A tidbit about me: I hate running. I know that "everyone" does it, and it's exercise, and it's free and it's easy - just lace up, open the front door and off you go! - and blah blah blah. It's also boring as all hell. It doesn't matter what I do to try to distract myself - TV on the treadmill, music on the iPod, running outdoors (which, actually, is SO MUCH BETTER than pounding away on a treadmill, it's amazing what a difference that makes) - my mind refuses to settle down and stop wondering if we're done yet. But because it's good for you (and, let's face it, I love food but my metabolism just ain't what it used to be), every several months I think that I should really make it a habit, and then every several more months I actually try to make it a habit. And I'm usually pretty good about it for the first few weeks, because I always do feel really good after a run. But then, invariably, one thing or another happens - seasons change and it's raining, or it's hot and humid and what, I'm supposed to exert myself in less-than-perfect weather? So life just generally gets in the way, the inertia is lost and oops, there it is over there, my ass on the couch again.
So a few weeks ago, mostly due to the 2 weeks' worth of dining out, pastries and overall gluttony that comes with traveling and playing tour guide, I decided to try once again to start exercising. I live somewhat near the Imperial Palace, which is probably the most popular place in Tokyo to go running. One lap around is 5k, and I figured a loop like that, with no other option but to get back to where I started, would be good for me and my weak mind. And because the last time I had exercised was a year ago, my plan was to just make my way around any way I could by walking most of the way, with maybe 5-10 minutes of running somewhere in there.
Well, what do you know, I ran the whole damn loop! Okay, technically it wasn't so much a run as it was a slow jog, but whatever. The whole loop! And it wasn't so much physically difficult - obsessive vacuuming IS cardio conditioning, I KNEW IT! - as it was mentally difficult. I think that after about 10 minutes my body just resigns itself to its fate and accepts the fact that there are another 20 minutes in store, and it obliges. But my mind, as usual, was being a pain in the ass and would not stop with the Are we done yet? How long has it been? What time is it? How much faaartherrrrrr??? So I started playing mind games with myself. I kept promising myself a rest - after this song was done playing, after I passed that old guy up there in the yellow spandex, after I rounded this next corner. But when the song ended or I reached the mark, I DID NOT REST. I kept falling for the same ploy over and over again, until eventually I found myself at my starting point. How's that for clever trickery!
And of course, my iPod was loaded up with all kinds of energizing songs to get me through the rough patches, those times my body did raise a fuss about being too tired to go on. When that happened, I pretended I was out dancing, channeling the endless stores of energy I seem to have when I'm shakin' my money maker. But as it turned out, what really got my mind off the pavement pounding was the immense concentration it took to refrain from actually throwing my arms up in the air and waving them like I just didn't care. So... that also helped.
I've done this 3 times now in the past 3 weeks, and I am totally patting myself on the back about it. I'll probably always have to resort to trickery and mind games to get through a run, but hey - whatever it takes, right? Whatever it takes.