Limber Up Before Letting Loose: Response to Prompt 15

Well, here it is, kind readers…the last response to the last prompt. Read on, and then try your hand at it when the mood strikes. Writing prompts are a wonderful way to get the creative juices flowing again if you’ve hit a little dry patch in your writing…or a big dry patch, at that. Take a look at some of the older prompts, if this one doesn’t tickle your pickle today–there’s bound to be something that appeals to you. Feel free to tweak your response to your liking, as I did here; you’ll see what I mean–I didn’t really write a “how-to manual” per se. I merely gave instructions within the prose for how to do certain actions.

Create a how-to manual for something you can do well (clean a fish, change a flat tire, restring a guitar, make sushi, shop for groceries). Describe the process so that someone else could complete the task based on your directions. Use present tense verbs.

It’s raining—sleeting, really—and I really, REALLY don’t want to go for a run.

And when I say “run,” what I really mean is “slog.” I’m a very slow jogger, you see. There’s nothing I can do to change that fact—no amount of training, of mindset adjustments, or of peer support, will ever make me faster. But that’s okay—I only do it because it helps my head. Running is part of my therapy, you see. Yes—I take my “happy pills” dutifully and faithfully. But without the regimen, regularity, and release of endorphins my slogging provides, I’d be far worse for the wear, mentally. And mind you, I don’t love running. I am SO not one of those people. As a matter of fact, I pretty much hate it. Someday, I will have a t-shirt created that says “My favorite part of going for a run is when I stop.”

So, it’s sleeting outside. I take a deep breath and force myself to get up off of the couch, where I have been snuggled under a thick cotton throw with my coffee for the last two hours, finishing up a freelance job and checking email. Trying not to look out the windows, I make my way up to my bedroom, over to the middle drawer on the left side of my bureau, from which my exercise clothes NEVER beckon—only lurk threateningly. Giving the weather conditions careful consideration, I pull out fleece-lined running tights, Smartwool socks, and a fleece-lined body armor mock turtleneck; I will be running down by the water today, and the Maine coast is almost always windy.

After donning my fleecy gear (I’m already sweating), I head downstairs to select my outerwear. I always err on the side of caution here, as I can always decide last-minute to leave a layer behind in the car, or shuck one and tie it around my waist if I think I’ll be too warm. I grab my Smartwool hat (in warmer weather, it’s always a wicking baseball hat, to help with sun protection) and mittens (never gloves—my circulation is sluggish, and my fingers need each other to stay warm), and don my sneakers. I glance out the window again and quell that tricksy little voice in my head (You don’t need to do this—just stay home and do one of those 30-minute Insanity videos!) before grabbing my keys and an apple, and heading out the door.

The drive to the water is only 12 minutes or so, but the dread at leaving my heated seat and steering wheel behind only grows more pronounced as I head east. Once parked, I take another deep breath, set my watch, and get out of the cozy little bubble of my warm car. I lock it and tuck the keys safely into a pocket (very important, this—I’ve locked myself out at least three times over the years) before crossing the street and breaking into my signature slog.

The first mile or so is always the worst, no matter the weather. It takes at least that long to get into a rhythm with my breathing, and longer than that to get my blood flowing enough to warm my fingers and toes. If it’s really hot and humid, my route will be determined by the angle of the sun—which roads will provide the most shade. On the worst of those sort of days, I have to get my slog in before 9 or so in the morning, otherwise, some poor passerby will be dialing 911 for me, and checking my Road ID on my left sneaker as I lay prostrate on a sun-burned lawn.

The farthest I can go these days is 7 miles; I crossed a marathon off my bucket list 6 years ago, and contrary to popular belief, I did not become “addicted” to that particular distance. As a matter of fact, I swore never to do it again—and still feel that way. Did it, got the tattoo, done. I’m of an age now when I need to be circumspect in my exercise choices—no more running every day; I need to alternate days with cross-training, or my ITB (Iliotibial band, for those of you folks blessed to not have any need to know what that is) will begin to announce its presence in a very uncomfortable way.

Today, my ITB is quiet—so there’s that, at least. I’m soaked through by mile 2 or so; the rain is now drizzle, so I suppose it could have been worse. There’ve been days I’d be soaked through before I took a dozen steps. An issue I struggle with is my glasses—I can’t wear contacts anymore, so if I want to be able to see, the four eyes are a necessary evil. In the rain, they are certainly unpleasant, and in the shoulder seasons, they fog up incessantly. But, you know…first world problems.

You may ask why I’d choose to run outside instead of on a treadmill on a day like this. My answer is simple: boredom. Running on a treadmill is like…well, I don’t know what it’s like, because I find nothing as boring to compare it to. Running outside, especially along the coast, provides endless distraction—I don’t run with headphones, so I have both the sights and sounds of the ocean as running partners. In the summer, the people-watching gives me boundless entertainment (and a vast supply of writing fodder), and usually makes the miles go by much faster than if watching a screen of some sort, or listening to a playlist or book.

And, sure enough, even with soggy sneakers and dripping clothes, mile seven arrives far sooner than I’d thought possible. After crossing the road again, I stand by my driver’s side door to go through my stretching regimen; another foil for my ITB’s volatility. Standing with my feet about 36” or so apart, I bend at the waist, keeping my legs straight, and let my arms hang down to the ground—or sometimes I place each hand on the opposite arm’s elbow area. Like this, I simply hang—letting myself sink further into the stretch with each exhale for about 20 seconds or so; my lower back thanks me every single time.

From there, I turn both feet to the left, also turning my upper body so that I am facing left. I drop into a lunge, so that my left knee is directly over the left ankle, and straighten my right leg, keeping my hands on my left knee and my back as straight as possible. After holding this for about 15 seconds, I put both hands on the ground, one on each side of my left foot, and slide my left foot back to join my right foot; I then push back with my hands, bending at the waist and lifting my butt into the air, and keeping my legs as straight as possible, until I am in Downward Dog. I hold this position for 15 seconds or so, and then walk my hands up to my feet.

Once here, I then step my right foot out to the right, until my feet are approximately 36” apart again. I do the same on the right as I did above, starting with the “hang”; I’m a stickler for stretching equality. After completing the right side, I stand up straight, and then step forward with my left foot—approximately two feet—and turn my right foot to approximately 45 degrees. I make sure my hips are squared, facing forward, and then bend at the waist, keeping the left leg straight. I hinge forward as far as possible without bending either my left leg or my back; I am bending at the hips only. This stretches all of the muscles in my left leg, from hamstring to calf. I hold this for about 15 seconds, then repeat with the right side.

Once I have finished my stretching, I unlock the car, and spread the towel I keep in the back seat on the driver’s seat—I do this on rainy days, but also on any day when the temperature is over 60 degrees, as I tend to sweat enough to warrant a seat protector when I’m done. (I know—ew.) After giving my glasses a good wiping, I blast the heat, turn on the heated steering wheel and seat, and grab my apple—for some reason, my body craves this far more than water after a long run. I make my way home, nibbling my post-run treat down to the core, and look forward to a long, hot shower.

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