The malleable me

I started running on a very cold morning in February of 2004. I had been hearing about running from a friend at the lab where I worked. He was an avid runner, and so was the blood bank supervisor. They both suggested running as a way to get back in shape. ‘Cause, boy, I was out of shape.

I was out of shape because I had spent most of the winter feeling sorry for myself. See, I had ended a relationship the previous September. (Interestingly enough, we broke up on the day that Hurricane Isabel came through.) So I fell into a bad mood that kept me away from playing soccer and going out for hikes. I did nothing but eat and work and sleep and eat and eat some more. I gained a lot of weight.

That cold February morning, with snow on the ground, I decided that it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get out and do something that would help me feel better and, eventually, look better. So I went out and jogged… And then I walked. It took me about 40 minutes to do two miles, so I didn’t really jog as much as walked. The next day, I tried it again and did two miles in 38 minutes. One week later, and thanks to the very structured “Couch to 5k” running program, I had cut down my two-mile time to 30 minutes. I was slow, but I was not too slow.

Of course, things have happened between then and now, and I found myself fat and slow again at the end of this last winter. As soon as the weather started getting better, the dog and I set out to get “back in the game.”

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I’m noticing things that I noticed back in 2004, and, though I’m not surprised to see them, I’m still in amazement over them. I’m amazed at how I get faster and faster as the days go on. I’m amazed that I’m not as sore anymore as I am when I don’t run for a whole week. And I’m amazed that I’m not as winded.

Several things happen in the body that is adapting. At the very molecular level, the muscles in my body switch from fast-twitch to slow-twitch, making them more adapted to long distance runs instead of sprints. The cells in my muscles create more mitochondria, structures that use energy more efficiently. Proteins are then produced to help clear out the waste materials faster. My lungs and heart create new blood vessels to better distribute blood and take away the waste. The kidneys become better at not clearing out fluids so easily.

Those and many more things will happen.

And, through all that time, I have to be patient in waiting for the adaptations to happen. They’re not going to happen overnight, or even over a week. They’re going to take some time. It wasn’t until November 2005 that I ran my first (and only so far) marathon. I’m definitely not running a marathon any time soon.

So, for now, I suggest patient.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen