From Couch Potato to Hustler

POP QUIZ: What’s the hardest thing for a runner to do?

(Hint: It isn’t running fast, or running long.)


ANSWER: Nothing.

That is, the hardest thing an active guy like me can do is be inactive. And just how hard it is manifested itself today.

Now, the term “active” can mean more than lacing up and going out for a run or bike ride. For me, the term includes useful work at the office, doing needed upkeep on the house, financial and life planning, and creative writing. “Inactive” to me is sitting or lying around watching TV, reading, or taking a nap.

You have no idea how hard this is.
You have no idea how hard this is.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling listless and a bit rundown. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with being up until 2:00 a.m. playing Dungeons & Dragons.) Even so, I slept in until 9:00, on a day when I usually get up at 7:00 to go running. But this day was my final race of the year – the Holiday Hustle in Dexter – and it didn’t start until 4:30, so I had the entire day to rest up before hitting the bricks for a hard and fast 5K.

As the day wore on, I was not feeling better. So I lay down to take a nap and read. And all the time I was doing that, my mind was nagging me: Hey there, slug – why don’t you haul your lazy butt out of bed and do something useful. You’ve got several hours before the race and stuff you could be doing. Like reassembling the treadmill, for instance.

It didn’t help that this was the book I was reading;

Living With a SEAL book

So I’m lying there like the proverbial rug, reading about how this guy is running six miles followed by 200 pushups at any hour of day or night, basically whenever the SEAL tells him it’s time to train. And he’s doing it, much to his surprise. (Hint: If you don’t want to feel guilty about sitting around doing nothing, read a different book.)

Bonus: Learn more here about Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur and ultrarunner who decided his life was “drifting on autopilot” and wanted to shake things up a bit. Good Lord.

Finally, about two hours before race start, I got up, changed into running gear, and had a bite to eat. With the temperature around 60 degrees (in December!) I would wear short sleeves and shorts. Usually at this race, there’s ice on the roads and it’s a battle to keep warm until the race starts.

Santa's alternative mode of transportation.
No snow? No problem. Santa has alternative modes of transportation.

In a form of penance for all that idle time, I rode my bike the four miles from my house to the race, with the added benefit of not having to park a half mile away. By the time I arrived, I was warmed up and my energy was back.

As for the race, it was typical of my Holiday Hustle experience. In the first half mile, I convince myself I don’t have it today and will probably keel over. At one mile I’m feeling a little better, which allows me to slog out the second mile. I get a second wind for mile 3, which is mainly downhill, and go hard to the finish.

This year wasn’t a PR, but I was again able to sneak under 20:00, and just a couple of seconds behind last year’s result. Not bad for wondering earlier if I shouldn’t just jog it.

Remember when you didn't need any motivation to run?
Remember when you didn’t need any motivation to run?

After some recovery and the awards ceremony (3rd in my age group), I biked back home, feeling surprisingly good. Legs weren’t even sore or stiff. Maybe this occasional inactivity thing has its advantages. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if a bit more training intensity would also benefit me.

“I hope you’re not planning to have a SEAL live with you for a month,” my wife said.

I assured her I wasn’t. I figure I need at least three months.

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