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The Beauty of a Shower (More Running Musings)
cap, captain miss america

I always say that a shower is for me what a cup of coffee is to other people– it wakes me up, it gets me going. I’m never truly awake until I’ve showered, and if I can’t shower some morning, it throws off my whole day. I’m cranky, agitated; I feel dirt crawling on my skin. Never mind the fact that my hair is almost impossible if I don’t wet it down and condition it heavily every morning.

So, beginning to run marked the first time in my life probably since I hit puberty and started to have to shower every day that I got up and did things in the morning, regularly, without showering first.

I get up. I put on my running clothes. I drink a glass of water. I go to the track, I run my 5k, I come home. I eat breakfast: yogurt and granola, sometimes with honey or fruit. A glass of water or lemonade. Then, and only then do I shower.

It’s changed my routine on days when I don’t run, too. I get up, I do my yoga while still wearing my pajamas. I eat the same breakfast and dawdle over email, since I always have more time on these mornings. Then I shower.

The thing is, it changes the experience of stepping under that spigot of hot water. I no longer feel like I’m half-asleep, like I need the sensation of droplets beating against my back to wake me up: I’m already awake. Instead, I can feel just exactly how the heat and the pressure and the moisture interacts with my skin and my muscles: loosening tightness, making me feel more free. I can feel the sweat washing away; I can tell the difference in the way my body reacts to things pre- and post-shower.

Is it a little weird to wax poetic about the difference in a single mundane experience when a routine changes? Maybe. But it is such a little, common thing, that the way it has changed is astounding to me; I never imagined that it could change in quite that way.

There are a few other things I’ve noticed. Today, at my parents, I weighed myself for the first time in a few weeks. In spite of everyone saying I look skinnier, my weight has actually increased about three pounds since the last time I weighed myself. I’m also noticing more difficulty in getting pants (which I barely wear in the summer; I am much more of a skirt person and only put on pants when the weather cools and demands it) to fit around my thighs. Three pounds is hardly enough weight gain for it to be noticeable on someone completely average in size like myself, but it tells me that running is having an effect, a noticeable, quantifiable effect on my body.

I’ve run 5k six times now. The run is next Saturday and I am confident that I am prepared for it. I will be reminding you all again that you can donate money to Run for Congo Women through my team here or through me individually here, but you can go do it right now if you would like to. It lets you donate even little amounts like $2.50 so give what you can.

I’va also decided that I like the way I feel, knowing that I am fit and active and not at risk of becoming a WALL-E like sedentary blob of humanity, my bones and muscles deteriorating from all the time spent typing letters into a computer. I intend to keep running once the run is over, maybe not 5k every day but probably 3k, which is a little under 2 miles.

One thing I keep thinking about is my high school physical education experience. I think the largest contributing factor to my not working out, to my not keeping physically fit over the years was the lack of a positive phys ed experience. I don’t think it was a bad experience by any means but it was targeted largely at getting us to hit fitness milestones required by the state, and not so much at giving us a set of good fitness habits we could carry with us. Not like English, where I learned to self-edit and take criticism well, not like History, where I learned to debate with consideration for another viewpoint. Not like Science, where I learned organization and methods.

One thing we did in Phys Ed class from time to time was run a mile. I remember running that mile, the way I would be out of breath, anguished, in agony by the time the first lap was over, the way it seemed interminable and excruciating, like every step was a chore. I think about that, and compare it to my experience now, where I can, at my current pace, only having worked on this for about a month exactly, run close to twice that before I start to feel like running is hard work. I am lucky in that I have a body that works well, that does what I tell it, even when I haven’t always been a very good caretaker. I am surprised, pleasantly surprised, that my body has responded as well as it has, but it has also taught me something:

Running is not as hard as it seemed when I was a teenager.

I have no doubt that my seventeen-year-old body, if I had pushed it to be a better athlete, would have responded better than my 32-year-old body. And yet, no matter how many times I was sent out to the track and told to run a mile, it was a torturous experience. I never improved, never got better, never had the moments like the ones I have been having so often lately, where I realize that I can do this, and maybe more. And it is leaving me wondering why that is. Why, at a point in my life when I should have been able to excel at this, given the appropriate measure of commitment, could I barely manage to succeed?

I started thinking about how the mile run was handled in my Phys Ed classes, and how we were basically turned loose on the track, and told to run (after some stretching). We weren’t given advice or tips, but more importantly– and this is the place where my experience now differs the most– we were never told to go out and run a lap. We weren’t told to work up to a mile, to practice doing one lap until we were comfortable doing that much and didn’t feel like we were out of breath or in pain by the end of it. To them more to two laps. To conquer the half-mile or even the quarter-mile and have a strong sense of our own success at that before being told to run a full mile. And yes, there will always be some people who really can’t do more than a half-mile or a quarter-mile because of health or ability factors outside of their control, but for kids like me, we would have been able to lift barriers to our success at fitness that should not have existed to begin with.

I can now consistently run three miles. I can consistently run about one and three-quarters before I start feeling much of an effect on my body. If you had told me that at sixteen, that at twice my age, I would be able to run three times what I could run then, I would not have believed it. And while I’m proud of myself now, I can’t help feeling that it is a shame that I was unable to really have confidence in my ability then.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

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(Deleted comment)
Aww! But no, I don't even remember the last time I took a bath. Thank you, though <3

We would never run unless we were trying to demonstrate that we could run a mile, which happened about once a year. I was pretty fit in high school, and I jogged occasionally, but I wouldn't even try because I knew I wouldn't make what was considered the healthy time.

I am sorry I cannot see you race!

That's how my school was; we would run for like two weeks and it was the "running unit." It was freaking painful.

Next weekend after the run I am coming up here again and going to the Durham Fair! Maybe you can come too.

Surprise of surprises, but I couldn't run the whole mile out the gate, either. I guess it's nice to see that more than just my local PE classes had that going for them.

Gad, but I hated PE.

I hated all of PE except for badminton, which I was mysteriously phenomenal at. Our PE class had a "points" system where if you gained a certain number of points for participation or exceptional performance, you could get a free day. I always got so many points in badminton that I would get at least one free day.

You've run a 5k 6 times!!! WOW. I am so amazed by you. Seriously!

Thanks so much! Yes, I have, and I will do it again tomorrow. Then Monday is Break Day, Tues & Wed I run again, Thurs is Break Day, Friday I run and Saturday is the official Run Day.

I can only think of one PE teacher who actually taught. After a bunch of us flunked the mile, he had us run it again, leaving nobody behind, without stopping. Everyone who had passed was told to sit in the stands and cheer. That was the only time I got a lesson in how to run. I have all kinds of PE horror stories but that's a whole other topic.

I had a pretty good PE teacher in middle school-- I remember her really encouraging me to go out for Field Hockey, which was surprising because I had never been considered good at any sports. But that year, she didn't have enough girls to field a team, so I didn't get to play. When I got to high school, the PE teacher spent most of her time gossiping and showing off her fingernails.

It's so weird. They treat running like it's something people should just be able to do on demand, but it so isn't.

I can relate to the shower thing completely. Changes of routine are really a big deal to me. It's probably the ASD or something. So I really notice how things feel and seem different when I change their order or how I do them, and I think it's a way to experience life fully.

I remember having to run a mile in Jr. high on a dirt track with my bad asthma. It was awful. I think I half walked and h alf ran it and it took 15 minutes and I was wheezing by the end. I can't run now, my knee gives out after the surgery I had to reconstruct it, but I do love to walk and try to be active.

Good luck on the run.

I hated Phys Ed ever since Jr. High when I had a gym teacher who picked on anyone who wasn't athletic. If you were a shy kid with self-esteem issues (which I imagine is a lot of Jr. High kids) this made gym horrible. If you were having trouble keeping up with the other kids you would be singled out and mocked during class. I think this was his idea of "including" the quiet kids. My mother never liked him and called him a jerk but I was still in that class all three years of Jr. High.

I couldn't run or do anything involving endurance and this mean I got picked on a lot. A big part of the year was spent outside and whenever we played a sport (or did that hideous running unit) we did at least one lap around the field (laps were a huge part of gym and most classes started with them as a warm-up, even indoor units). I was never big into sports but I spent years in swimming lessons, so it's not like I was completely non-athletic.

Lots of sports involve running, so even when I was playing soccer in class it was difficult. The ones who were on teams outside of class would dominate the game and were much rougher than those of us who didn't even know the rules of the games. I hated it and felt the whole burden was on me to improve, so I'm glad you shared your gym experiences with us.

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