Saturday, December 31, 2011

Working it Out

I have not jogged much in recent months, given the longer hours and seemingly endless commute of my new job, and the shorter days and busier weekends of winter. The other day, thanks to vacation, I found myself on a treadmill, and I saw all kinds of symbolism in it. Humor me.

Completely out of shape, I set the bar low, the time for a half hour, and the difficulty level at 3. Then, I began jogging in place, negotiating with myself, tired and wanting to quit as soon as I started.

This, I thought, is who I am now? When did I weaken to this pathetic degree?

I made deals with myself. First I thought, if I get to halfway, I can quit, and at least I had fifteen minutes of cardio -- that's a start, right? I stared at the timer, appreciated the psychological genius of how it switched often between counting up and counting down.

Planning to quit halfway enabled me to get to halfway and say, well, that wasn't so bad, I'll just do five more minutes, and continue in that vein until, five negotiations later, I jogged further than I had planned. I didn't set any records or anything, but I surpassed my goal.

Sometimes, parenting and coping with the additional special needs my son has overwhelms me. I feel that there is no way I'll be able to finish the course. It stretches out too far, the hills look too steep, and I just know I lack the stamina.

It helps when I can dial things back, and focus on the small increments, one lap at a time.

This school year won't kill me if I only focus on this week. This week won't kill me if I just focus on this day. I can survive the day if we just get through this chore.

But eventually I do get really bone weary. Eventually I do need a break from the treadmill. I need to stretch, to cool down, to replenish.

Remember I mentioned I was on vacation when I found myself contemplating all this, right?

Even the word vacation had felt out of my league. Felt like Publisher's Clearing House; you see the videos that show it happened to other people, but you're pretty sure it doesn't exist, and, if it does, it'll never happen to you. If I can't figure out how to drive across town to see my best pals, how could I wrangle a vacation? Aren't those things EXPENSIVE? But the need for a break was written all over me. I kept telling people I would take one, but no one was fooled - certainly not my husband. So he and his parents (world's best in-laws) called TO. They yanked me off the treadmill of workatwork-and-workathome-and-work inmysleep...workatwork-and-workathome-and-work inmysleep... and they laughed at my objections, my belief that my kids' worlds would stop spinning if I didn't keep running in place. My husband took me on a vacation, and I had nothing to say about it. His parents kept the kids. They took better care of them than we do -- made them eat broccoli and practice math, took them to see parade floats and The Muppets, improved their table manners -- and when we got home to our sleeping angels, clean house, cheerful MIL and FIL, and even all new light bulbs, I knew two things: I am very, very, very, very lucky to be loved and supported by my amazing family, and I was kidding myself if I thought I was going to make it without a break. I couldn't have made it another yard. All the warning lights were flashing wildly while I pretended not to sweat.

The world kept spinning even when the treadmill didn't. I stopped. I rested. I wept. Hey, people. I even found the time to jog. And to have epiphanies I could blog about again, in case anyone still reads here.

I don't know what the trip cost. It was cheaper than dying.

If you are running on a treadmill, here is the wisdom I offer:

Pace yourself.
Focus on small increments.
Don't always look at how far you have to go, sometimes count how far you have already traveled.
Step off sometimes, especially if anyone offers to help. If they don't offer, ask.
Rest, or you will never go as far as you need to, and you might fall off the treadmill and really hurt yourself.
Blog about it.

That's all I got, people. Now, I'm limbering up; vacation is over, and the treadmill awaits.


Gwyneth said...

Hooray for vacations! I'm so glad you took one at last, and I hope it restored a bit of your spirit.

kim mccafferty said...

I really needed this today! So glad you have such a strong support system. "Cheaper than dying" was exactly where I was last spring when hubby and I snuck away. Happy for you!