“Underwear collected”: Anxiety and running

I started the Couch to 5K running program today. I’m using the C25K app in tandem with the excellent Zombies, Run! (which really only means I have both apps open at the same time during a run), and so far the combination of music and continuous item collection has helped keep me motivated.

Gamification as a fitness approach appeals to my nerd brain and to my neurotic, anxious, track-everything self, so Zombies, Run! seems to be a good way to harness my mental and psychological quirks and use them to further — instead of hamper — my health goals. There will always be another item to collect or another building to repair if I want to survive the zombie apocalypse, and those are helpful goals to hold onto on those days when I don’t feel like sticking to routine.

I’ve asked several friends, both offline and from various online communities, for advice on establishing a running habit. One of the first tips most of them gave involved mindset: Find the right motivation, something that will help you gain discipline instead of fizzling out. In my case, “losing weight” or identifying a specific number on the scale to aim for aren’t good approaches, because (1) I’m not really running for weight loss anyway and (2) it encourages a fixation on numbers rather than the overall fitness/health aspect of things. So my sustainable goal/motivation is to improve my cardiovascular fitness. This means my benchmarks will involve things like pace, endurance, and overall strength as opposed to how much I weigh per week.

Aside from this, I’ve also started an Instagram account, where I post photos of things/people I encounter during my runs. Hopefully this will be another non-weight-related way to get enthused about going out for a run. I want running to be something more than just an activity I “have to do,” and making it a project of discovery and exploration seems to be a good way to go about that. Zombies and supplies aren’t the only things I’ll be running into, after all.

Today’s run was an okay start for the whole program. I haven’t had the chance to replace my busted earphones yet, so I made do by using my phone speakers and just setting the volume to acceptable levels. Thankfully there was no one around while I was running, so no stares for the girl whose phone issues intermittent notifications that she’s just picked up new zombie apocalypse supplies like a mobile phone or a pair of underwear.

My glasses had also snapped from last week’s aikido class, and I’ve yet to get replacement frames or contacts, so I was also running almost-blind today. Not much of an issue, though, because there was little foot and vehicle traffic along the roads I ran today. It’s a bit troublesome to run when you have barely any idea what you’re headed towards, but luckily my vision isn’t so far gone that I can’t spot lampposts from a few meters away. I used those as landmarks throughout my run, and I got home okay.

It’s easy to be discouraged by a first run done under such sub-optimal conditions. Now that I’ve actually finished the run, though, I’m feeling oddly motivated instead: if I can finish a run while nearly blind, and while straining to hear both my music and Zombies, Run! commentary through crappy phone speakers, then certainly I can get out of the house and keep running in better or worse conditions.