Monday, August 4, 2014

Seven Ways Running is Like Writing

At the beginning of July, I joined the gym. I was woefully out of shape, so much so that thirty minutes of walking on the treadmill felt like an accomplishment. But after a couple of weeks, I couldn't get my heart rate up as high as I wanted it. So I sort of glanced around at the other people on the treadmills near me, all of us going nowhere fast (or in my case, slowish), and I started to lumber along in an ugly, slow jog. But hey, my heart rate went up to where I wanted it. This lasted about a minute, followed by walking to recover. Lather, rinse, repeat.

"Well," I thought to myself afterwards. "I might have to keep running in order to keep reaching my target heart rate. Maybe I should train for something so I'm not aimlessly running here and there with no end goal. Hey, look, there's a 5K in October. I think I can do that without dying."

Lo and behold, the running had begun.

That led me to a program called Couch to 5K, a training program designed to get even the most avid couch potato in shape to run 3.1 miles in nine weeks. I downloaded it to my phone, and I started this past week. Somehow I'm going to be ready to run about three miles in the month before my fortieth birthday. I feel a little insane. I've never run a race before.

But then again, at one point I'd never written a novel before either. Which brings me to the tie-in. There's nothing to do while running other than think (unless you obsessively watch the clock, waiting for the moment when DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, YOU MAY WALK NOW AND CATCH YOUR BREATH BEFORE YOU PASS OUT. HEY, THE DEFIBRILLATOR IS THAT WAY, TRY TO GO IN THAT DIRECTION WHILE GASPING TO OTHERS THAT YOU NEED HELP. Ahem. As I was saying, there are several ways in which running and writing are the same.

1. Both activities produce a lot of sweat and get my heart rate up. There might be some whimpering involved, too.

2. When I first start a running/writing session for the day, I tend to wonder why I want to torture myself so much. Am I really that much of a masochist? I must be.

3. About halfway through the running/writing session, I think, "This is the most brilliant idea I've had in a long time. This is why I do this on a regular basis!" It's either endorphins talking, or the headiness from being on the verge of passing out.

4. When I'm done, I feel accomplished and immediately want to reward myself with chocolate or a huge order of fries. You know, something to completely outdo all the good I just did.

5. Sometimes I accidentally hurt myself while running. This is no surprise, given how much of a klutz I am. But sometimes I hurt myself while writing. Sometimes I act out a fight scene with the furniture in my house. Sometimes the furniture wins.

6. I enjoy telling people I'm a writer/runner. But then I immediately panic that they're going to read my stuff/watch me shuffle down the street, and then they'll know that I should never quit my day job.

7. Prepping for a race is like writing a novel. You plan, you execute the plan, you put weeks or months of work into it. Then the Big Day comes and you wave your arms and tell people you did it, you finished, and all you get for your trouble is a breakfast burrito and a pat on the back. On second thought, breakfast burritos are pretty awesome.

The nice thing about running is that I've brought my resting heart rate down. This is quite useful for the days when the writing raises my blood pressure.

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