Jogging with dog at Carcavelos Beach

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Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Several years ago I was very, very overweight. I won’t say the scale-tipping number here, but suffice to say I needed to buy some of the largest clothes available in the mainstream Plus-Size stores. I wore between a 22 and a 26 Plus-Size from Pennington’s (a Canadian chain). My jeans or skirts were a little smaller than my tops (the same holds true today) due to my broad shoulders and thicker upper arms. Being tall and broad-shouldered, I always felt that I could hold a little more weight. I was, however, holding a lot too much unhealthy extra of it… but I didn’t know what to do about it.

I did try some exercise, I did try cutting back on calories. Nothing worked, ever. I got bigger and bigger. The only thing that induced weight-loss in me was a move across the country from British Columbia to Quebec. I moved away from my car, away from my old habits in shopping and eating. Everything was new, and I was walking a lot each day. When I started to notice the weight leaving my body, I was encouraged to lose more to feel even better.

One of the things I have done to lose weight and then maintain it within a somewhat healthy realm, is to take up jogging. I took up jogging about two years ago, but my spurt of being a jogger lasted about one and a half years. When I managed to hurt my knees in a few different ways over a short period of time, I decided that jogging was probably not the best exercise for me anymore.

When I decided to try jogging, I made a plan. I would go out to the local park and run around. But… what to wear? Ok, I found a long-sleeved t-shirt and some yoga pants. I had running shoes. I thought, “this can’t be that hard. Plus it’s FREE.” I like free.

I went into the park and tried to move my legs quickly. I felt so very awkward, it was almost the most awkward I’ve felt my whole life. Don’t forget that I wore a size 26 blouse at one point. Also I had been an insanely unpopular teenager. I felt more awkward in that park trying to start jogging than either of those times. I felt like EVERYONE must be watching me, and what do I do to jog? How do I move my legs, and therefore my body, fast enough in this public space to both induce perspiration and to not draw attention to myself? I realised that I wasn’t ready for this. I sat down on a park-bench and watched the other joggers. What do you while you run? I’d spent the previous thirty-four years AVOIDING running or jogging, not seeking it out!

After some observation, I thought that I could be ready. I did a short little bit of jogging, in a small circuit, at varying speeds. So this is what it feels like to run. Then I hurried home, feeling completely self-conscious the entire way. I had a bath and felt pretty good. The next day, though, my legs were burning. Burning. I’d not used those muscles in that way for… probably not since I was in grade-school and was forced to play soccer.

Finding A Sport

Two days later I set my alarm clock for about 6am, and when I got up I went out the door and ran in the park. I felt like I was a light, free spirit. I had never felt so good before. I had dreamed of this feeling, back when I was heavier. It was such a contrast to the previous time that I’d tried jogging! It was like flying and bouncing at the same time. I think a large part of my new-found comfort was in not feeling watched… it was early enough that no-one was around the park.

In later weeks and months I felt so confident that I would go whenever the weather was nice and I had the time. Yes, I lost more weight, and my legs got stronger in the quadriceps (where I have a general weakness). I thought that this state of improvement could, possibly, last forever! I read up on running. I knew to stretch so much that it would seem like it was too much (but wasn’t), and to drink lots of water. I felt that I could become one of those “runner-types”. Skinny, wiry, lean…

When a knee-injury drove home the frailty of that particular body-part, I left jogging in the park. I am now focussed on dance, a good elliptical machine that allows for different strides, and am thinking about starting swimming. I know that these low-impact and no-impact forms of cardiovascular exercise are better for my well-being. Maybe one day in the future I’ll feel like a jogger again… but for now I am glad to have had that experience, and to have moved on.

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