Fitness Goals for the Athletically Challenged

View of Valentine’s Meadow on one of my favorite running routes.

For those who know me, the word “athletic” would certainly not come to mind if asked to describe me. I’ve always loved the outdoors and recreational activities like horseback riding, swimming, and kayaking, but never participated in any competitive organized sports. Despite not being gifted in the area of hand-eye coordination, I possess other strengths and came to accept that athleticism was not one of them. That is until I decided to start running. I came to the conclusion that I should try running about two years ago, after hearing person after person tout its magical impacts on both physical and mental health. “Running is the best stress reliever” or “You’ll never experience anything like a runner’s high” they would say. I hoped that running would be a feasible activity (given my incoordination) that I could fit into my busy pre-veterinary student schedule to alleviate school-related stress and anxiety as well as improve my physical fitness. Mental health is a huge topic of concern in the field of veterinary medicine, and I hoped that taking proactive measures to establish a consistent self-care routine would place myself ahead of the curve. Given my interests in pursuing exotic or large animal medicine, I figured it also wouldn’t hurt to be physically prepared for the rigors of fieldwork.

In the beginning, I doubted that I would ever experience these alleged benefits. I dreaded running and had to force myself to keep going every minute that I ran. Various body parts would hurt, and I would consult friends and running experts via Google to determine that I needed new shoes or that my form was off.  After a lot of trial and error, persistence, and assorted aches and pains, I finally began to enjoy running. As my mileage increased and runs became easier, I was finally able to focus less on the physical aspect and allow my mind to wander into introspection, which has been incredibly cathartic. Many people admit that running is how they confront their demons and I’d be inclined to say the same.

Sensing I had reached a personal milestone, I felt it appropriate to set a new goal to work towards. That’s when I somehow came up with the crazy idea of tackling my first half marathon. Currently, I’m still at the beginning stages of my training, but a couple of weeks ago I ran my longest distance yet, 7 miles, for the first time. For the girl who couldn’t run a mile at the start of this journey, I’m shocked that I accomplished something that I thought I would never be able to do at all, much less enjoy. It turns out that the biggest gain I’ve experienced from running was not stress relief or getting in shape (although I have definitely benefited from both), but the conviction to stop limiting myself to what I believe is realistic or possible. Had I resigned to the fact that I might never be capable of or enjoy running, I wouldn’t have even tried it in the first place. By opening my mind to new possibilities, finding motivation, and being patient with my mind and body along the way, I was able to achieve the impossible.