Health

Why I’m Proud Of My 12-Minute Mile

I’ve always considered myself athletic. Growing up, I played every sport I could get my hands on – soccer, softball, volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball – and I was fairly decent at them all.

My performance peaked during my freshman year of high school. I could run a mile in 5:45 and a 5k in 18 minutes. Pretty quick for someone that never ran track or cross country. Then puberty happened, I injured one knee in field hockey, the other snow skiing, and in an effort to stay competitive and get an athletic scholarship, suffered through Physical Therapy 3 days a week.

Well, that dream of being a collegiate athlete went down the tubes. In an effort to not completely be crippled by 30, I turned down any hope of getting an athletic scholarship and did what most college kids do: I had fun. A lot of fun.

After school, I still hit the gym and the road, but it was only so I can consume wine and artichoke dip (guilt free) with friends on a weekly basis.

Wino_Workout_Treadmill
Youtube | Johnni Lee

Flashbacks of my glory days haunted my workout plans and I often got bored with the same routine. I tried P90X and every workout DVD imagined, but those didn’t work for me. Because I didn’t have the motivation to push through my plateau, I’d resort to just staying home and watching Law & Order marathons on the couch.

This past year, I knew I needed to change my attitude about personal fitness. I ate terrible, felt lethargic, and was honestly, a pretty grumpy person. Because I easily get bored at the gym, I decided to try something I’d never done – train for a triathlon.

As a kid, I used to be a pretty fast swimmer, but when I hopped into the pool last winter, I was mortified at my inability to swim a full lap. Mere 25 yards felt like a swim across the Hudson, against the current. Even after a few weeks, I struggled to swim a few laps at a time, often stopping mid-way, standing up in my lane, red faced and gasping for air, and clutching my chest like I was having a heart attack.

But slowly I improved, one lap a time. And I started to incorporate biking and jogging (running isn’t in my vocab) back into my routine.

Me after completing my first triathlon, May 2015.
Me after completing my first triathlon, May 2015.
Me after completing my first triathlon, May 2015.

This year, I completed two triathlons. And let’s just be clear – I’m not fast, by any means. My initial goal was not fall off my bike. Check. But I was slow. So for my second triathlon, my goal was to shave of 10% of my time. It was a stretch, and I didn’t make it, not by a long shot.

And at first, it really bothered me. I constantly asked myself: I’m training for 3 different sports (like really hard) – how can I still be this slow? I tried sprinting exercises and drills that would make me faster, but alas, I still trot along at an 11-12 minute mile pace. Slow and steady, that’s me.

But looking in the mirror, I’ve changed my attitude and am happy with my results. Not because I’ve hit a certain goal weight or I’ve gone down a pants size, but because I feel strong. Physically and mentally, I’ve become more confident in decisions at home, work and life – and it shows.

In fact, the American College of Cardiology states that running at a leisurely pace (slower than 10 minute mile pace) “is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.” The article also states that, “persistent runners had the most significant benefits, with 29% and 50% lower risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, compared with never-runners.”

Sure, I wish I was faster, but now that science has proven that I don’t need to be an Olympic sprinter to be healthy, I’ll continue plodding along at my own pace.

Perhaps the best part? Wine doesn’t poo-poo that I won’t ever run a sub-11 minute mile. So cheers to every other person in my shoes. May your sips of wine be just as glorious as mine.

Photo by yoppy