Ten minutes. Some wouldn’t count that as a workout, not worth the shower, but I’m putting it in the diary. I’m not proud. I’m happy to start small. I’ve returned from enough layoffs to be aware of my own foibles – my motivation closely tied to performance, an inclination to rush, a preference for training I like over training I need. I am no different to any other athlete in my capacity to, at times, misjudge my own capacities. And so I proceed with caution, doubtful, fearful, all too aware how I’ve derailed my progress before and mindful of the tightness and twinges that potential forewarn of injury. There were none.
Those ten minutes were fine. My legs repeated a motion, ninety times per minute, smooth and seemingly balanced, but not strong. Accompanying Gill as she also makes the transition back to running I was acutely aware that each stride demanded too much. Gill pushed a tempo, too fast really, making an error I’ve often made, fitness overruling – for want of a better word – strength; heart and mind willing to move at speeds the legs are unaccustomed to sustaining. My body’s response was sluggish, taking the full ten minutes to settle and feel within my control, but by then it was over, we were at our gate. My fitness little different to when I’d started, my legs though, aware of what they’d done.
The shower lasted as long as the workout, but those ten minutes had effectively started my training. My goals as distant and ambitious as the start is humble. I am not injured, I am not at particular risk of injury, but in the two years since I was I have only occasionally approached consistency of running and subsequent run fitness. I can’t – to be honest – explain why. The problems as much in my head as in my calf. A month totally devoid of exercise has been a pleasure, I have felt worryingly free without the demands of a plan, or the sense that I should have a plan, but – fortunately – it has also brought back the desire to train, an often missing element of late. Everything depends on this motivation and my all too tentative start is intended to preserve it, to sneak fitness upon myself and then transform the desire to train into something more – a concrete need to push myself.
Ten minutes is the beginning. The plan – unstructured, easy to start, but it will be strong to finish. Watching the Olympics I’ve felt the inspiration, and I’ve carelessly speculated on my potential at every distance from 5K to a marathon (acutely aware of the absence of an anaerobic bone – or rather muscle – in my body). I am – I hope – final wise enough to recognise the fragile nature of my motivation and the need to tread cautiously, to build slowly and let both fitness and desire grow together. So for those who have wondered how I would approach the development of a marathon personal best, the answer is simple: slowly. There are months to develop the underlying fitness and strength that will allow me to develop the speed I need. But today, and probably the rest of the week, I’ve another ten minutes to do.