It’s How the Race Was Run…

Lost in Translation - workout1
I’ve dabbled at running off and on since high school. Never being tall enough or lean enough to ever really get past the punishment aspect of the sport to the endorphin pay-off part. I remember running (jogging really) the streets of Fullerton one evening 20-years ago and getting just far enough to develop a sharp pain behind one of my knees and both calfs. Thank God, my ex- took me to an aerobic class or I would have completely sat out the whole decade of the 80s. In 95, when I started teaching 6th graders I stopped teaching aerobics. It was a move to reduce the strain on my voice from talking over 35 6th graders every day and then yelling over my loud music four times a week (there was also the drive back and forth from Long Beach to Anaheim for aerobic classes of waning attendance..). And that pretty much ended my physical fitness efforts, except for a rare visit to my local 24-Hour Fitness whenever a new relationship loomed on the horizon (like maybe twice from ’95 to 2003). Let’s just say that I never was able to display “washboard” abs, even when I was teaching high-impact aerobics four times a week. By 2003 my ever-so-sensitive students would often ask when the baby was due. Children can be so… supportive.

Lost in Translation - workout2

So what changed my disposition about physical fitness and running, in particular? Well, what else… a relationship… or rather, the potential of a relationship. I mean, what can motivate better than wanting to be in the best shape possible for ones lover. She had been a college girl-friend and when I saw her again… oh my God, what the heck was this beautiful woman doing hanging around with me? She later admitted that she wanted to be at her absolute best and she very much hit the mark for me. And all the more endearing was that she accepted me even though I was almost twice the man I was twenty-years ago (and not in a good way). So back to the gym I went. But no matter what I couldn’t quite get the weight off. Damn.

Then during a low point in the relationship, when we weren’t talking to one another, I happened to hear from a friend about this “low carb” thing. The intensity of the relationship and the fact that things weren’t going well at all really pushed me to examine every area of my life. I thought, what the hell, I might as well give this a try, seeing that nothing else seemed to work and that it didn’t require any kind of workout regiment. Not being one who cooked much at home there were a number of problems I ran into when I began my Atkins adventure (none the least of which being the whole cooking thing), but over the course of three months I lost a bit more than 30 pounds. That was amazing. I also gained an insight generally never known to males into the emotional connection one can have toward food in an effort to make up for all the other dissatisfactions one might have (beginning with ones self-image). I mean, would I rather have that chocolate-chip cookie or the recognition of my female co-workers that I was losing weight. The recognition won out every time. That was also when I turned the corner as far as getting off my butt and making running a more regular part of my life.

In true Bustillos-fashion I almost immediately over-did it and ended up with some kind of muscle strain that caused the arch of both of my feet to cramp up with unbelievable pain to the point where I could barely walk the rest of the way home whenever this would happen during a run. It was so frustrating because I was just beginning to feel that my legs and cardiovascular system could carry me whatever distance I attempted (within reason, of course…). But I couldn’t even walk some days because of these damn cramps. A quick exam by my physical therapist brother and he offered me a solution that I should have known from my years of teaching aerobics: I wasn’t stretching enough before or after my runs. He made it clear, even if I was just going to walk that I needed to spend four to six minutes stretching out my calf muscles especially, just hang my heels over the edge of a stair.. that’s it. And it worked like a charm.

I started out doing thirty-minutes on the elliptical-machines, then 30-minutes walking on the treadmill and then thirty minutes jogging on the treadmill and then eventually jogging a 5K on the treadmill. The objective wasn’t to do 5Ks but I knew I’d peaked as far as low-carb weight loss so I needed to use another strategy (that, and the fact that having lost the weight I felt like I could really see whatever efforts I put into working out now that my muscle tone wasn’t as buried under so much fat). That’s when I returned to running on the beach and doing 5Ks whenever someone put on a race.

Then I started the doctorate program at Pepperdine… we’d been warned that most folks gain a lot of weight over the course of the three year program and it was almost immediately true in that finding time to run became ridiculously problematic. Interestingly as much as time was a problem, during the first year of the program my one means of copying with all of the frustrations (including the relationship that always seemed to be just out of reach) was running on the treadmill and on the beach. I remember being on the treadmill on more than one occasion when I had very little energy left and part of me wanted to quit and I just pulled up all the anger and frustration from being alone and not feeling appreciated and that got me through the end of that session. As much as the promise of love or appreciation got me started on this adventure, and recognition helped me realize some of my effort, it sometimes came down to good ol’ fashioned focused anger to get through these physical tests I’d imposed upon myself.

Alas, during year two of the doctorate the bottom really fell out and I succumbed to the lie of the chocolate-chip cookie or rather that a bag of chocolate-chip cookies was a good way to deal with stress. I mean, everything was destabilized, starting with my new job teaching middle school computers and math(!), and the relationship was nowhere near offering the support I needed. It became harder and harder to resist the cookies and easier and easier to not wake-up early enough for early morning runs. Eventually something had to give and after almost running completely aground with my teaching job (and gaining a lot of the weight back!) it was the doctorate program that needed to be temporarily set aside. It’s been six months since I chose to take a leave of absence from the doctorate program and I’m only now beginning to get some handle on getting back to a healthy diet and my running.

Now, part of the inspiration to write this column came from an article in Runner’s World (July 2006, p. 32) called “Map Quest” where the author listed several website one can use to chart (and measure) ones running routes. I checked out a couple and created an account with and charted my 6.66 mile loop from my apartment to Belmont Shore and back. Click here to see the map. It’s very cool to see one’s favorite route on the website and I’m encourage to experiment with other routes on the website.

I also have my workout schedule published on my dot-Mac website (click here to view this workout schedule). I publish the calendar as a way to push myself because there’s a possibility that someone is going to see that I sat on my ass for the whole month of May, for example. Whatever it takes to keep me going. I mean, I can still manage to run/walk 20-miles one week and then go two weeks without a single visit to the gym. It’s hard to get a sense of balance, but I’m hopeful and each new day I know I have a new opportunity to get that much closer to approaching my potential as a runner and person who is better balanced between my studies, my work, my writing, my relationships and my running. jbb

p.s., I’ve created a photo set in flickr of my running exploits – for that click here