Running always seemed stupid to me, and I could never figure out why anyone did it on purpose. “I run if I’m being chased,” I’d joke, and I maintained a healthy weight by counting calories (drinking whiskey instead of beer) and stopping by the occasional yoga class.
And then I received a very unwelcome diagnosis.
After four surgeries and a painful tissue expansion reconstruction, my doctor cleared me for “light jogging,” but not yoga. And I thought she was fucking nuts. Really? You want me to bounce this shit around? Have you lost your mind? But even though I wanted to do yoga I couldn’t. I had zero upper body strength left after all of the muscle-rearranging. I couldn’t chaturanga if I was being… chased.
But I knew I had to do something. Not being able to exercise taught me how much I was taking my body for granted, and sitting around takes its toll on your body and your mind. Finally one sunny afternoon I put on my embarrassingly-untouched Nikes and started the Couch-to-5k app on my phone.
The first day of the program has you jog for 60 seconds with 90-second walking breaks, and I fought for every single step. That first “run” sucked, I’m not going to lie, but when I started my walk home, I burst into tears (for the millionth time in 2013. God, I was a mess.). I couldn’t believe I did it. After all the shit cancer threw at me, I was doing something I never thought I could do. And maybe I was being chased, by all of the fear, insecurity and body shame I’d been holding onto. Maybe I was running from it, but I didn’t care. It felt really, really good to take back control of my body.
And yeah, sometimes I was slow. Sometimes it hurt, but every time I got a side stitch I reminded myself to breathe. That this is nothing compared to the first time I put on pants after my mastectomy. That I am capable of a lot more than I think.
I stuck with the program, one step at a time, until I ran my first 5k. I was 26 years old, and 3.1 miles was the farthest I’d ever run in my life. I got Z to join with me and we became one of those annoying couples who run together, and then talk about running (ew, gross), and buy things to wear for running.
It took a life-threatening illness for me to realize that exercise is a gift you give to yourself, not a punishment for overeating. I can’t believe the way I used to treat my body, and I’m so glad I have the chance to change it.
This year I’ve challenged myself to run 500 miles, and I’d love for you to join me. Outrun whatever it is that’s been holding you back.
If you’re one of those people who thinks you could never do it, please believe, if I can do it, you can. You absolutely can. You don’t have to go fast. You just have to go.
Ready to get started? Here’s what to do.
1. Download the Couch to 5k app
2. Grab a buddy (someone who will hold you accountable and vice versa)
3. Be prepared for a few awesome days, and a few shitty days. Even a bad workout is a workout, so be good to yourself.
4.. Get a good playlist. Check out the Cassie Cares facebook page for an hour-long Spotify playlist of my favorite workout songs.
One step at a time, you got this.