After six months of biking, sporadic runs and Chloe Ting, the warm-up jog on Interlake Track felt surreal. I wasn’t necessarily out of shape, but my stark emphasis on running had chipped away throughout quarantine until it was only one component of my varied but consistent routine.
I’d started out my journey to fitness in middle school with pilates videos on YouTube channels like XHIT and Blogilates. After I got involved with cross country and track in high school, however, these online workouts quickly became a thing of the past as I became consumed by running. My newfound focus was a mixed bag, of course – I made new friends, gained confidence from my improvement as an athlete. And I also got injured, a lot. But in my opinion a prominent challenge as a student athlete is determining what role fitness plays in your life, and how important you want sports to be in your pursuit of fitness.
KingCos 2018 – I honestly remember it as a breakthrough race where I exceeded my expectations of how fast I could push myself to go.
Not long after my 2019 cross country season had come to a close, some part of my relationship to running had gone sour. The pressure to meet a certain expectation for weekly mileage, to set a pace threshold for every long run, was ruining the pure visceral adrenaline of running, of feeling my face in the wind, enjoying the brisk rhythm of my trainers and my arms swinging at my sides. By the time I reached the middle of junior year, I had turned running into a numbers game, blindsided by distance goals and mile splits until I dreaded setting foot on the track or trail. As second-year IB deadlines loomed before me left and right, day and night, I felt exhaustion setting in as I repeated my daily checklist: school, tutorial, running, dinner, a huge pile of homework to deal with, and some sleep if I was productive enough. It was becoming a nightmare, and I was absolutely terrified of what I would do when IB testing rolled around in May, in exactly the same week as the league championship for track and field.
When March rolled around and the Bellevue School District announced our “two-week break” from school, I even felt relieved. I was actually planning on talking to my coach about taking a step back from long-distance track as I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed by schoolwork, but our break was the perfect solution. I continued to run, just not as rigorously or as often. But when April set in and we realized we weren’t going back to campus for the rest of the year, I was forced to confront whether I was running for personal fulfillment or athletic obligation to my team. Ideally, it was supposed to be both. But I realized that until I could let go of my obsession with quantifying my steps, I was no longer “running happy.”
Over quarantine, I’ve found it super helpful to combine my running with Pilates: since I tended to get injured with higher weekly mileage, having a short but brisk run after my Pilates routine, followed by some stretching and lots of walking throughout the day, is such an amazing way to get the best of both worlds (plyometric strength training and cardio!) while making sure I don’t aggravate my shins and knees from those extra miles every day. I’m planning on using this method to maintain my fitness in the XC general conditioning period (set to take place through fall and winter) and build up mileage towards spring season.
After a couple years of varsity cross country and track, I was so used to team practices, but the closest we could get to that over quarantine was a Zoom call. Come September, the BSD planned to have multiple “pods” of 4-5 athletes each train 2x a week socially distanced, but this continually got postponed due to the poor air quality from the West Coast wildfires. After we finally began running together again, I honestly felt like the less frequent practices enabled me to return to running without being overwhelmed. As the weeks passed, my pod began meeting more and more often on off days, so now I run 4-5 times a week.
I’ve been going back to my Pilates origins, really getting into Pamela Reif’s workout videos – they’re awesome because she has very little recovery time, enabling us to keep our heart rate up for the entire workout (especially when doing her high intensity interval training!) Pamela’s videos include full-body cardio, abs, thighs, booty, upper-body, and other workouts, and also have varying levels of difficulty/intensity, so I was able to set the pace and the muscle groups targeted.
I’ve realized that although our coaches want to challenge us, they too are quite limited by the pandemic and many have to abide by school rules and settle for less involvement with their athletes. Throughout the spring and summer, we were not allowed any in-person contact with our cross country/track and field coach and could only meet virtually on Zoom every Tuesday. Our coach also wasn’t allowed to prescribe training instructions (workouts, mileage) and could only give general guidelines. This was somewhat of a demotivating factor since coaches are usually supposed to provide a firm direction and encourage us to meet our athletic goals, so we could definitely see how priorities shifted during quarantine to just keeping athletes safe, healthy, and as fit as possible in isolation.
And finally, here are some things over quarantine that I’ve grown thankful for – though the boredom is often pretty overwhelming, I love having more time to bake for my friends, to write to my heart’s content, and to explore the outdoors through hiking and biking.
A summer hike to Mailbox Peak! Very strenuous and tiring but so worth it.
I’ve pivoted to rediscovering running as a lifelong pastime and bonding activity, not just a competitive sport.And now that I’m somewhat back to running with my teammates and coaches, I’m even more motivated to attend practice after being deprived of supervised practice team contact for so long – it’s made me even more thankful for my teammates’ commitment and camaraderie. I’ve realized again how running is truly my moment of stress relief and unwinding throughout the day: it provides me with ample time to clear my head and think about next steps.
A sunrise bikeat 520 bridge this spring.
This year for the holiday season, I’m paying rent to the Duwamish tribe and exploring films made by members of the Indigenous community. I’m excited for a socially distanced egg nog run – an Interlake XC staple where you chug a mug of eggnog before embarking on a 400m race!