A year ago, a dear friend encouraged me to join her in a “Couch to 5K” running program. Before I had my kids, I ran for exercise, but I was hardly a “runner.” Never terribly “sporty,” I have been trying to get good at running since I was a sophomore in college when I just decided I would try to run for exercise. She assured me that a smartphone app would “coach” me through training sessions and in several weeks, I would be prepared to run a full 5K. So, like anyone looking for motivation to get exercising, I downloaded “Ease into 5K” and got running.
Or should I say, got walking. The first few weeks of the “Ease into 5K” program involve walking interspersed with short bursts of running. Interval training like this is designed to increase your endurance. The walking intervals grow shorter while the running intervals grow longer. Eventually, you should be able to endure a 5K. In theory.
I hated interval training. I felt like a lunatic simply walking and wanted to just start running. Considering, I was in terribly bad shape at the time, I don’t know why I didn’t simply relish the walking because I began to think running was boring, too. Easing into running was excruciating. I just wanted to be a runner right away and I was unconvinced that interval training or “easing” into it was going to be effective. During those exercise sessions, I must have written this very essay about “easing” into running in my head ten times over.
I got through the whole program but unsurprisingly never actually ran a 5K. I was trying to make a big change over time–that is exactly how many experts advise you to make changes. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. I could not accept the process and felt frustrated all along the way, however. One bite at a time felt too slow.
I have come to discover that “easing” into anything means slowly controlling one’s approach. At the beginning of this past April with no idea when I would announce my dissertation defense, I decided to start exercising again. A year after the “Couch to 5K” debacle, I decided to simply start walking. And unlike last year, I felt no compulsion to do anything other than walk. I was changing up my routine, getting outside, and doing something other than worry about my dissertation. After almost a month of simply walking, of “easing” into a new routine, I actually wanted to start running. I wanted a new challenge.
The “Couch to 5K” frustration has surfaced in the last two weeks since submitting my graduate school paperwork and finishing my doctoral program. I have spent weeks and months, especially during this past academic year, rushing through reading and writing, leaving little time for thinking or reflecting. The deadlines loomed large in front of me and having met them, now I get to steer the ship. I am “easing” into a new phase of work and I am uneasy in the transition. I want to be established, have good work habits, and feel settled. Instead, I feel disorganized, unproductive, and undisciplined. The transition phases take time.
I’m staying the course, however, and trying to ease in to the next chapter. I have been able to keep on walking and I have added in yoga. I have started reading again. The last two weeks have felt like slowly and intentionally releasing a clenched fist, relinquishing control of energy and pressure. And with less stress heaped on, “easing” in actually easier than I thought.