Unfortunately, I seem to be one of those people for whom moderation is a continual challenge. I can’t even take moderation in moderation. Less is not more. I can’t seem to master less – unless I take it to its extreme and it becomes nothing. If everything pleasurable must be filtered through my “all or nothing” personality (and let’s face it – most pleasurable things become very toxic when you don’t apply self-control) then I end up having to swear off them unless I want to become completely addicted. This is why I don’t go to casinos. I know myself well enough to know that I should probably steer well clear of gambling, Never tried it but I’ve seen the ads.
So I’m in a bit of a quandary at the moment – because I’ve discovered something new, the addiction is quite pleasurable and it seems to be good for me. It’s like a medieval riddle.
The answer is running.
Yes. I know. But what you probably didn’t know about me (unless you’re related to me and old enough to remember the 1980s and early 1990s) is that I used to be fit. In fact, I used to be good at sports. I know! Bizarre, isn’t it? In fact, I used to play netball for South Australia and I was in the A league as a softball player. Short-stop. Sports Captain of my School. Yep, deep beneath this retro-librarian façade lies the crumbling foundation of a jock. But life moves in strange ways and I ended up with a knee reconstruction and a life-partner whose sporting claim to fame was that he once played in a footy match when he was 11. So it’s been a very long time since I laced up a pair of running shoes.
Then last year something happened. I went to Bali with my family for 10 days, and while that experience was a story in itself, something pretty wonderful happened. For the first time in many years I got to hang out at length with my sister Leah and her partner Dale. I know this sounds a little strange but Leah and Dale have lived in Canberra for many years and both have pretty full on lives so they only come back to Adelaide for fleeting visits at Christmas and for special family events. As you can imagine, when they are here they are in high demand with friends and family so often we only get to have pretty swift and superficial chats. So the time I spent with them in Bali was special. I rediscovered them both as wonderful people who I love as friends – as well as family.
Now to the second amazing bit of this story – both Leah and Dale are extremely fit. I can’t state that with enough emphasis. Extremely. Fit. As an example, Leah did a short workout by the pool one day that involved doing push-ups while in a handstand. Do you need me to repeat that or italicise? Because I can and I really think I should but I just used that device and it might seems little laboured. She was upside down doing push-ups. Last year, the two of them also competed in these crazy events called Tough Mudder – which are 20km extreme obstacle courses that not only involve fitness, endurance and mud but running through a field of live wires which randomly shock you. Yep. Electrical shocks.
So now I’ve made it sound like Leah and Dale are hard-core, fanatical gym-junkie types but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They just love being fit and healthy and really enjoy participating in stuff that challenges them – in a completely non-proselytising way. It’s uncanny – and so effective – just being around them makes you want to take part. I used to work as an environmental campaigner, trying to encourage people to make behavioural changes for the good of the planet and if I could bottle what Leah and Dale exude; this infectious ability to make people want to change themselves for the better I could’ve saved the frickin’ world.
After Bali I went home, back to the cold Adelaidean winter and nurtured some good intentions that failed to germinate. But I really didn’t want to fall back into the old pattern of only seeing Leah and Dale at Christmas so Andrew and I decided to hop on a plane and go to Canberra at the end of September to visit Leah for her birthday. We had an absolutely brilliant time. And it speaks volumes about Leah that one of the special birthday things she planned for the weekend was a Sunday Friends and Family Boot Camp. Aside from full-time work and daily exercise at the gym and various sports, Leah runs a Sunday boot camp for a bunch of friends from her gym and work. She’s studied part-time to earn an extra qualification as a personal trainer and really loves putting together fitness plans and training regimes for people, so these Sunday sessions are pretty popular.
However, this time the challenge was on – Leah would have to deal with two chronically unfit relatives and factor them into the workout. But my sister is cunning. She cooked up a batch of mouth-watering birthday cupcakes to use as incentives and let fear of embarrassment do the rest of the motivational hard yards. Surprisingly, we didn’t pass out (although I almost lost my tracksuit pants during an arm-linked hill run) nor did we die or bring shame down upon our houses. In fact, I loved it. It was a rediscovery of the pleasure of movement and the lovely effect of endorphins. I could feel my body singing in a way I don’t remember since adolescence.
Since that weekend I’ve joined a running group with a bunch of wonderful women who I run with most Thursday nights and Saturday mornings. Then a little more recently I started “Learn to Run” classes with the SA Road Runners on Tuesday nights in Athelstone.
Now, while I may be currently addicted to running (and let’s not even mention the financial horrors of gorgeous running gear cravings) I can’t discount the motivational power of goal setting. My wonderful Thursday running group was assembled from the extended friend networks surrounding a couple of sisters Sarah and Julia, whose other sister, Di, is fighting ovarian cancer. They decided to change their lives by getting fit and healthy and in doing so raise money for Ovarian Cancer Australia. So they brought us all together and as a group of 15 women we committed to running 10km as part of the Queen of the Lake 2014 run for ovarian cancer at Albert Park in Melbourne.
And last weekend – we did it! All of us flew to Melbourne together for the weekend and on Sunday the 9th of February we all ran 10km in 35 degree heat, raising just over $3000 for research into ovarian cancer.
It was the first time I’d run 10km and I did it without walking – to be honest I didn’t do it quickly – but I finished and kept to my plan which was to run it slow, steady and finish without walking. So now I have a baseline time to improve upon, a group of warm, brilliant new friends and wonderful new addiction to indulge.