17 June 2009

Breaking Free Of The Hamster Wheel.

There's a mini-heatwave rolling through the Kansas City metro area, with highs hovering in the mid-90s. Which in itself isn't so bad, but add the notorious Midwest humidity factor and heat index in there and it's around 105. It should only last until the end of the week (and even resulted in a pretty spectacular thunderstorm a couple of nights ago that had me staring in awe at the sky from my living room window), but it's made me kinda glad I work in the cool confines of a hospital. A brief walk outside earlier today confirmed the temperature; the heat was almost visible steaming up from the asphalt driveway outside the Emergency Department. So ... I won't be going jogging until the sun has at least started to set and I'm sure my cross-trainers aren't gonna melt upon contact with the sidewalk.

I used to hate running outside. I preferred the easy pace and gentle slopes of the gym treadmill; there was almost always something halfway-interesting to watch on the television above, or I could always zone out with whatever was in my iPod. It was enjoyable, and I ran my miles without a second thought alongside my fellow joggers arranged in orderly rows.

But then I started getting bored. Mostly bored of the constant scenery -- I stared at the computer long enough at school and at home; why glue my eyes on yet another monitor during my run? To a lesser extent, I also became tired of the treadmill itself, with the red digits ticking away the minutes and mileage. I found myself glancing down at the display more often than I should have; doing so made the time creep by that much slower and my distance goal that much farther. At times, I almost felt like a hamster. A sweaty, jogging hamster.

The first time I tried running outside I damn near passed out. Being so used to the even, relatively soft surface of treadmill rubber, my feet instantly let me know of their displeasure with concrete and asphalt after a few hundred feet from my house. Ignoring their protests, I soldiered on and began learning to adapt to the new, harsher terrain. It wasn't much longer before I started running out of breath. I just wasn't accustomed to the changing slopes and hills of the neighborhood, and I was unfamiliar with having to constantly adjust my stride to match the path I'd picked out. Needless to say I wore out pretty fast and ended up running considerably less than my usual treadmill mileage. Nooooob!

But it was a start. And it did feel good to have a change of scenery and fresh air. My body adapted fairly quickly to exercising in the new environment, and now I like running outside better than the hamster wheel. I think I get a better workout jogging actual blocks, and counting off actual miles. Obviously when it gets too cold to run outside, I'll retreat to the gym and the treadmill, but for now, hey ... it's too nice out.

I'm starting to train for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure 5K here in Kansas City, happening in early August (which was the inspiration for this post). If you're not a runner, there's a non-competitive run/walk event scheduled on the same day -- which is what I'll be entering as part of a team we formed here at the hospital. If you live in KC, come through! Let's go running :)

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