Mauro Morales

Software Developer

The Run That Never Ends

I used to be very active when I was young, but at some point I lost the habit and became quite sedentary. Over the years, I’ve made attempts to include sports in my weekly routine, but I’ve failed miserably, that is until now.

The Motivation

This story starts with an Apple Watch. After weeks of wearing it, I started noticing that my VO2 Max was below average. While I wasn’t a sporty person, I was not overweight either, and most days I hit my step quota and did yoga once a week, so I thought I would be doing better. Having data showing me that my fitness was suboptimal, was the trigger that made me want to change my lifestyle.

VO2 Max is a way to measure how efficiently your body uses oxygen. It’s basically a way to assess your cardiovascular fitness.

The Challenges

While the motivation was clear from the beginning, I knew there were plenty of challenges ahead. I didn’t have any acquaintances since I had recently moved to Ghent, and I wasn’t keen on going to a gym because we were still in the middle of the pandemic. So I made two decisions, first I would take the path of least resistance and second I would find an accountability mechanism.

That’s why I decided I was going to run. Running is not my favorite sport, but I knew how to do it properly from high school and I didn’t need to invest much on equipment. While joining other runners could have been a good way to stay accountable, it was just not an option, so I signed up for a 6K.

To prepare for the race, I ran twice a week, and it went bad but at least I finished it. I was quite disappointed at this point and didn’t run much afterward. To make matters worse, I had a surgery in February 2022 and had to rest for more than a month.

The Breakthrough

Months passed and someone at the office suggested going running on Fridays. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and even made a Slack channel where I invited others. This was very helpful to stay accountable, but at the end of the year, I started working fully remote, so I had to go back to my original strategy.

This time I signed for a 10K. I wanted things to go much better than the last race, so I followed a training plan from Strava which that pushed me to run three times per week. After a month, I finally saw my VO2 Max improve slightly. It was a tiny win, but just what I needed to keep forward.

Around this time, I also met a colleague in my new job who is a great runner. He gave me some excellent tips and pushed me to run with him on two occasions when we were out on work trips. This was all very useful, but most important, his passion was contagious. It’s crazy how, hanging out with the right people can make a big difference.

This race went much better, and I finished it in 55 min which was a massive success for me, but I couldn’t stop here since my VO2 Max was still below average. Luckily, an ex-colleague invited me to join their challenge to run 500K in 2023. At first, I thought this was a bad idea because I’m not very competitive, but I was willing to give it a shot.

The Habit

As expected, seeing others’ progress didn’t really push me. I don’t mind if someone else is doing better or worse, but I do enjoy challenging myself, and seeing my weekly progress was good enough to put excuses aside, put my running shoes on and go outside running.

Last week I finally crossed the 500K mark, which is nice, but more important, I’ve been running on a weekly basis for the past 8 months. Here’s the progress I made during that time:

  1. My VO2 Max went from 40.8 to 46.7
  2. Resting HR went from 63bpm to 56bpm
  3. HRV went from 59ms to 62ms

There are other benefits that I don’t have metrics for but where I also saw some benefits. Running helps me feel more energized through the day, sleep better at night and, most importantly, is a healthy mechanism to cope with emotionally challenging situations. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but I’d also attribute my reduced psoriasis to exercise.

The Conclusion

Discipline allowed me to change something about me that I didn’t like. It requires hard work, but I’ve proven myself that I can do it. All it takes is the right motivation and some system, it doesn’t need to be perfect. How cool is that?

There is obviously lots of room for improvement, I’m still a lousy runner, but I’m not so worried about how much, or how fast I run. What matters to me at this point is to keep the habit and its benefits.

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