Are you a fan of cardiovascular exercise? While I would love to say “yes,” to be honest, I abhor the feeling of being out of breath, which makes it hard to wholeheartedly embrace cardio. Recently, I went on a hike to the Blue Hills Reservation with an outdoors group (more here). On that trip, someone was recounting his experience completing a 15-mile hike in one day! I was exhilarated yet tired from our mere 5-mile hike and following that experience, I decided that I would like to get in better physical shape to complete longer hikes. So, in an effort to follow through on my goals, I have decided to start jogging again.
I used to jog a lot, run even, and I was actually kind of fast. I would wake up at around 5 in the morning and either start my jog or be at the gym before 6am. Exercise simultaneously made me feel energized and exhausted. I was serious about this lifestyle for about two years, but then I graduated from my master’s program, lost access to the state-of-the-art gym, and slowly began to exercise less and less. This all changed at the beginning of 2020, when I decided that I wanted to run a half-marathon. I got back into a jogging routine and was making great progress, when… the pandemic struck, the half marathon was cancelled, and I quit jogging cold turkey.
About six months later without more than a brief sprint here and there to catch public transportation, I decided to start jogging again, and, boy, was it challenging.
I don’t normally mull over the effects of gravity on the human body. However, as I started my jog, I wondered why my legs felt leaden. I often walk around the neighborhood with ankle weights and when I free myself from this 8lb burden to run an errand, I feel positively light. Yet, when I slowly broke into a light jog for the first time in half a year, my legs felt like anchors pulling me down to the ground. Going uphill slowed me to no more than a fast walk and going downhill felt like an all-too-short reprieve. Each vertebra in my spinal cord felt like it was being forced toward my pelvis with every thump of my foot onto the pavement. I tried hard to straighten my shoulders and neck, and lift my chin, but gravity thwarted my efforts. It was as if, to conserve energy, my body decided that I should bring all body parts close to my heart, lest the whole circulatory system give out.
For all of my bodily complaints, at least I did not feel so out of breath. Perhaps this was only because I was jogging much slower than my former average pace. However, I also like to think that jogging is like riding a bike. Your body doesn’t forget how to jog and the more you do it, the easier it becomes even with big gaps of inactivity in between.
After a few miles, I made it! While I did not go anywhere near as fast or as long as I did over half a year ago, the simple act of planning to jog and actually doing it was a critical first step.
When I woke up the next morning, I was sore in very many places. Because I completed the hike and jog within a few days of each other, I am unsure from where the bulk of the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) stemmed. It was the good kind of “sore” though. The type of soreness that accompanies a workout well done. But to be able to hike more, do more, and breathe most deeply, this first jog must only be the beginning. There will be more jogs in my future…excuse me while I catch my breath.