March 26, 2008

Morning Run

This guest post was written by Fury Gekijou--she describes herself as an "ex-patriot, barely-reformed couch-potato living and working in Japan who occasionally loses her mind in the quest for fitness." You can read about her 3-month misadventure training for her first triathlon at Tri Tri Birdie.

It's morning, a beautiful, mild spring morning and I am getting dressed for my run.

I put on my Technical Top. A bra. A technical bra. No kidding. The last time I considered a bra technical was back in my teens when I first started wearing one – a contraption made of elastic, fabric, hooks, wires, et cetera. My “technical” sports bra doesn’t even have any moving parts (unless you count me), but it’s made of this fabulous material that I am certain justifies its ridiculous cost. It’s sleek and black. It was designed by a team of engineers in Japan. It cost a lot of money. I’m not large-breasted by any means, so I am sure any regular, non-technical sports bra would do. Heck, I could probably do the support thing old-skool, with three ace-bandages wrapped around my chest., but the ad for technical bra was so enticing and the website was so cool and...

On go the running tights. Not just any old tights mind you, but Technical Tights. They’re black, kind of shiny, hydrophobic, breathe, stretch, have reflectors, zippers, natty grey flat seaming which make my stubby, chubby legs look long and lean and these tights' instructions claim they have “memory.” I don’t want anything that has been on my butt to “remember” anything! Regardless of how advanced the tights are, they still slide down, so during my run I go: RunrunrunrunrunrunYANKhoprunrunrunrunrunYANKhop.

I put on running socks, also considered “technical” clothing. The socks are made of a material that wicks. Socks don’t have wicking, candles do...but they are the “official sock” of some running team and they're black. Not shiny, but they are black.

Shoes next. My shoes are shiny, too, but not black. I don't like black sneakers. So mine are silver and yellow. The shoes have so many features that they came with an instruction booklet, written in five different languages. I lost the instruction book, so I don’t remember any of the features. I do remember that they lace in some weird way that I had to look at the left shoe (pre-laced thank goodness) to figure out how to lace the right. The shoes have treads and bubbles and gussets and grommets and look very advanced. But they still wear out at an alarming rate. So I bought three more pairs. Why? I can’t wear more than a pair at once. It’s good to have two pairs to alternate and distribute mileage across...but the third pair? I was just in a gear frenzy and got greedy.

I put on my “technical/performance” sunglasses, but the 110-dollar glasses really don’t make me perform any better. In some small way the purchase of my glasses probably made some Visa Credit Card shareholder’s portfolio perform a little better, but my running didn’t improve. I think they make me look cooler but I will confess that sometimes I think my technical/performance shades don’t work any better than the perfectly functional cheapo pair from Dick’s that they replaced. Note: If you sit on expensive technical sunglasses, they go “crunch” just the same as the cheapo ones.

I put the headphones of an MP3 player over my head and into my ears. The player itself is tiny and light – a vast improvement over the big, clunky cassette Walkman I used to use. The player fits in the palm of my hand – or even more conveniently, in my “technical top” sports bra. Sometimes the earphones rub me the wrong way and make the inside of my ears sore. They can make a player that weighs less than three ounces, but they can’t make earbuds that fit comfortably in my ears.

Continuing on with the gear parade, I strap a heart-rate monitor around my chest and put the receiver on my wrist. It looks like a watch, but in addition to telling me the time, the receiver tells me my heart rate (which always spikes when I put the transmitter on because the contacts are always COLD even when I dampen them using warm water). It also tells me how many calories were burned and the date.

I neglected to get a heart rate monitor that has a stopwatch function or does splits, so on the OTHER wrist there’s a stopwatch. It’s a pretty basic one, but I paid extra for the black finish because...well, because it looked more technical. If I’m not careful, the stopwatch, heart monitor and MP3 player all cause interference with each other. In a computerized twist on the old Groucho Marx joke, I thought I was dead the other day because there was no reading on the heart rate monitor.

I put a pedometer on my waist to track how far I run. It occasionally falls off, which means I have to pick it up. This involves stopping. Stopping makes my heart rate drop a little and causes the alarm on the receiver to beep, letting me know that I am not performing at optimal aerobic level. The beeping usually startles me, so that I forget to pause the stopwatch and that in turn messes up my time and/or my splits and then I can’t figure out how long it took me to run the mile before the pedometer fell off. Oh, and sometimes the shock of the impact resets the pedometer. Grrrr. I'm saving up for a GPS unit that will do everything: heart rate, mileage, splits, locations, my tax return, but I have to wait till I recover from the cost of having to replace the expensive technical sunglasses I sat on.

The electronic devices are all battery-powered. The batteries wear out. But never all at once, so I am constantly changing batteries. I’ll be pleased to tell you that I can change batteries in two devices AT ONCE, in the 4:30am darkness and still keep a 10 minute per mile pace (believe me 10 minute mile is an absolutely blistering, technical-tights-melting pace for me). This is an essential life skill we’re talking about here.

All geared up, I head for the door, ready to go out and run. My husband (ensconced on the sofa) notices me and looks, well, frightened. I guess it’s justified, with my looking very much like a Borg what with all the wires and gadgets and black Lycra.

"I’m going for a run," I snarl.

"You don’t seem very happy to be going for a run. You know, when you first started, you were always so happy to go for a run, even when you couldn’t go very far... but now I think you aren’t as happy, and I think..." He pauses and looks at me. "You had less stuff..."

Ever watch kids run around? They go quickly or slowly but they laugh and they smile. They are un-selfconcious, not caring how fast they go or what they are wearing. They're naturals. You can tell that for them, it just feels good to run. It was like that for me when I began, even though I could barely make it to the end of the driveway. It felt so good to go, to run for another minute than the day I did before, to go just a little bit further. In the first few months, it felt especially good to stop. I felt the camaraderie of other runners out in the heat, the rain, the snow, the wind. It felt just as good to run alone. I did all this with very little equipment, just the basics – enough to keep me comfortable and safe from injury. As I added mileage, I added stuff. I’m not sure why. "Just Buy It" syndrome, I guess. I’m sure I’m not the only person guilty of this. The big tragedy isn’t the waste of money but the wasting of what is for me the joy of running; the pleasure of moving for moving’s sake. The electronics sometimes distract me from that.

I take off the player. I take off the glasses, the monitor, the receiver, the stopwatch, and the pedometer. I’m not a competitive runner; I run for fitness, for enjoyment, for the pleasure of being in my body, for the sheer joy of just moving. I don’t need detailed reports on my runs; I just need to know I did my best. My mind, body and soul can tell me that, with no electronics at all.

Have a good workout. =)


  1. Now the Bag Lady knows why she doesn't run! She can't afford it!

  2. Nice post! I gave up my gadgets years ago and only wear them on rare occasions now. Most times I don't even wear a watch because it only encourages me to worry what time it is.

    If you're not likely to win anything at your next race, sometimes old ways are best! :-)

  3. I think that, as we improve in our fitness (particularly running or cycling) we want to know how much we are improving. Are we faster? Can we go for a lot longer? Will all these gadgets make me even better? The competitor in us wants to beat someone even if it is ourselves. It's very easy to lose the joy of something in an attempt to "win" against ourselves.

  4. Great post, and really great point about how silly we can get with all our gadgets!

    But, um, please don't ever ask me to give up my iPod. It's pathetic but I'd be completely miserable without my tunes.

  5. I like gadgets if they're fun.
    Then again, that goes for most things.
    Running is fun? Not something you do to be healthy? Wow.

    I like the line "I'm going running," I snarl. :)

  6. Wait a minute.
    Did anyone else just see a crab scuttle past? With a hula hoop?

  7. Wish I could linger! But alas, it's time to skeedaddle... trying to beat out some thunderstorms in the mountains. It's great to see all the fun stuff going on here though! Makes me totally hyped to get back to it.

    You folks are having altogether too much fun without me!

  8. Bravo! I relinquished my gadgets a couple of months ago and I'm a much happier exerciser now.

  9. When I first started running years ago, I tried the headphones, but that didn't last too long. Being in tune with the world around me is too valuable, and besides, I do some of my best thinking while running and don't want to distract that.

    Dr. J

  10. Oh yes, gadgets, gadgets, gadgets. I've been using a lot of the same things too.

  11. Good post, go back to running like a kid and just enjoying yourself - good advise.

  12. Fantastic post!!! I laughed from top to bottom - you pretty much just described me:) My fave part was the "technical bra"!

  13. I'm not a runner, but I agree that fun should be involved.

  14. I'm not a runner, but I agree that fun should be involved.

  15. That goes double for me, Leah :)

    sorry... couldn't help myself...

  16. I bet your runs are easier without the weight of all that gear, too (even though all of that gear in total is probably lighter than a walkman from the 80's)!

  17. I too have been thinking I come to the gym with too many "attachments". It is nice to have a concrete measure of your progress...but I want to run (and hop and jump) like a kid more often!

  18. You're making me rethink my need for gadgets...
    I think if it made running less fun I'd have to let go of it. Why ruin a good thing...

  19. I only exercise so that I can buy the toys!


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