I hate running but I love juggling. Ok, so maybe the two are very different, but I do see many parallels in the ways I approach both activities.
First, a bit of background. I have never been a runner and I have been overweight and even obese for most of my life. Late last summer, my doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure and prescribed me some medicines. Well, I’m the sort of person who avoids pills of any sort and was totally distraught by this. The obvious solution was to make lifestyle changes to get off the meds.
Well, the first change I made was in my diet – I started eating healthier foods and taking much smaller portions.
Second, I started exercising for pretty much the first time since high school (and I’m now 42). I had tried running a few years back and even got up to being able to run 2 miles without stopping. But, unfortunately I didn’t maintain it for more than a couple months before going back to my sedentary lifestyle. Well, this time I was seriously motivated and have been able to push myself to run and exercise regularly for the past 10 months.
For the first 9 months or so of running, I would start out my runs enthusiastic and motivated but after about 200 meters I’d start wondering to myself why I was doing this. Early in the run, I felt miserable and spent much of the rest of the time convincing myself that I must continue. I’m not particularly fast and especially for longer runs, I end up shuffling my feet a lot, but I was able to push on. It was similar to when I learned to juggle 5 balls: I would start off with a clean pattern and my arms felt strong and I was very optimistic, but after a few tens of throws my muscles felt like rubber, I starters making sloppy mistakes, and the pattern just broke down. It was all very frustrating. Eventually, though, with a lot of persistence, my juggling started to stabilize and I was able to make longer runs (no pun intended – really, I only noticed that after I proofread this for about the 5th time). And not only could I continue longer, but it eventually became fairly effortless to maintain 5 balls for many minutes. So, too, has my running gotten easier. I frequently increase my best distances and the distances that had been a struggle are now quite easy. I’m also running faster than I used to, which is very motivating to me.
Even though I hate running while I’m doing it, afterwards I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I remember the first time I completed the 2 mile loop in front of my house without stopping. I also remember the first time, back in 1978, that I qualified 3 balls (after weeks of standing in front of the wall in our family room doing flashes over and over and not being able to release the 4th throw). The running and the jugging both felt like doing the impossible when I was first learning them. When I got up to being able to run 10k (6.2 miles), it reminded me of when I first qualified 5 balls (I was bragging to everyone about my accomplishment in both cases). My record run so far was 13 miles (21k, a half marathon distance) which was only rivaled by the ecstasy I felt when I first flashed 9 balls back in 1996 (though it didn’t take nearly as much time to go from not running to being able to do 10k, as the amount of hours before I got my first 9 ball flash).
Back in the 90s, as I started getting into juggling, I started tracking my progress in Excel (Here are tables converted to HTML for 1995, 1996, and beyond). So, too, when I started running, I tracked my times and distances – first in Excel and then using Endomondo.com (there are many similar sites, but this is the only one I have experience with, and I highly recommend it). I enjoy tracking my results in both juggling and my exercising. As a matter of fact, I honestly don’t think I would have continued with the running as I have, if I didn’t have these statistical tools to analyze my progress. Somehow it makes it so much more motivating for me to see how I’m improving. It’s all about going further, faster, and easier.
The good news is that after 8 months of dieting and training, my blood pressure stabilized and I was able to stop my prescription. I’ve lost more than 55 pounds so far, but I was a big guy and I’ve still got a bit more weight I’d like to lose. I’m continuing in full force with my exercise regimen. Not only am I running a lot, but I also play tennis, I got back into swimming, and I’ve started cycling, too. Just last month I completed a triathlon and have plans to do many more endurance events in the future.
Sadly, these days I hardly find time to juggle, aside from the occasional shows. But I’m still fairly involved with the juggling community and spend hours reading pretty much everyting on rec.juggling and the Juggling Edge, following jugglers on facebook, and volunteering for the the Israeli Juggling Convention and, of course, the IJA ezine. So the amount of hours in my juggling obsession is still an endurance activity!