I floated through the rest of my day. I’m not sure why that made such an impression, when I’d been swimming competitively for two years already. Maybe because I didn’t have to fight for swimming like I did running.
Anyway. I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe I just need to remind myself that I felt that way once. I don’t know where I lost it, really. But somewhere along the way, being active went from being my ultimate freedom to being a drudgery that I know I should do, but I don’t want to.
I want to have fun being active again. I know that going to the gym isn’t it, but I do feel like it’s the gateway. Like every step I take on that treadmill is a step toward being able to go skiing this winter or finish a 10K at Lake Tahoe this fall or run a mile in Central Park this summer or sign up for a boot camp this summer. Don’t forget roller derby by my birthday or re-learning how to ride a bike. Oh, and I read yesterday that kayaking doesn’t make you as seasick as other water sports.
This spring is like the weeks it took me to build up to running that first quarter mile, full out and hard. Letting myself be the only girl in the seventh grade to break a sweat in PE and not caring.
I’ve been on this kick of watching TV shows about women who kick ass. Like a Buffy marathon. Or the entire (and only) season of A&E’s Roller Girls. And reading stories about women athletes who just…yeah, they kick ass. The 80-year-old nun who Ironman Hawaii had to make an age class for. Or the woman who finished last at an Ironman in Idaho. I don’t know if I’ll ever compete in an Ironman triathlon–but in my head, when I’m running for the 60-seconds I can manage right now, I hear the words…”Shaunta Alburger, you are an Ironman.”