What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Yes, I borrowed the title from Haruki Murakami’s book. But I thought about it a lot when I went for a run yesterday.

I’ve mentioned something about my connection between doing sports and writing in a blog post last year: Persistence, Writing, and Sports. I’ve been running on and off since then, even managed to do it in winter as well (as long as it’s not icy and I’m not sick).

The reason I’m writing this is because I really felt the importance of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Working on my own at home, with no colleagues to maintain your sanity and people who kept asking me, “Where is your published book? Haven’t you been working on it a LONG time already?”. Oh believe me I have my doubts too, you don’t have to put salt to the wound, okay?

Oops, enough rants, back to topic! I sometimes took being healthy for granted, I mean I AM thankful for it, but it’s not until I have some problems that I started to realize how important it was and how lucky I am to be blessed with a good health. And I’m not even talking about major problem, sometimes it’s just muscle ache from sitting down too long or some neck problem from having stiff shoulders (typing much?).

I had my doubts with running. I’m not really into running to start with. The only reason I was doing it, is because it’s easy and cheap. When you’re starting to be a writer there’s no way you could afford some fancy exercise like golf or even a daily trip to a swimming pool. I didn’t fancy going to the gym either. I spent my whole day inside, I wanted to do something where I get to be outside!

We were also quite lucky to live near a very nice park that’s just perfect for running. It wasn’t too crowded and it wasn’t too quiet (it creeps me out when there’s nobody around). There was a nice track going around the park and the dogs behaved nicely there (no random doggy poo on the track). Just perfect.

One thing that wasn’t so perfect is I didn’t think I was really built for running. During school, I’m already thankful when I’m not the last person on track. Being number three from the bottom is already an achievement for me. This haunted me so much when I wanted to start running… Who am I kidding here? I’ll be the most ridiculously slow person in the park!

Then again, it’s a park, not a running track. Which means (as I repeatedly said to myself) nobody knows how long have you been running, which track you took, and if someone overlapped me twice, it could be they took a different track. This last part might not been true, but it made me feel better ;). I learned not to care about what other people might think of me when I run. Or at least, I made up a good excuse not to care, because it could be frustrating when people older and heavier than you, are actually a lot faster (maybe they are regular runner!).

My point was, sometimes it actually doesn’t matter whether you’re good at it or not. What matters is you love to do it and be persistent. Last year, I couldn’t run for more than 1k, now I could run a 5k (albeit slowly). If you’re not comfortable in showing it off to people (a.k.a going for a competition) then don’t. Just do it for yourself, for your own health, it’s the most rewarding thing already.

As for me, I see running as a reflection of my writing. I started running around the same time I started to pursue writing seriously. I have a feeling, the day my novel hit the best seller list would also be the day I could run for a marathon.

 

Persistence, Writing, and Sports

One of my challenges in writing novels is to keep the persistence and motivation up. There are days when I just didn’t feel like doing it, or when I feel like I’m hitting a wall of “forever doomed unsuccessful”. Yeah, those are my dramatic moments.

I know that the key is to keep on doing it, and if I keep at it, I will prevail. That’s the big theme. But sometimes the big theme needs little steps, the small things that would keep me going each day. It’s like someone said to me, “If you walk straight from here in Berlin, you will get to Rome.” Even if I’m really certain he’s right, I would still need milestones. I need something to tell me that I am making progress.

Is there a way I could benchmark writing? I know some writers use word counts. Others clock the hours. But how would I know that I have progressed? That I have done the right thing? That I am actually writing better words than last time?

I don’t know yet. Maybe I will never be sure of it. Because I realized writing is an art, and there’s no sure way of telling if today’s work is better than yesterday’s.

Bummer.

But maybe… If I could do something else for benchmarking, then I could at least see the hope of progressing. What could I relate to writing?

I tried sports.

Why? The first reason is because I was a total klutz in sports. If I could progress in something that was that hopeless, then I could certainly progress in writing.

The second reason is because it is something I managed to do regularly for the past 3.5 years. I did home DVD pilates, yoga, and exergaming: eyetoy kinetic, wii fit, and ea active sports. I started 2 – 4 times a week, from half an hour to an hour per session.

In the first couple of months, I didn’t feel any difference. I didn’t lose any weight, my muscles still looked the same lame thing. I almost lost my patience.

But then things started to change. I started off stiff as a board; I couldn’t even touch my toes. I started to inch closer and closer to my toes, and after a year (or so) of pilates, I can (finally!) touch them.

I used to hate running, but in the last four weeks I decided to add jogging to my sports activity. Perhaps I got bitten by the spring bug? But I must say, I finally started to enjoy running too. And what I like even more: it’s easier to track my progress. And I did progress.

I feel it now. Every little thing helped me. Maybe I couldn’t feel it the next day (because I could only feel the muscle aches) , but I would definitely feel it in the next weeks. If I could bring myself to persist in sports, I could definitely persist in something I love too.

And so I continued writing. Inching towards my goal.

My Workspace

Started off in an Informatics major and ended up being a writer means half of my life is doomed to be in front of a computer. In other words, my chance of having a back problem is severely high. It’s like a time bomb going tick tack on my life watch. Uncool. That’s why I’ve been trying to improve my posture in any way possible. I do back strengthening sports like yoga and pilates. I make my workspace ergonomic and comfortable.

One problem I had with my laptop is that it’s fairly small that I would have to hunch when it’s on the table. Pain pain pain. Then I decided to get me a notebook riser. However, I would also need an external keyboard and I am very picky on keyboard. The only external keyboard I like is the apple keyboard, which ate all my budget so I end up with this:

Seemed like a good temporary solution, even though the ‘temporary’ had turned into more than a year. And now I kind of want to read the screenwriter book. Fortunately for me, I found a nice notebook riser on sale on Amazon and it arrived yesterday! So here’s how my workspace looked like now… TADA!

Bliss ;).

Exergaming – Part One

In general, I feel that I’ve always been pretty good in keeping my weight in check. I try to maintain a healthy BMI, so I keep my weight between 49-51 kg (I’m 163 cm tall).

Good genes? Yeah maybe that plays a part, my mom always has healthy weight as well. But I’m not the type of person that can eat anything but still keep thin. In fact, I can tell you exactly where the blueberry cheesecake went :P.

Other secrets?

For me it was as simple as maintaining a healthy eating habit and regular exercise.  No fancy mambo jumbo diet / exercise.

The first step I did was to find an exercise that I love and stick to it. I love swimming but it takes so much time to go to the swimming pool. Not to mention the money spent every time (was a poor student). Running was another option, but I don’t like it that much. I’d do it if I have to but I try to find other option first ;). Going to the gym, same problem with swimming. Plus I didn’t love it so much (although good gym = good training program).

Lucky lucky, that time in 2006 was the start of exercise gaming. And no, it wasn’t Wii Fit! It was PlayStation 2 Eye Toy Kinetic. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect training program, but it has a training regime and a personal trainer that would yell or motivate me.

Eye Toy Kinetic has some cardio, reflex, strength, mind and body training. Most of it comes in game form, which means people would always find a way to cheat the game, but it means then you’d be cheating your fitness too.

The most important change it made was my exercise habit. I started to exercise regularly, noticing how good it made me feel, feeling the sense of achievement every time I finished a training regime. I didn’t get a six pack tummy… (do you know how hard it is to get a six pack tummy?) but I started to get fit. I can chase the bus without gasping for breath!

Another important change was to my eating habit. Being fit means I am more in tune with my body, listening to what it needs, not what it wants. Unconsciously, we chose healthier food, opting for salads, lean meat, and less sugar. I don’t go for a diet, which means I still eat fries, cookies, and sweets from time to time. But I try to eat proportionally and enjoy what I eat. You see, if I eat a slice of apple caramel walnut cake, I want to enjoy every bite. And as a plus point, when you eat slowly, your body has time to send a message when it is full.