Day 1,124: No Faith Required

I started a heart-rate running training plan yesterday and it’s already killing me. The idea of HR training is to expand your aerobic capacity and reduce burnout by doing most of your running at 140 beats per minute or less. As your hearts learns to supply oxygen to your blood more efficiently, you can go further and faster at the same level of effort. Sounds good, right?

It was maddening. Even running as slowly as I know how–and looking, I suspect, like the Pink Panther–I hit 140 fast and often. I spent an hour on the trail and walked at least half of it. (I’m not throwing shade on walk breaks, by the way–I love them. I need them. But the operative word is “break,” and this is not what that was.) By the halfway point, my internal monologue went something like this:

Just because this has worked for a lot other people doesn’t mean it will work for me. What if my heart has some anomaly where it doesn’t get more efficient? I’m going to spend weeks walking 15-minute miles and nothing will change except for my fitness collapsing because my body isn’t designed for this plan. Anyway, I’m under too much stress right now to run slow. How am I supposed to decompress like this? Oh, I know–I could make my own sort of hybrid plan, where sometimes I do the workout as written and sometimes I run as fast as I want! I know the coach says that will sabotage training, but what does she know about me, really? I’m special. My heart is much better and much worse than the ones that normal people have. 

Does this sound at all familiar? It did to me, and I started to laugh (grimly, I will have you know, because officially I was still pissed about walking so much). It sounded like me, thinking:

  • I don’t get how all these sober bloggers sound so happy. They’re probably just trying to talk themselves into it. Or maybe they’re just inherently much happier people than me. They had one little problem and they dealt with it. I have a hundred problems and without alcohol I’d still have 99.
  • The data about alcohol and breast cancer seems a little overstated. I mean, I exercise and eat organic food and have no family history, so even if I drink too much I bet my risk is still below average.
  • Same with the liver stuff. You never hear about people like me having liver failure. It’s always older men who drink during the day at those bars with ATM machines and no windows. Like William H. Macy in Magnolia. My liver is not the kind that fails. 
  • Anyway, even if I wanted to 100% quit I doubt I could. Those sober bloggers aren’t dealing with the kind of job stress I have. Or the way I grew up, walking on eggshells all the time, getting hit, plus getting blamed for getting hit. People like me can’t just stop drinking. We’re not strong like those other people. 
  • But oh, I know! Maybe I can just moderateHave some rules, like only buy half-bottles of wine, or drink a glass of water between every glass of wine, or only drink red since I don’t like it as much. Oh yeah, this is a great idea–a plan that fits my special needs. 

That’s right–as a drinker I didn’t even really believe that medical science applied to me. And, to judge by my heart rate temper tantrum, I guess I still don’t. I still think I’m too special to benefit from proven, codified methods.

And you know what? That’s okay. I’m still going to stick with this plan and see what happens, just for the hell of it.

With sobriety, maybe you’re right where I am with the cardiovascular system–utterly convinced that you can’t have the peace of mind, the freedom that those smug bloggers do, because you’re an anomaly/special snowflake/freak of nature. You want it, but you have zero faith that doing the things we did will make any difference.

And guess what? That’s okay too. Sometimes it’s just asking too much to have faith in advance of your own data. Sometimes you have to take an action, then another, then another–feeling slightly foolish along the way–before the evidence appears.

So maybe we can do it together. What do you say? I’ll go out and plod down the trail, even though I don’t think it’ll work. You’ll do anything to avoid having a drink, even though you don’t think it’ll work. And when we both have some data, we’ll meet back here and talk.

You in?

20 thoughts on “Day 1,124: No Faith Required

  1. I’m in. I’m on Belle-day-184 and I’m still having that conversation in my head. Thanks for the support. Love your writing, when does the book come out?

  2. A few years ago I could have written your last bullet point, there’s probably a lot of us who could. Good luck with the training, I’m a walker (cause I’m “old”) and a 15min mile is really pushing it for me so though I relate to the drinking analogy I can’t get into the training part. Good job, I’m just a few days behind, 1,087.
    Sharon

    1. Where are all the FB posts to enjoy the hell out of? The one I found via your web page seems new with just a few posts. I’m going to try this 140 bpm exercise strategy and anticipate having to walk at a mile an hour for some stretches just to keep the HR in target range. Thanks for sharing your POV with the world.

  3. Hey Lady, you funny! I love love love your writing. It’s seriously brilliant! Yes, I’m in, always.
    Best, Carol
    Day 355

  4. Wow, thank you for writing this. It really hits home for me. Especially the part about ignoring data. I have a history of alcoholism in my family, and I drink so much that it’s almost comical (in a dark way). But I’m also vegan, and I’m an avid ultra-distance cyclist and an ultrarunner- so of course it’s okay that I go through a fifth of Beefeater every two or three days, right? Or so I keep telling myself…

  5. Wow, I’ve tried other things to stop before and they last awhile and then something happens…so once again, I just want to forget. I’ll try again now.

  6. You might find Katy Bowman’s approach to fitness helpful now. Her podcast is “Katy Says.” She has a podcast on what aerobic capacity really means that is fascinating.

  7. Loved this article, it really resonated with me. In some ways reminded me of a quote from Gone Girl…..

    ““Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

    Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”

  8. I’m really glad to have found you. My sister is in recovery; lately I’ve been struggling with my own drinking, thinking it’s probably too much, thinking it’s definitely not healthy, wondering why I ever decided to drink so much in the first place. BUT. I started training for my first half marathon – coming up in October – and it’s changing everything. I’ll keep following for encouragement!

  9. I read your article on Vox.com about “Wine Immediately.The depressing reason why so many women today drink”. I read it today (Tuesday, and oddly enough told myself on Sunday night that I was going to stop drinking, for a while”.) After I read the article I shared it on FB and declared “Sober September” to see who else would join me. Just one girl so far, and she wouldn’t even comment publicly. But now I have found your blog and I feel like I’m not alone. I’m in!

  10. I’m interested in this 140 heart rate thing so will google. Curious if it’s gotten any easier for you and if you stuck with it (modifications are definitely my thing, so I could relate). Love the line about the pink panther…great imagery.

    1. It’s gotten sort of easier…more of a mental shift than any dramatic physical transformation. Which is to say, I’m still furious about it half the time….and yet I’m putting in mileage like I haven’t in ages! (Maybe I’ll email you with more of the whiny details.)

      1. Please do if you’re inclined/able. It sounds like it’s working for you! I know from a run Saturday and Fitbit that I averaged 167. My goal is getting faster, which I’ve never been able to do and is probably at odds with purposely slowing down (uh duh) but it still interests me.

  11. I just found you through the new article and I’m so glad. I really wanted to stop for that three pack of tall boys on the way home. But I didn’t. I said I’ll wait a while and see if I still think I really need it.

    I don’t think I really need it anymore.

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