The running gloom

Weekend mornings are meant for sleeping in. No screeching alarms, no scrambling for the bus, no morning commute. On Saturdays and Sundays, my hard-working husband and I are afforded the freedom of a few extra minutes of slumber. In theory.

In reality, we usually wake up with a toddler-sleep-schedule hangover and long list of events and errands that make our weekdays seem like siestas.

My first waking thoughts of the weekend usually go like this: It’s Saturday. No school today! I can sleep in. The only thing on the docket is that birthday party this afternoon. The gift is wrapped and it’s a drop-off party! Yes. Oh, doesn’t my husband have that coaching kick-off for both girls’ soccer teams? But that’s not until 10. There’s time for coffee. Oooh, I didn’t get groceries yesterday. I’ll have to grab groceries. And dry-cleaning. And the specialty dog food I can only get at the vet, which closes at noon on Saturdays. And the Mother’s Day Run is just two weeks away, I absolutely have to run today. What time is it? It’s 7:30?! Dammit. I’m late. 

Almost every day, but especially during those precious weekend hours, I have to mine through my list of things-to-do and determine the tasks that really need doing, and those that I could probably do without. Usually, running is all too easily cut from the list. (The other day I actually chose to go to Costco in southwest Calgary on a Saturday instead of tackling my scheduled 5k, which means I’m not just lazy but totally insane.)

I approach the ‘obligation’ to run like a petulant child, as if I’ve just been told to clean my messy room. (Which reminds me, I really need to tell my daughter to clean her messy room.)

Sometimes, the weather is just too nice to run a five-kilometer circle around my friendly neighborhood. It’s just too invigorating to run my personal best. My thoughts are just too uninterrupted. My playlist is just too funky. (If you don’t have Dolly Parton and The Weeknd on your running playlist, you’re doing it wrong.)

I’m not sure why I have such a poor attitude towards something that no one is forcing me to do, and something that actually makes me feel terrific, but this is my process. I don’t always make sense. (Let it go, darling husband.)

I also hate to complain about how demanding our schedule is: birthday parties, soccer practice, gargantuan packs of paper towel sold in bulk, poor me. Believe me, I know we’re lucky. We have our challenges, and while finding some leisure time for running seems very much like a luxury, it’s also an important part of our self-care.

So I did get out for a run this weekend. There may have been pouting and stomping as I warmed up my weary legs. I may have cursed the chilly north winds for winding their way down my running jacket. I may have mourned for the minutes lost to running that I could have used for a more productive task. But I did it. I ran. And it felt great.

I’ll just have to pick up the dry-cleaning another day.

Fool me once, thank you.

Whenever I don’t want to do something I probably should (exercise) I usually enter into a game of self-deception.

I’m a master at self-deception. It’s a survival skill, actually, like making fire or navigating the grocery store on time, on budget and without losing more than one kid in the candy aisle.

When life’s events get a little sticky, my inner dialogue adopts a very self-serving and self-soothing tone in an effort to make it all manageable.

Example:

“OMG! Was that peppercorn stuck my teeth during the entire parent / teacher meeting?”

“No, no. And even so, Ms. Smith wouldn’t have noticed, anyway. You’re perfect. Nice ass.”

I know that exercise is good for me. It makes me feel strong, proud and free, like how I imagine most Americans must feel. It’s my Fourth of July.

But those rewards come only after the experience of exercising. Beforehand, I feel cynical, petulant and utterly resentful.

(Who decided physical activity was good for you, anyway? Damn you, Hal and Joanne.)

But it’s something I must do for my health, my sanity and my street cred (as a Suburbanite). So when it’s time to get off my tush and go for a light run, I play a little mind game with myself.

I’ll just put on these running pants because they’re comfortable. I’m not going running, just making an innocent wardrobe choice.

Oh, look. My iPod is charged. I’ll just clip this to my running jacket, for the hell of it.

Hmmm, I wonder if my running shoes still fit. Let’s just try them on and see.

Ok, I’m just going outside to do nothing in particular. I may or may not be gone for precisely 30 minutes.

Once I’m in motion, I always enjoy myself. I’m not training for a marathon, here, but the fact that I can tackle 5K every now and then is a huge (and recent) accomplishment for me.

So I’m going to keep on manipulating myself for the good of myself.

Besides, it feels good to know that I actually have some influence on a member of my household, even if that person is… me.

Let me eat cake.

Over Christmas, I allowed myself to indulge. In fact, I revelled in it.

I spent the month of November training and toning and tallying my calories (to a certain extent) in preparation for an all-out, guilt-free Christmas and New Years carb fest extravaganza. When I made it to first week of January with minimal damage to my waistline, I had my pre-Christmas diligence to thank.

However. New Years turned into long weekends turned into Super Bowl turned into Valentine’s Day and now, sitting beside me as I type is a seductive vanilla buttercream birthday cake.

I knew I was losing my grip last night when I said to my husband, “Would a two-year-old even know there was a piece missing from her cake when she blows out the candles?”

It’s not that I’m scared of a small piece of birthday cake. I’m happy with the balance my husband and I have struck with our eating, exercising and indulging. We’ve adjusted our lives in the last year so that we can guiltlessly enjoy birthday cake or pizza or wine on occasion, while eating balanced meals and regularly exercising the remainder of the time.

But when you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, saying yes to a small piece of cake can be terrifying. Because sometimes I don’t want just a small piece of cake. I want the entire thing.

What worries me more than an expanding waistline (which by all accounts is in my head and not evident on my scale) is the roller-coaster of emotions associated with eating “bad.”

I don’t want to think about eating “good” or “bad” and I don’t want my precious daughters – who will never have any body issues if I have to throw myself in front of a train to make God damned sure of that – to see me struggle.

So when my two-year-old blows out her candles this afternoon I will savour every delicious bite. I’ve earned that and it means more to my family that we all enjoy this birthday together than for me to concern myself with a couple extra calories.

And I’ll also submit that registration for a 5K in May.

As Oscar Wilde may or may not have said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation. And buttercream.”

Hope

Like many others, my family has been affected by breast cancer. We have participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure almost every other year since 2000. It’s an emotional, inspiring day and this year was my first year as a runner.

In the past, I chose to walk the race route along with my siblings, cousins, husband and friends. After our very first event in 2000, we gathered at our uncle’s house for pizza and beer to honour his dearly missed wife, my mother’s youngest sister.

Since her passing, my father lost his mother to breast cancer in 2004 and his only sister in 2006. My sister-in-law has been in remission for over five years. My aunt for over twelve years. My husband’s aunt for almost two.

What this day means to everyone involved would be impossible for me to articulate, so I won’t even try. My younger sister and I ran alongside each other, weaving through bibs decorated with the names of mothers, grandmothers, daughters, wives, sisters and friends.

When I crossed the finish line after my first 5k ‘race’ ever, my husband and three daughters were cheering in the crowd.

It was surreal, not only to have come so far with my own health but to celebrate it at an event like the Run for the Cure.

It was a good day.