Sosa: Hitting the trail to stay sane

Columnist Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa opens up on her release from stress through walking and running these past few months. 

I wanted to start actively working out again during our spring break in March. That obviously didn’t happen as all gyms around me were closed due to the pandemic. Instead, I turned to a couple of things I could do: walking and running.


At a minimum, I made a goal to start walking 10 minutes a day for 30 days. Getting my mind off of things was mostly the reason I wanted to start an active regime. I had read many times that running can be a form of meditation and wanted to give it a serious try, but you can’t run before you can walk.


I quickly found out starting a workout routine during spring break was not going to bode well. I had been actively dashing from class to class the entire semester, but that did not prepare me for walking or running consciously every day. On March 30, 2020, I finally hit the trail for the first time in months, and I didn’t even make it 10 minutes. The next time I tried was a couple of days later, and the rest has been history. 


When I started running, I felt awkward. I had usually run on treadmills inside gyms, but hadn’t been running outside for a long time. I even felt a sort of shame from running outside.


It’s crazy. But by the time the second week arrived, I no longer felt self-conscious about being seen running. There weren’t many people on the trails, and I did try to stay as far away from everyone that was there. 


If there is one important lesson to be learned about taking up anything that will lead you to a more active lifestyle, it’s that the older you are, there is a higher the risk you will get injured while exercising. Within the first two weeks, I experienced a meniscus tear on my right knee. My legs would swell and hurt all the time. There were times when I could not even walk due to the sharp pain on my knee, so I would stop and rest for a few minutes before taking another step. I did not count my rest times on my 10-minute minimum goal. 

Sure enough, as I kept logging the miles, I noticed the pain grew more and more bearable. My legs were getting stronger and my lungs didn’t burn and gasp for air as they first did on the initial runs. I found out I could finish the first mile without a problem. Or sometimes, I could even do two miles.


On some particularly hard days, I just wanted to quit. Schoolwork was getting more and more difficult, and the exams and quizzes were stressing me out. Finals were coming and I considered just not going. 


To overcome these negative thoughts, I enlisted my husband. I coerced him into accompanying me, which made it possible for me to keep going when I just didn’t want to. When I hit my 30-day goal, I was elated. I was so happy to finally have some sense of personal accomplishment.


It is too easy to get things done when it’s for others — such as for work or school. When it comes to my own personal goals, I can be a bit more finicky. It’s hard to push myself if I don’t have a good reason to. 


Hitting the trails, whether walking or running, has helped me stay calm during these changing times. Regardless of what day it was, of how busy my day has been or what’s happening in the outside world, I knew I could just put on my shoes and go. As long as I attained this one goal — to go for a 10-minute walk at a minimum — I knew I’d be okay. 


With every mile and minute logged, I feel more apt to take on challenges. I’ve gone as far as running three 5k runs on my own. I thought my new regime would just help me stay sane, but it has also grown into encouraging me to take on more challenges.


It’s been over 90 days since I started walking and running every day. My new goal is to get to 1,000 miles by May of 2021. I have 853.5 miles left to go. If you are considering starting a new habit or goal, now is the right time.


Like the Earl Nightingale quote, “The time will pass anyway.