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Wednesday Workout Update - Perceived Exertion and Guilt

Posted May 15 2013 6:00am
I didn't start out exercising a lot when I began my diet - riding my bicycle a couple of laps around my circle (not a block - just the circle of my long cul-de-sac) was a huge effort for me in the beginning.  Quite honestly, it took a lot for me to ride four laps, which was a mile.  I was rubbery-legged and exhausted when I was done...when you aren't used to doing any exercise at all, even a little will make you feel like you've practically run a marathon.

Within about nine months, I progressed from simple bike riding to working out with trainers and a small group of people.  In the beginning, those workouts also left me rubbery-legged and exhausted - truth be told, pretty much every time I did those workouts, I was left in that condition, because as things got easier for me, my trainers increased the weights or reps or intensity.  Then I started running, worked my way in mileage up to running a half marathon, became injured, started swimming, and finally got back to running.  So you'd think, with all of that under my belt, that I would kind of have this whole exercise thing understood at this point.  Well, no...apparently not.

I've been struggling with perceived exertion - the act of doing something that takes a lot of effort, and the way you feel while you're doing it. The background for this is that Jenny and I have been running quarter-mile intervals for a while now, and while we are doing them, I'm breathing hard, working up a sweat, and, most significantly, feeling out-of-shape and disappointed with myself that it's taking so much effort. I feel like I've done something wrong; I've let myself go and I've lost my conditioning.  It's funny, because when I worked so hard, say, during my group workouts, I felt accomplished afterward - yes, I was breathing hard, sweating like a fiend and exhausted when I was finished - but I was proud of myself for managing to make it through the workout.  So why the negative feelings when it comes to running these intervals?  

This isn't the same thing as negative talk - it's not like I'm thinking "oh, you're so slow and such a bad runner" - no, absolutely not. I guess when I put out the extra effort with these intervals, I feel like it shouldn't be so hard for me at this point, and of all the things I'd be struggling with when it comes to running, feeling guilty at being winded seems kind of crazy to me.

It's obviously a head game, and I'm sure it harkens back to me being overweight and sedentary for so many years. As soon as I sense that I’m working hard physically, I instantly get the perception of how out-of-shape I must be. I guess I spent so many years struggling through the most simple of things (like climbing a flight of stairs) while I was overweight that I don't always know how to translate the feeling of putting out physical effort in a good way, like pushing myself during these fast-paced intervals.

And here's the kicker:  afterward, when I check the stats* on my Garmin, each and every week I've been surprised at how well we did. Plus, we're consistently improving our times. You'd think I'd remember this while I'm running the intervals, and give myself some credit for pushing myself, but no...my brain doesn't work that way.  I wonder if I'll ever move past some of this mental madness that stems from being overweight for so long?

*(In case you're wondering, the way the Garmin is set up for intervals, you can't see your pace while you are running that program - otherwise, you know we'd be checking during the workout).
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