Our blogger is trying for a personal best in an upcoming 5K. She’s on the path, making progress, and sharing her stats, but she’s flat-out terrified she won’t achieve her goal. If you can relate, read on.
Until recently, if friends told me they’d pulled a muscle while exercising, I’d say, “Gee that’s too bad, but the thing is, if you don’t have muscles, you don’t have muscle pain.”
When I delivered this witty observation, I’d smile smugly and gesture to myself. And it was funny because it was true. I used to be a dancer, then I was on the varsity swim team in high school, and once I hit college, I let exercise take an extended holiday. I told people, “I only run if chased by a bear,” and the only time I got my heart rate up was performing on stage.
Flash way forward, and I’m now a mom, work full time, and do at least one 5K every year. All the 5K races I do benefit a worthy charity, and my favorite one is a Halloween-themed 5K in Hoboken, NJ that helps raise funds for the homeless. It’s coming up soon, Withings is an official sponsor for the first time, and you can read a whole article I wrote about it here: Why the HoBOOken 5k Is a Scary Good Race.
For every 5K my only goal has been “no walking.” Now to you, dear reader, that doesn’t seem very impressive. But for me? That’s huge. Every year I need to train to get into “no walking” shape. And I’m proud to say that for all the races I’ve done—I’ve never walked.
But the truth is that I’ve run so slowly that it’s hilarious to any reasonably fit person. My personal best for a 5K was 36 minutes many years ago. I usually cross the finish line in 38-40 minutes, and because of the pandemic, the last in-person 5K I ran was in 2019. Pictured above is me in my costume before the race, and the chip in the bib clocked me at 45 minutes. For perspective, many websites state that to walk a 5K takes 45-60 minutes. Oh that burned, I tell ya, but it motivated me.
Setting goals is scary
After reading that sobering average about 5K walking time, I vowed to do better, so I set a goal to run a 5K in 30 minutes before my next birthday, which gives me another 9 months. Attainable, but also a huge stretch goal.
This goal is scary because I need to face the possibility of failing. Did I mention my only goal when I was on the swim team was “don’t be last”? I pushed myself very hard to not be last, and it worked every time. I joke that if there were a medal for not being last, I’d have taken gold.
Moving in the right direction
To help with my 5K goal, I kicked up my daily activity. Walking, planks, lots of swimming, and basically making sure I moved more every day… along with a bit of running, it has combined to show real progress. What progress? Check it out:
First there’s my Fitness Level, a metric which is scored between 17 and 60. In 2018 I got 25, which is better than only 10% of women my age. In October 2019, my last 5K, it was at 27, or better than only 20% of women my age. Both of these scores are in the “low” range. Today? I’m a 32—considered “fair” and better than 50% of women my age.
Then, I lost weight. I like myself at any weight, and I rarely eat junk, but moving more just made me think about my choices. Nothing is off the table, and I’m not going to bore you with my epic salads or masterful overnight oats, but losing weight has helped me go faster. Currently I’m down more than 25 pounds since my last 5K.
No muscle memory
I was feeling pretty good about my progress towards the 5K goal—especially because the extra activity lifted my mood. But then one day I was in the shower and felt a lump on the top of my leg. I was horrified, and for a brief moment, my first thought was, “OMG! I have thigh cancer!” Then I realized, no, wait… it’s…a muscle? Whoa. I honestly hadn’t felt anything hard in my legs in years. It’s quite exciting to renovate this old bod and build new muscles. (Oh and the dip in muscle mass recently was going to Paris for work and no pool. I’ll get back to it ASAP!)
As for the 30-minute mark, I thought maybe I’d be able to do it by the Halloween 5K. But now I’m nervous as I fear I haven’t trained enough. Sometimes I’m a 9.5 minute mile, and sometimes (OK, often) more.
I shared my anxiety with a Withings colleague. He’s an incredible runner and basically The Flash. He’d done the Paris marathon the day before, and he told me I should believe in myself. He said, if I believe it, I can do it.
I’ve decided I’m going to try to believe. And this year I’m also going to wear a costume that won’t slow me down. My full body monster was funny, but it was like trying to run wearing a duvet on my head.
But just in case I don’t make it, or to beat whatever time I get on Halloween, I’ve decided to also sign up for a Turkey Trot 5K next month. Why? Because an object at rest (me) tends to remain at rest. Muscle only grows after being stressed, and I’ve found that having a goal is stressful in a good way. Apparently, I’m not the first to have realized this. There’s even a word for it: eustress. Coined by an endocrinologist, it means good stress, the kind you respond to with “a sense of meaning, hope, or vigor.”
So heck yeah. I’m psyched to put on my costume, lace up my sneakers, and take my panic, jitters, dread, and dismay to the Halloween 5K. My meaning is running for a good cause, my hope is I’m going to blast through my 2019 time, and my vigor is packed: I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway.