I had given birth to a child – three children – with many more hours of intense pain than this. I had felt every measurable and immeasurable amount of suffering and it had not broken me. I had endured stitches – s.t.i.t.c.h.e.s. – in the, uh, you know, region without much more than a topical cream for the pain.
So five minutes on the treadmill was not going to kill me.
My pride had already died somewhere over by the machines I’d spent way too long looking at for instructions. Any pretenses I’d carried in about being a “gym person” or even a person on the way to becoming fit had been dropped as I’d stood facing equipment I am sure could cause me great bodily harm.
But I’d also already leapt hurdles in coming. Those three kids I birthed follow me around now. And I’d already been asked to remove one of them from a previous visit because he was, in her words, “done for the day” after throwing shit at younger kids. The definition of deflating? Having someone get you from the locker room while you’re congratulating yourself on sweating to tell you that your self-care has resulted in your offspring beating babies.
I’d come back anyway. And then I’d gotten into an argument with Gabe because we were both feeling a bit out of our elements (and frustrated that this was out of our elements), but I’d resisted the desire to go cry in the bathroom and buy chocolate. I read the diagrams and did some machine work, but felt somewhat disappointed that I didn’t feel as though I’d pushed myself – and that I didn’t really know how one would push themselves in this context. Still, I felt satisfied to have tried so I stepped onto the treadmill.
I should note here that I have run before. Thanks to a particularly passionate neighbor friend I even did a 5k (I ran the damn thing, okay? I did not walk it. I wanted to puke my muscles out). But it’s been a while and my body is not what it was 4 years and 2 babies ago. So my goal in this area is just to be able to run for like 30 minutes without walking. I want to strengthen my heart and build some endurance. That’s all. I don’t want to run a marathon – or even a 5k. Right now running nonstop for any length of time is hard enough.
I did some intervals, more walking than running, and noticed my time was going to be up in 6 minutes. I decided to take the last five to run hard – I would pump it up to the highest level I felt was safe and I would just go for it in those last five minutes. I would prove to myself that I could push it, show myself that I still had some of whatever it was that allowed me to bring three amazing children into the world (even the punk), give myself something to top later… Five measly minutes became my mountain.
Almost immediately I felt a side cramp, but I kept running. I knew it would be so easy to flick the numbers down, but I kept running. Nobody would know the difference if I walked the last few minutes, but I kept running. I ran with my babies in view, waving wildly to their momma. I ran knowing that I was so far from where I wanted to be physically, but that I didn’t have to stay there. I ran to slides of my future self on the floor with my great-grandkids, seeing parts of the world you can only see after a hike, being able to remember this time now.
I ran panting air through a big, cheesey, earned-this grin while I watched the last minute fade.