I hate to sweat.
It’s just not my thing. I would rather do almost anything than do something that makes me sweat.
In fact, because of my aversion to sweating, I decided early on that I was not a fan of any type of sports.
Beginning when I was about 5 years old until I entered Jr. High, my parents made me play t-ball or softball during the summer months. I could not imagine a worse form of torture than standing out on a field in the heat (with absolutely no shade to speak of), and try to watch a tiny ball flying through the air so that I could run catch it. Not my idea of a fun time.
Or worse than that was standing next to home plate while someone threw a ball at me, so that I could hit it with a bat. No thanks!
My brother, who felt like it wasn’t his birthday or Christmas if he didn’t get a new ball of some sort, loved those summer days spent at the ballpark. Meanwhile, I looked forward to out-growing summer Little League and to the day when I was no longer forced to sweat on a baseball field.
Much to my dismay, when I entered 6th grade, my parents decided that I should tryout to play on the jr. high basketball team. My school was small. No one was ever cut during tryouts. That didn’t stop me from praying that somehow I would be cut from the team!
Unfortunately, my prayers weren’t answered. I made the team.
If I thought playing softball was torture, the agony of basketball was a thousand times worse. Balls still flew through the air, only this time I didn’t have a glove to protect my face from getting hit. Our coach loved to torment the team by making us run up and down the bleachers, as well as punishing us with something known as suicide drills. The old gym wasn’t air conditioned, so at the end of every practice I was hot, miserable, sore … and sweaty.
At age 11, everything I knew about sports could be summed up in three words.
Balls. Sweat. Blah!
I probably first became enchanted with ice skating when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. It was so beautiful to watch, especially when compared to the only other sports I knew … football, basketball and baseball.
But ice skating … now that was something I thought I could get into. Pretty music. Fancy costumes. Graceful movements. And with all that ice, surely there was no chance of sweating!
One evening I confessed to my dad that what I really wanted was to take ice skating lessons. How he managed not to laugh at the absurdity of my request, I’ll never know. After all, it was early 1980’s in rural Louisiana. At that time, the closest ice skating rink was in Dallas, at least 6 or 7 hours away. And with my pudgy body, I didn’t exactly look like ice skater material.
But, being the wise man that he was, instead of laughing he listened to me. I recall that he agreed that skating was indeed a beautiful sport, and he didn’t utter a single negative word when I smugly told him that I’d probably be fantastic at it. However, as the conversation drew to a close, my father said, “You know, skaters need to be in great shape. I suggest you start with running. If you get to where you can run 5 miles, come talk to me then and we’ll see what we can do about ice skating lessons.”
Of all the hair-brained ideas in the world, this must certainly be the most hair-brained of them all! Surely my dad wasn’t serious.
I tried to convince running was not a good way to get in shape. For starters, you need a reason to run … something like chasing a ball, running away from something, or trying to beat another runner in a race.
But running just for the sake of running? How boring is that?!
Running just to run is pretty much a solitary activity. Even if you run with a partner, you can’t exactly carry on a conversation. Besides, most runners tend to run and listen to music … back then with their Walkman. And if I wanted to listen to music, I’d rather do so from the comfort of my bedroom, mostly so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of sweating.
But in the end, I listen to my father’s suggestion … or, at least, I tried.
For several days in a row, I attempted to go for a run down the gravel road that wound past our house. I don’t know how far I got. Honestly, I never kept track. But I can tell you that it wasn’t very far because once I started sweating I always decided to go back home.
And that was the end of my running (and ice skating) career … or so I thought.
Last February, I decided to join a women’s only fitness center that’s not too far from my house.
Considering my strong dislike of anything involving sweat, I don’t know what possessed me to join other than I had been trying to lose weight. I had quickly dropped 30 lbs, but then I found myself stuck in a long stall. Determined to break my plateau, I assumed that if I started exercising that maybe I would once again lose weight. And, thinking logically, I made another assumption. If I was going to exercise, a gym membership would be the way to go since it would probably require less sweating if I did something inside rather than trying to do something outside … you know, like maybe running.
My very first class was with Elena. I liked her a lot … well, that is I liked her until she made me get on an elliptical machine and run. Then I thought about changing my mind about her, but she kept smiling and saying encouraging things. It made it hard not to like her, at least just a little bit.
“Run fast … like someone is chasing you!” she said, encouraging the ladies in the class to work harder.
The woman on the elliptical next to me quipped, “But what if I want to get caught?”
I was too winded to puff out any words, but these were my sentiments exactly.
I left the gym that day sweaty and sore. Back at home, I crawled onto my bed and thought about never going back. But I am frugal, and Jon had paid a lot of money for me to have a one-year gym membership. So I kept going … week after week after week. Truthfully, I didn’t lose much weight, but I gained a lot of muscle. With muscle came confidence, and soon enough I was enjoying going to the gym for the most part.
Well, except for the sweating. I didn’t enjoy that at all.
Early last month, I was at another one of Elena’s classes. It was a Friday and only two of us showed up to workout. Elena pushed us hard, giving us quite a bit of running time on the treadmill … running on an incline, running backwards and even running sideways. It was a challenging workout, and I remember thinking how glad I was that we didn’t run all that often during my exercise classes.
Somehow, at the end of class, Elena and the other girl began talking about running. I don’t really remember what they said or how I got involved in the conversation. But at some point I made comment about how I had always thought my oldest son might make a good long-distance track runner. To which someone suggested signing him up to run 5K and 10K races locally.
I shook my head and laughed. “No … he wouldn’t want to do that alone, and besides I haven’t the foggiest idea of how to help him train.”
That’s when Elena flashed her brightest smile at me.
“Paige, that’s a fantastic idea! Challenge your son … all your kids … to do a 5K or a 10K with you. Then you could join the running clinic here at the gym. It will surprise your kids when you can finish the race. Maybe you’ll even beat them! What a fun experience that would be!”
I felt stunned by her words. Me? Run? Um … no. Not going to happen. I do not run. I don’t like to sweat.
End of story.
Or so I thought.
The Christmas Ornament.
I think it was late October when Jon and I went Christmas ornament shopping on one of our date nights.
After our salads at Jason’s Deli, we stopped by Hobby Lobby because I wanted to buy a cute fall dress I had seen for the baby … a sweet little tutu dress with a pumpkin appliqué and the words “CUTEST PUMPKIN IN THE PATCH” embroidered across the front.
I quickly found the dress and put it in our cart, but I wanted to continuing looking around. It’s not all that often I get to spend time in Hobby Lobby. Fortunately, I have a good husband, and Jon was happy to let me window shop … at least as long as the baby remained in a good mood.
Eventually, we made our way to the Christmas section. Oddly enough, that area of the store was empty. It seemed like a great time to choose our annual ornaments for each member of our family.
Normally, I try to find an ornament that represents something special for the person receiving it, such as an important life event or maybe a hobby. Sometimes it is a particular like or interest. Whatever I chose, I want it to be an ornament that is unique to the recipient.
The first ornament I found was a car for Joel who had gotten his driver’s license this past year. Nathan’s ornament was a strip of bacon, to represent his winning 10th at the National Meat ID Contest. I found an ornament that looked like a bottle of nail polish, perfect for Megan who keeps her nails neatly manicured and is kind enough to give me a personal pedicure at least once a month. Julia loves cupcakes and Maddie loves foxes, so I picked out ornaments for them based on those preferences. Jon found a guitar ornament that he liked.
That left just me, and I knew that I wanted an ornament to represent my continued healthy lifestyle pursuits. Particularly I had in mind something to represent exercise since I had joined the gym earlier in the year. The only problem was that I couldn’t find anything general enough. All the ornaments for exercise were sport specific … basketball, baseball, football, swimming or even running. Nothing that seemed to be quite right.
Then Jon found it … a running shoe.
I wasn’t certain about buying it as it wasn’t really what I had in mind. But Jon was convinced.
“It’s perfect, Paige! You wear shoes like this to workout in at the gym. I think you should get this one. This is your best option.”
So I bought it, but once I got home I discovered something terrible about the ornament.
“Look at this, Jon! ” I fumed. “It says runner across the bottom!”
He looked at the ornament and then at me. “So?” he responded nonchalantly. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“What’s that got to do with anything? ! Well, to start with, I am not a runner. It is stupid to have a running ornament when I do not run.”
Jon shook his head in dismay. “Paige, I really don’t see why you are so upset about this. Who cares if it says runner across the bottom. No one will even see that once it is hanging on the tree.”
“Hmph… well, I will. I will know it is there. No, this ornament will never do. I am definitely going to take it back.”
Only I didn’t ever get around to taking the ornament back to the store. Life got busy. Who has time to go return an ornament when you have to care for five teens and a baby? Occasionally, I thought about it … and whenever I did, I just figured I would buy myself another ornament that I liked, nothing to do with exercise whatsoever. Then, I would give the running shoe ornament to the gym’s owner Dawn, since she was in the middle of training for the Boston Marathon.
But I never found another ornament that I liked.
And then the conversation with Elena happened … and suddenly, I couldn’t get running out of my head.
Everywhere I turned, there was something to remind me of running. For three days straight my entire Facebook newsfeed had something to do with running. Seriously, I have 800+ friends and all of them are talking about running?
Even at the doctor’s office I couldn’t escape running. I sat in the waiting room and perused through a magazine, but the first ad on the very first page was for running shoes. I flipped the page to find an entire article on how to get started with running. Frustrated, I checked the front cover, half expecting that I had somehow picked up a running magazine.
I hadn’t. Yet the idea of running seemed to pursue me.
Jon was working out of town, so instead of continuing to torture myself with thoughts of running, I decided to send him an email and confess that I was entertaining the idea of running. Sure he would remind me that I was far too old and much to fat to attempt anything as silly as running. Besides, I knew I had to try something to get the idea out of my head!
Jon’s reply was quick and to the point: “Go for it!”
I read his email and my eyes bugged out.
What? Am I reading this correctly? Is my husband actually supportive of this insanity? Didn’t this man promise to love and protect me? How is pushing me to do the very thing I don’t want to do either loving or protective?
Desperate to find a way out of this mess, I decided to contact one of the gym’s trainers to get more information about the running clinic.
I figured it would cost too much. (It didn’t.)
I assumed she would tell me that I was too old (Nope!), too fat (No way!), too new to working out to train for a half-marathon (You got this, girl!).
Out of excuses, I did the only thing I could do … I signed up for the running clinic.
Today makes it official. I have started training for a half-marathon (or maybe a 10K relay). Either way, come March 12th, I’ll be running in the Zydeco here in Lafayette.
No one will be chasing me. I’ll just be running for me.
I still really don’t know exactly how I got to this place or why I’ve decided to do this, other than I am strangely compelled to run.
I admit. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I feel like I’ve stepped not just out of my comfort zone, but out of the zone completely. I’m in unfamiliar territory.
This morning, as the rain poured down from the dreary sky, I looked at Day 1 on the running clinic agenda. I realized that not only do I have no idea what to expect over the next 14 weeks, but I don’t even know how to start.
And then God showed me these words written by the prophet Isaiah.
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. (Is. 43:18)
I’m going to start by forgetting that I don’t like to sweat.
She will run and not grow weary; she will walk and not faint. (Is. 40:31)
*I know … I changed the pronoun. Maybe Isaiah won’t mind me personalizing his words.*