Three years ago, I began my journey of physical improvement when I moved to China and enrolled in a martial arts school for one year. And for those who don’t know me, I love martial arts, but if there’s one thing I wasn’t ready for it was to run every day.
I ran five times a week, twice a day, and here’s what happened: I still hated running and I still felt tired!
Now, fast-forward three years later, my year in China ended and I continued to practice several sports, but I never ran again. And recently, I decided that running was going to be the first physical activity I was going to do after a three-month halt from all sports.
What did I get myself into? I thought!
Before I did it, I was looking for motivation, and I came across several articles that said: I ran x times a week and wonders happened, I got faster, it got easier, my cardio got better… and unicorns appeared from the bushes to congratulate me for being so fantastic!
All the fitness bloggers seem to sell the nonsense of how wonderful consistency is, but nobody ever talks about when the progress we were expecting doesn’t happen.
At my martial arts academy, running was part of the daily routine. We would run in the morning and in the afternoon, five times a week. And yet, at the end of the year, I still found it very difficult to run every day.
Is it because I am less spectacular than the others? Is there something wrong with me? Do I have a serious problem? Maybe yes or maybe no. But maybe running isn’t for everyone and that doesn’t make us any less physically apt.
We just have to find something that is more enjoyable for us.
In the beginning of my martial arts year, every time I run, I was hit by little chest prickles just a few minutes after I started, and my throat would burn as if I had just swallowed pure vodka. Obviously, after a few months my chest and throat got a little bit better, but my calves kept complaining every time my feet hit the concrete. And at the end of the year, I kept dragging the dead weight of my body, day after day, just to make it to the finish line.
But I never gave up running.
A lot of students at the academy, who didn’t like to run, pretended to have injuries so they could avoid it. And at one point, François (a real-life character from the Portuguese memoir “Shaolin Chronicles”) came to me, when I was indeed injured, asking me if I had stopped running. I informed him of my injury and that I would go back to running next week. “Well, you are the only one of the old students who is still running,” he replied. “You need to represent us.”
That reply struck me. Why in the hell, me, who had always preached against running, had to be the one representing those who had given up?
But I must admit I tried for a long time. I tried to keep up with the others, at the expense of my own emotional well-being. Because I felt discouraged when I couldn’t. Until I gave up. I didn’t give up running, but I gave up bringing me down.
From that moment on I stopped worrying about the fact that I was always the last (the very last) to reach the finish line. I stopped worrying about when the others would surpass me mid-lap. What mattered to me was that I, unlike many, showed up and did my best at a level I was comfortable with. And from that moment on I started being kinder to myself.
I didn’t improve my physical condition drastically, but I started enjoying the journey a little bit more.
So, for all the others who, like me, can’t be as great as all of those fitness bloggers, I say: it’s okay. What matters is to show up every day to practice. And, maybe running will never be for you. For example, I can’t run more than one minute in a row, but I’m able to spend an hour jumping up and down in a body combat or kickboxing class, because martial arts are something I love.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re not able to run, and instead go dancing or swimming or go ride a bike, because we don’t all need to reach the same physical condition in the same way. Just because your favourite fitness Instagrammer tells you to run, doesn’t mean you have to be like her and like it too.
Look for your own passion!
But if your goal really is to start running, then mark consistency as your goal instead of growing a passion for it or running fast, or even not feeling any pain. Because maybe after a year, you’ll still feel pain, just like I did, but that doesn’t mean you’re not getting better. More importantly, try to create some playlist that motivates you the most, or go without music and tune your mind and body.
Find what’s good for you, but above all be gentle with yourself, because consistency is something to be proud of, the rest comes later.