Alice is one of those lovely friends who is super sporty. She is an avid (and violent, I hear) hockey player, is constantly entering half marathons, and in a few weekends will do her first triathlon. She's someone who I would term "naturally athletic", and thus a different species from myself who had to cultivate an interest in sports. So when I talk to Alice and she's telling me about her British Military Fitness classes meeting in Wimbledon at 6am, I shudder and think to myself "She's mad!" as I recall hitting the snooze button about 4 times each morning.
But reading Murakami's book made me feel guilty because Murakami is like me. He's a guy who realized he was putting on weight and had to do something about it so he started running. And then he started to like it so he entered races. And in order to get better in his races, he set up a regime of running every day, gradually increasing his distances, refining his technique, improving his pace. He writes about it like it is his own version of zen meditation. Reading his book made me realize that I'm quite literally punking out on my running.
Lately I've been sleeping in, dashing off to work, feeling lethargic all day, and then reluctantly lacing up my kicks at 7pm for a run - which means that once I've done my 3 or 4 miles, stretched, and showered, it's now around 8pm and my evening is relegated to TV on the sofa. I was locking myself into a pattern of resenting running because it kept me from enjoying social activities; I was making choosing to run a sacrifice instead of an intention.
So this week I decided that I needed to stop this pattern and start running before work. I'm privileged enough to live so close to my office that I don't need to leave the house until 9am each morning. Which means I don't have to get up much earlier than at 7am to get a properly good run in. I've avoided morning exercise for so long now because I so enjoy sleeping in, but really, that's just a weakness. Murakami's discipline in his training routine opened my eyes to the fact that I need to make myself do things that may be uncomfortable to get the results I want.
So far this week I've run my entire usual route before work on both Monday and Tuesday, and today I ran half and went to the gym. Tomorrow and Friday I will do the same. I'm going away this weekend for the Bank Holiday, but typical weekends will include a long run of 10k or more on Saturdays and a rest on Sunday. This is new schedule for a new me.
Apparently it takes doing something up to 30 times to make it a habit. I'm not sure I can do it. But each morning this week, when the alarm rang at 7am, I've thought about how nice it is to just go and do the run, wake up mid-stride, and feel really awake once I'm work – with the added bonus of having my entire evening free for all of the things my new job has allowed me the time to rediscover. Though I struggle, and I moan, and frankly I am not a happy nor nice person during the beginning stages, I feel like I have a new lease on life.
Watch this space to see whether this new disciplined phase becomes a habit, or whether I slip into my former (lazy) ways.