“Can we do it today?” asked my girlfriend in the taxi on the way home. “We have ten minutes, let's try,” I respond. It was the end of January and we were regularly trying to meet the minimum steps missed each day. We set our lower limit at five thousand. We were returning from friends' in the evening and we were far from fulfilled. It would be the first time this year we hadn't succeeded. And we weren't going to let that happen. We started running like hell through the night streets of Prague to exceed the set limit by midnight. We failed. But it was fun.
When we talked about resolutions in early January, I mainly wanted to change my approach to food. My girlfriend missed the exercise. It was cold and dark outside, and the coronavirus was raging outside after 9pm, when curfew started. We were both working from home and, apart from buying food, there was no need to leave the apartment. We had set a baseline that we wanted to pass every day, no matter what. The hardest part was the beginning. Within the first week, we were both in our pajamas and a few hundred steps short. We broke curfew and went for a walk in the dark and empty streets. Luckily, we didn't meet anyone. Even though we had thrown our jackets over our pajamas, we looked pretty suspicious. We made up for the deficit and went to sleep in peace. It was the little craziness we did to spice up our otherwise monotonous quarantine and isolation.
Two years ago, my girlfriend talked me into running a Valentine's Day run with her. “That'll be fine, I'll run half, walk half. Anyone can do less than five kilometres,” I said to myself, knowing that the last time I had run in primary school was seventeen years ago. I hadn't prepared at all. I arrived at the start and started running. The first five hundred meters were easy, I set a pace that surprised even my girlfriend. She kept looking over at me and asking if I could still run. After the first kilometer, I knew I had willingly done a pretty stupid thing. With a kilometer to go, when the century old men in red shorts started to overtake me, I was ready to give up. “You can do it!” my girlfriend encouraged me. We reached the finish together in 42:43. I sat down on the ground, leaned my back against a stationary van, and mobilized for a quarter of an hour.
“Are you okay?” asked the standing paramedic, who observed my exhaustion. I tried to put on a brave face, but I could feel the familiar feeling of stiff muscles beginning to set in. Muscle fever was coming on. I was still in pain a week after my life's work. Still, I was happy. I hadn't given up. I know full well that the final time was wrong and corresponds to a faster walk, not a run.
“We could do it again,” I suggested to my girlfriend during March. I surprised her, but she agreed to the suggestion. To this day, we still reminisce about my last performance. This time I want to have a better time and not kill myself. All I have to do is try to practice. A year is a long time, if it doesn't work out, at least I'll help my body burn. I've set out a 5km circuit at our place. The pace of a faster walk was not a problem for me. I completed the route a total of three times in times of 50:25, 52:23 and 48:00. Great, I can walk it without being in pain afterwards.
Oh, yeah. Walking is not running. And if I want a better time, I have to run. It was another chilly March evening and I was a thousand steps short of my 5,000 daily limit. I thought I'd try to run them. “A kilometer? What's that? I can do that.” That's what my confident head thought. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred meters. Then I start to feel pain in my shins. I'm sweating and I can't breathe. I slow down and go into a slow walk. It's okay, my body's worse than my head thinks. I walk the rest of the route. The time of 8:54 per kilometer corresponded to that. Two days later, I tried again. Once again, the pain and breathing problems returned. However, I improved my time slightly on the two-kilometer route (8:47 per kilometer).
“You ran? That's cool!” my girlfriend responded when I told her about my attempts to run. We ran together for the first time. We alternated running and walking at regular intervals. I was still managing at the beginning, but by the middle of the nearly three-kilometer route, I had to skip the intervals. It helped me to stick to her pace and my average time of 8 minutes and 11 seconds per kilometer is my best so far.
I don't want to make exercise an obligation. I want to try to run a 5km run in a reasonable time. It was a challenge when I lined up at the start and made it to the finish line without a single workout. It's still a challenge now that I want to beat my time. I'm not tempted by the idea of going to the gym and lifting weights. Going for a run, a bike ride around the neighborhood, or just going to the basket after work is a form of relaxation I enjoy.