In the summer of 1992, when my limbs were still long and lean, and hips were but a distant dream, I double knotted my Ross purchased BKs, took my mark, and promptly whooped little Davie from down the street in a foot race. For one, hot, summer Saturday, I was the reigning champ of the neighborhood. I had beaten a boy- in a race- in a makeshift 100 meter dash, doing my best Gail Devers, Flo-Jo impersonation—One-legged sparkly, spandex tracksuit and matching manicure not included. I was quiet, already too tall, loved books and wore lavender, round rimmed glasses. And I couldn’t care less that my perfectly, parted plaits were coming undone, and birdie barrettes were strewn all over the road. I had accomplished something with my whole self: brain and body.
As grad students, we accomplish things with our brains on the regular. We know how to exercise, intellectually flex, and strengthen our minds like every class, paper, or Facebook exchange is the Academic Summer Olympics. But for many of us, maintaining physical health is a different story.
When I started my doctoral program, one of the first things an advanced doctoral student told me was to take care of my body. The physical toll of grad school is stealthy. Five to seven years of a poor diet, limited sleep, and mental and emotional depletion, may cause you to wake up one day and not recognize your own form. It can sneak up on you.
With that student’s words in mind, I remembered that summer in 1992. I picked up the running shoes I had hidden away in my closet from the last time I took up running, and decided to get serious about my physical health. I wanted, again, to accomplish something, with my whole self.
But guess what? Running isn’t fun. Well, at least not at first. As someone who trained as a sprinter, learning to run long distances was a bit of a challenge. However, I decided that for this new workout plan, I would go the distance for two reasons. 1. It gave me an hour out of the day to do something non-school related, like watch awful tv on the treadmill, and 2. It forced me to settle into a long-term exercise goal that took a while to achieve.
Going from a run once in awhile to three times a week required some extensive research on exercise safety. There’s nothing worse than sustaining some kind of injury on day 1. Thankfully, the internet is full of resources on learning to run or walk safely, especially if you haven’t engaged in strenuous physical activity for some time. As always, consult with your doctor before engaging in anything that’s going to elevate your heart rate and put stress on your muscles and joints!
If running seems like it’d be your cup of tea, there are several apps and virtual communities that can support your journey. Applications like Runkeeper and Nike Coach can motivate you to hit the pavement, establish and maintain a routine, and track your progress. These virtual coaches are easily linked to your social media accounts as well.
In need of moral support but can’t actually talk while mid-stride? #Hashtags can be a great resource when searching for virtual running communities and supports. Why not check out your local chapter of #Blackgirlsrun? Additionally, most colleges and universities often sponsor running clubs or groups for non-competitive running and jogging. And when you’re finally ready to compete, there is always a 5K walk/run just around the corner. If you’re not quite ready for the actual 5K, check out any number of Couch to 5K (C25K) plans that will help you build up stamina and endurance, until you’re ready to to cross an actual finish line. Now get out there and don’t forget to stretch!