See the Woman Run; See the Weight Disappear

I was lacing up my running shoes when my husband, Craig, called from the other room: “It’s starting to rain.”

I heard myself answer: “It’s only water!”

What? Who said that? The woman who used to cancel a scheduled walk because of a slight breeze? The woman who didn’t jog in wet weather because dangerous conditions might result in a slip, a fall and a broken hip? That woman is happily heading out for a run in the RAIN?

Apparently, this 55-year-old dog has learned a new trick – but it absolutely didn’t happen over night.

Creativity guru Hugh MacLeod wrote: “Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.”

I embrace that idea with my creative projects; songwriting is tedious and painstaking. Conquering crippling stage fright? Same. Devotion to a fitness routine also comes “slowly and in pain.”

Doni’s fitness challenge came at a perfect time for me, because I was tired of feeling fat and frumpy and not fitting into my clothes. I was fed up with the lethargic and lazy me and not at all ready to feel so gosh darn OLD.

I lost 20 pounds a few years ago – painstakingly counting calories and jogging a couple miles a day – but a few trips to Germany, where the food is amazing, and an empty nest, where Craig and I could enjoy gourmet ice cream ALL to ourselves – resulted in a closet full of clothes that no longer fit.

I had also ditched jogging in favor of leisurely walks through my neighborhood. But after I said “yes” to Doni’s invitation, I upped the speed of my walks and added a few short jogging intervals.

The gift of a Fitbit fitness tracker at Christmas opened my eyes to the fact that my walking-with-a-little-jogging-thrown-in wasn’t cutting it. It wasn’t raising my heart rate or burning many calories. I was going to have to pick up the pace if I wanted results, so I added a few intervals of speed, then spaced the intervals a little closer together, until eventually, I hit fives miles, running the whole time.

Erin Friedman running

I don’t run fast, but I run faster than I used to – and my love for it came gradually, step by step, day by day. During the first few weeks I FORCED myself to run and I could easily to talk myself out of it for any reason: “It’s too cold.” “It’s too hot.” I was the Goldilocks of exercise excuses.

But eventually, I came to appreciate and rely on the benefits that come from a daily run. I look forward to getting outside and moving, enjoying the fresh morning air, because at the end of every run is a sublime sense of well-being. For me, running is the perfect prescription for anxiety, insomnia, depression, writer’s block and general crabbiness.

The headache I woke up with? It’s gone by mile two. Those middle-of-the-night worries? They aren’t nearly as heavy a burden after five miles. When I finish my run, I’m ready and raring to head to my studio to work on music. I’m optimistic, energized and clear-headed.

Productivity in my studio has increased dramatically – I’m doing more songwriting than ever and I’m happier with what I am producing. It’s as though the momentum and forward motion of my morning run carries through to the rest of the day.

I recently added trail running to my repertoire and it’s a brand new challenge – I have to walk some of the hills. I slow down and I’m mindful in the rocky spots to avoid falling and breaking a hip where cell reception is lacking. But I love the solitude, the scenery and feeling the earth flying under my feet and being surprised and delighted by whatever lies around the next bend and over the next hill.

An inviting manzanita grove at Whiskeytown.

An inviting manzanita grove at Whiskeytown.

We are so lucky to live in this area with its vast outdoor beauty and miles and miles of trails to explore and enjoy. The Visit Redding website has a detailed map of local trails – I’m using it to plan my excursions: http://www.visitredding.com/trails

From the Sacramento River Trail, this only-in-Redding view of bridges framing Lassen Peak.

From the Sacramento River Trail, this only-in-Redding view of bridges framing Lassen Peak.

I’ve managed a 13-mile run on the Sacramento River Trail and the other day I had the Davis Gulch Trail at Whiskeytown ALL to myself for the entire 6.6 miles – it was heavenly. After these runs, my legs remind me how powerful they are and how hard they have worked – it’s a rewarding fatigue.

The view from Davis Gulch Trail at Whiskeytown Lake.

The view from Davis Gulch Trail at Whiskeytown Lake.

Years ago I was writing a song about a girl hiking on a lakeside trail who meets herself as an old, gray-haired woman. The old woman had some sage advice about patience and persistence for her younger self. I hadn’t thought of the song in years – until the other day when I was running a trail by the lake. Here I am, I thought, a somewhat wiser and grayer older woman — finding myself out here on the trail – one step at a time.

The Sundial Bridge - the most architecturally inviting finish line in the history of trail runs.

The Sundial Bridge – the most architecturally inviting finish line in the history of trail runs.

Running started as a chore — a way to take the weight off, and I’ve dropped about fifteen pounds and feel wonderful about it. But, step by step and day by day, my running evolved into something much grander. Patience and persistence have paid off in a fitness routine that contributes mightily to my emotional and physical well-being. Running is a gift I give myself.

Erin Friedman

By day, Erin Friedman partners with her husband Craig at Wrap N Pack (where Shipping’s a Snap) and by night the two of them annoy their Cottonwood neighbors as the musical duo, Still Married. After homeschooling three children using a Curriculum of Joy, Erin now schools herself the same way, with concentrations in fiddle, voice, literature and grand-parenting. She’s won awards for songwriting and baking but has never won a running race, although she is certain her chances would improve greatly if a sizzling slice of New York pizza were waiting at the finish line.

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