How did I go from 4 wheels to 2 heels? This blog post tells the story of how I learned to love running at age 42, after having hated it my whole life. It wasn't exactly my kind of activity: I'd been a street skateboarder for 28 years.
Michael J. Fox and movie magic inspired me and my entire generation. I started skateboarding almost immediately after seeing Back to the Future. But for me, it was more than just a passing fad. As I got into it, I thought, “Skateboarding kicks ass! Why isn’t everybody doing it?”
By 1992, I’m an avid street skater. I’m sponsored by Parisian skate shops and a few U.S. brands. I skate almost every day. I don’t exercise without my wheels. One day, I even had the opportunity to participate in a game show called “Un Pour Tous” on French TV. That night, my challenge was to jump over an obstacle on my skateboard, 6 times under a minute. I felt stressed – sweaty palms and all – but was able to ollie over the 35-inch high wall quite a few times.
In September 1996, I’m done with my studies and I started looking for a job. A few months later, I created a French skateboard magazine with a skateshop owner that had sponsored me. The first issue of Tricks came out in July 1997. I was Chief Editor for 9 years.
>> Fast Forward >>
Shortly after having started working at Withings as a Community Manager, my girlfriend and I went on holiday in Sardinia. After having been away from my board for 3 weeks, I was a little bit anxious about my skateboarding skills. After all, I was about to turn 40 and I had not skated in almost a month…
By the way, my weight graph – always up to date thanks to my Withings scale and to the free Health Mate app (for iOS and Android) – shows the impact of this indulging and inactive vacation: on September 30th, 2013 I weighed 82,1 kg – an all time high for me. Even though that’s not an unhealthy weight for someone who is 6’3″, it didn’t feel right to not engage in any physical activity at all.
Would I retrieve my tricks and my pop after this long break? To learn my fate, I hit the skatepark down the street. So what if I was wearing thin-soled Rivieras-style leisure shoes! But I didn’t just skate it… I thrashed the park. I was ruining my shoes and my body took a pounding as seen in the picture above.
A week later, I started feeling numbness in the left calf and pain in the lower back and buttocks. I was diagnosed with a truncated sciatica – a compression of one of the spinal nerve roots. Luckily, after a few weeks of treatment the symptoms were gone. But a month later, at 5AM, I woke up in such severe pain that my girlfriend had to call the paramedics.
At the hospital, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. After a few weeks of taking opiate-based drugs, the pain was gone. But I could feel that I would never again be able to rely on my back like I did before. This is why from then on, I started skating less often – around once a month.
Early 2013, I’m about to become a father. During my girlfriend’s pregnancy, Doctor Geneviève Delaisi de Parseval, author of many books around pregnancy and parenthood, told me that “Backaches are one of the forms a Couvade syndrome can take“. For those of you who don’t know – and it’s common – the Couvade syndrome is a sympathetic pregnancy men can suffer from when their partner is expecting a baby, and that can translate into various symptoms among which a slight weight gain, appetite changes and… backaches.
In 2014, I’m still a skateboard fanatic but I’m not skating so much anymore. I’m turning into a desk-job-working couch potato, not even trying to reach my daily 10K steps – yes, even though I work at Withings and I’m totally aware of the negative impact this has on health. I do make sure I eat well and not too much. What were my activity options?
- Jogging, great workout but it always seemed boring compared to the explosive, acrobatic moves of street skating.
- Swimming, which offers a full body workout and is kind to the joints. Too bad I’m easily cold and water isn’t my thing.
- Hitting the gym, where I could workout specific muscles. Too bad I just can’t get used to the idea of paying for sports.
- Team sports, where I could enjoy the company of others. But I’m indie to the core and don’t come out of my shell easily
When temperatures started warming up in April, my girlfriend and I decided to start running together from time to time. Just a little. And at a mellow pace. Our first 25-min run felt good – physically and mentally. I was happy to see that I was not completely out of shape, and after the run I enjoyed the feeling of tiredness and the sore thighs. They reminded me of how I felt after a good skate session. And as I’m wearing a Withings Activité Pop, I also enjoyed syncing the data after each run and seeing my stats improve.
After a few joint runs, I felt like I wanted to go further. On Sunday the 24th of May, as my girlfriend was about to throw the towel after the first 5 km lap around the Canal Saint Martin, I asked for her permission to keep on… After all, it was late and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. She kindly agreed.
That day I ran an extra lap and reached a total of 10 km — the first time since my teenage years! I was so proud. My girlfriend even more so. She told me I actually “blew her away” because I had been stuck on my skateboarding-only posture for 30 years.
The following week I started to run on my own, early in the morning – around 6-7AM – twice a week. I loved it.
- The feeling of liveliness that comes with getting your heart pumping
- The feeling of “owning the city” that comes with early morning runs where you stride along empty streets, Vanilla Sky-style
- The feeling of “being one with nature” when you pass buy a few ducks or swans
- The feeling of accomplishment that comes with getting back home before anybody is awake, having already completed 75% of my daily step goal
Looking at my stats in the Health Mate app, I noticed that after a running session, I was a little bit less active, but all in all my weekly step score reached new heights – 50k, 58k, 72k, 50k, 46k, 61k, 69k… Without even realizing it, I’ve increased my activity level and gotten close to an equivalent of the recommended 10k steps/day.
At my level, I also feel like I’m growing wings. The prospect of running a marathon one day no longer seems like a utopia. What a great goal. I intend to prepare myself gradually. As I though about this, I learned that the “10km de l’Équipe” race through the streets of Paris was happening soon. This is how, on June 14th, 2015 at 9:30AM, I ended up entering the race as a beginner (intended for people who usually run that distance in around 50 minutes). On this occasion, I discovered the good spirits of the running community and the festive atmosphere of timed races – people motivate each other, interact with the public, show support when necessary… All of this strengthens my will to participate in other events like this and to win my runner stripes.
Anyway, this is how I learned to love running… By having a way of assessing my real activity level (not just the workouts), and by being pushed to gradually increase it, day after day, week after week.