And so I ran...

One week ago some people at my company started a Biggest Loser competition.  I'd been feeling like I should lose weight, after all it was becoming impossible to button my dress shirts around my ever growing belly.  After two years or so, I'd finally managed to gain back every pound I'd shed in my original SkinnyMike project.

I pulled out my old, self-invented playbook: drink only water and other calorie free beverages, at least 50% of every meal is fruits and veggies, no fried food or junk food. No calorie counting. No thoughts about portion.  Just eat good things until my hunger is satisfied.

One week later (that's yesterday) I was down 12.6 pounds for 4.67% of my body weight gone. My diet works, at least for me.

If I'm going to lose weight, I may as well try to be healthy.  In previous SkinnyMike efforts Wii Fit has been my weapon of choice.  Now with the girls so much bigger, and the living room a bit more furnitured it's just enough work to get set up that I won't do it reliably.  I needed another solution.

Enter Reddit.  Every so often someone posts their success with the Couch to 5k program.  This is a program designed to take people with absolutely no exercise conditioning and take them to running 5 kilometers in 9 weeks.  I certainly have no fitness level right now, and previous attempts to pick up running have left me tired, sore, winded and feeling defeated.  I'm a big boy.

My concern with Couch to 5k was the complexity.  It's a program will you alternate between walking and running for different intervals.  It's hard enough for me to run.  Trying to run while watching the time and remembering what the intervals are is just too much.  Enter the C25K app for iPhone/iPod Touch.

It's easier for me to stick to something I don't want to do if there a chance to get my geek on.  Here's an app that runs on the iPhone and tells you when to walk, run, turn back, etc.  It pulls music from your library and overlays a voiceover with the right information at the right time.  All the while it uses the GPS to track your time, speed, distance and even map your route.

It was worth trying to run just to see how this works.

So, I bought an armband for my iPhone from Amazon.  It arrived Friday and this morning I went for a run, not really sure what to expect.  Week one of Couch to 5k calls for a 5 minute "brisk" warm-up walk, alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes and then 5 minutes of cool-down walking. I was afraid that would be out of my league.

I can walk almost endlessly.  Despite my weight and lack of exercise, I am still gifted with reasonable cardiovascular potential via my heredity.  My dad is a natural and accomplished athlete, and somewhere underneath my oh-so-comfortable exterior there's an athlete in me too.

With iPhone strapped to my arm, GPS light reading green, I touched start.  There was a tone, and then a pleasant sounding British woman said start walking.  I did and the Marvelous 3 started to play one of my favorite songs.  I walked as quickly as I could without changing over to a jog.  Just as I was really starting to groove, I heard a tone and the nice British woman said "Run!"  So I did.

What next was strange.  The air was brisk and the sky was clear.  With the wind in my face I felt exhilaration.  I was having fun exercising–which is something I never do.  Every minute of Wii Fit was work.  My brief attempt a Titus felt like torture, and like I was a horrible failure.  Here there was just me, a beautiful day and my music.  I was told to walk before I was ready, but I complied.  The next time I ran, my legs screamed for me to stop about 2 seconds before I was told to walk.  The third time I ran, something snapped in my mind.  All my stress fell away–I could visualize it on the road behind me, unable to match my pace.  All the deadlines, pressures, expectations, projects, problems and pitfalls that walk with me every minute of my life feel away.  I felt free.  I felt relaxed. I felt like there was just me and the road.

For the first time in my life I understand why people run.  Ultimately, I have great detail about how horrible my run was.  I managed a meager 2.1 miles in 30 minutes at a pitiful running pace of 11:10 per mile and a walking pace of 16:43 per mile.  It didn't matter.  I ran every single second I was supposed to.  I didn't quit.

A simple run was one of the most powerful experiences in my life.