You take a walk. The air is fresh and bright, the fall leaves crisp pleasingly beneath your feet, the dog is asleep at home so you don’t need to stop every ten feet to sniff things or leave a post on Urinary Facebook. (With applause to John Tweedy for the concept.)
You’re probably walking at about three miles an hour. That’s a nice pace – an arm-swinger, but probably not one that will make you pant.
I go for a run. I’m togged out in my fat lady version of running clothes – leggings and a longer top so no one is forced to observe too closely the insulation that I’m carrying on the rear elevation. I’ve timed it so the high school kids have gotten in their fancy cars and driven away, and the track teams have already slipped past like a pony-tail-bouncing herd of gazelles teasing a lion.
I’m going at the blistering pace of FOUR miles an hour. Yes, it takes me fifteen full minutes to cover a mile – which I could walk in twenty.
And every damned time I have to fight the urge to berate myself. YES I am slow. YES I spend more time walking on my “run” than I care to admit. YES my hands tremble at the end and my lungs feel like someone has taken sand paper to them.
But – and this is the really critical point – actual, long-lasting change (like from a hippo to a gazelle) comes only very SLOWLY.
SO FUCKING SLOWLY.
A person waiting for me to return from my run, someone tapping their toe impatiently at the open garage door, would just have to be patient; I’m going as fast as I can.
And my expectations, tapping their toes with nervous energy, will just have to be patient, too. I’m evolving just as fast as I can.
Now I chant three things as I run, instead of two. The first one was “use your abs, use your abs, use your abs…” which is only a valuable thing to say until your abs get tired. After that, mouthing this chant is useful only because it makes startled onlookers give you a wide berth.
The second thing I learned to chant was “use your abs, use your glutes – use your abs, use your glutes,” which is all but useless because I’m still having a hard time turning the glutes on. (Freeloaders.) Running up a hill helps, but damn it, then you have to run up a hill.
And now I’m chanting “use your abs, use your glutes, breeeeeathe deeeeeep,” which often makes me cough and that spoils everything. HOWEVER I think I’m running farther before shambling back into a walk, so the deep breathing seems to be making a gradual difference.
Still – four miles an hour. (Itself a ludicrous proposition, as I can barely make it around a one-mile loop. Going for a four-mile run is the gauzy, impossible ambition of an hallucinogenic dream.) Slow.
Slow – slow – slow.
I run slowly. I evolve slowly. I don’t give up.
Well – not yet, anyway.
When I run, I alternate between hoping no one I know sees me and praying someone I know will give me a reason to stop so we can chat casually on the sidewalk while we both ignore the fact that I’m gasping for air and panting like a Labrador watching you serve the chicken.